First of all, the winning formula starts with the best play in basketball. Or at least my favourite. Its simple, efficient and effective. Its the best way to attack a man to man defense in the half court set. So many options develop if you run it right. When the Nuggets run it, at least against Utah, they are very hard to stop. It is, of course, the pick and roll.
The Nuggets finally found the formula to beat Utah last night. Its possible the coaches have been preaching this stuff all series and last night was the first time the plan was executed. Its hard to know for sure. But in order to win in Utah, the Nuggets should stick to this formula. Lets jump.
You would think that Utah, a team that runs the pick and roll and the pick and pop so well, would be better at defending it. But, our effeciency probably has more to do with matchups and the way Utah defends us. The Nugget guards are very dangerous. The Jazz respect this. They often cheat off the screener, usually Nene or Kmart, and when the guard or Melo make the pass, the result is almost always a basket or a foul. Chris Dempsey outlined this very well prior to game 5. He basically said the Jazz would cheat off the bigs which they did. All we had to do was make the right passes. We did. We won.
Without Nene, the pick and roll should still be the primary weapon for Denver in the half court sets. Petro is not a good screener yet, but will get better. He releases a bit to early and sometimes gets called for moving screens, but we can still use him effectively.
The next key is related to isos. The isolations will continue, like it or not. Its part of our personality. The key is to move the ball quickly when the double team comes. No more one on threes. Swing the ball to the open man for the corner three or make the extra pass to the cutter. Do it quickly before the defense can rotate. Seems so easy, doesnt it?
Third part of the equation is tempo. Push the ball, run when possible, but without getting careless. The full court baseball passes to guarded cherrypickers is not what I mean. Ty Lawson takes care of this singlehandedly and should log serious minutes going forward. Here is where the refs could come into play. If they get all whistle happy like they were in games 2-4, the tempo will favor Utah. The pick and roll and ball movement in the half court set will become even more vital.
Then we come to defense. Which means defending the pick and roll. Utah runs it better than anyone and theyve been doing it for decades. Denver often switches on screens, which can create matchup problems, but they often have been successful in the past when they trap the point guard, then rotate and recover. For example, When Williams has the ball at the top, Boozer comes up to set the pick. Kmart jumps with Chauncey to trap DWill. Everyone else rotates to cut off the passing lanes to try and force a turnover. This worked very well against Chris Paul last year. Boozer likes the pick and pop for the 15 footer so rotations have to be very quick. Utah is also very good at making the extra pass. Defending the pick and roll against Utah is not an easy task. If one guy slacks, they get an easy basket. But, if we rotate and recover fast enough, its possible to force the ball out of DWills hands and then deny him the return pass. He cant hurt us without the ball, so any time he gives it up we should work hard to keep him from getting it back. Easier said than done. We will need high energy and will have to limit them to one shot. This means everyone needs to be boxing out.
So thats it. Pick and roll + Ball and player movement on isos + fast tempo + team defense. Complicated formula? Not really. Its basic team basketball. The Nuggets are very capable of doing it. They are also very capable of ignoring all of this stuff and jacking up jumper after jumper, while not doing the hard work on D. When Denver pays attention to the details and play together, they are one of the best teams in the NBA. We just never know which team will show up. Overall, we have more talent and might have woken up just in time to force a game 7. Go Nuggets!