Sigh. This is PHOENIX. A very nice climate, heck, retiree's live there in the winter. What about this place makes the Denver Nuggets turn into mush like the steak puree they serve at the retirement homes in Maricopa County? 12 in a row lost in Arizona.
I have no answers. Apparently neither did George Karl.
Let me just get this out of the way. This is by leaps and bounds George Karl's worst coached game of the season. I take that back, the fourth quarter was the most poorly coached quarter of the season. Inexplicable lineups all game (going EXTRA small the last minute of the first half) the odd decision to have Arron Afflalo guard Hakim Warrick the last quarter (yes, it was deliberate and not just switching) and you have the decision to NOT play J.R. Smith tonight because of competing reasons. Either J.R. has a sore knee or he resides in the doghouse. We got no clear answer and since J.R. didn't show up in the pre-game injury report I'm assuming it's the "doghouse". If that is the case then there's no excuse for that decision. Why sit your most explosive scorer when you need a jump start to your offense? Why sit J.R. anyway? He was playing under control, and I daresay that without J.R.s offense in the fourth of that game the Nuggets don't win. Period.
Granted, the Nuggets didn't play up to snuff in the fourth quarter of this game. Leading by seven heading in, the Nuggets managed to get outscored by 13 to fritter away what was assumed to be a semi-comfortable lead. Yet, in the Valley of the Sun NOTHING comes easy for your Denver Nuggets, and this game was no exception.
Carmelo Anthony sat out the first 6 minutes of the quarter while Denver's lead evaporated. The bench that was fantastic in the first half withered in the second (partly due to Josh Childress and Warrick's effort of defense) and the team resorted to lazy jump shots rather than driving to the paint. It was sad to watch. Particularly watching AAA try to guard Hakim Warrick while getting backed down on seemingly every possession. Or Gary Forbes get schooled by Josh Childress on the offensive glass.
All in all, this is a game the Nuggets HAD for the taking. You don't get these games back and it's all the more disappointing because our coach seemingly didn't give the team the best chance to win in the fourth quarter. I'm normally not this critical of the coaching because I believe the NBA is a players league, but tonight was an exception.
Carmelo Anthony finished the game with 20 points and 22 rebounds. Yet he had six turnovers, and handled the ball very sloppily in the first half. However, you can't complain about 20/22 can you? Melo did his part.
Nene started out the game on FIRE. He was unstoppable and he abused Channing Frye like he was nothing. He finished with 14 points and three rebounds...all in all a good outing. Yet, Nene stopped being aggressive in the second half. How many times will we sing this song with him? If Nene stays that aggressive in the second half the Nuggets win going away.
Ty Lawson finished with nine points and three assists. He cut to the basket very well and was continuing the promise he showed against LA that he was breaking out of his early slump. If only we can get away from the ChaunceyTy guard combo. I will say it again I HATE that lineup so much. It just doesn't seem productive.
Nuggets of Wisdom
With a team this short handed we need all hands on deck. If sitting J.R. tonight was a doghouse move then it's inexcusable. This was one night where the Nuggets needed J.R.'s offense in the fourth to help provide a spark. No spark was to be had. I understand that George and J.R. may not get along, but there's a time to make a point, and I time to win a basketball game. I hope that George does not repeat that mistake tomorrow against the Knicks. This loss is not killer. It's early in the season and we will look forward to Chris Andersen returning in the near future. Yet you can't let these games slip away. The Nuggets players didn't play up to par against a tired Phoenix team. No excuses. Lets not repeat the same mistakes.
Edit: Apparently J.R. was late to a shootaround and was benched for the whole game. If you are going to discipline someone for being late to a shootaround please only sit them for a quarter or half at the MOST.