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There were a couple post-game quotes that caught my attention and got me to go back and look at how the Blazers were able to comeback from a 9-point deficit in the final 3:40 of last night's game.
Quick comebacks are nothing new in the NBA. Large point swings happen all the time and the Nuggets are typically a team that can erase large deficits in a hurry.
On Denver's four game home-stand - making comebacks was the norm. Giving up leads was not part of that equation. A quote from Ty Lawson and one from Wilson Chandler got me thinking and got me to re-watch the final few minutes.
Here is what Lawson said about the Blazers comeback in the fourth quarter:
"It makes us stronger and it makes us more mature," said Lawson. "Especially [because] they had a late rally. We were up 10 points and they came all the way back. Just to deal with something like that is big for us since we're all young."
I do agree with Lawson that the team can learn from last night's game. Karl even admitted that he likes close game a little bit as his team can get used to playing in them.
But why was Portland able to comeback?
"We wanted to switch everything, make them take a tough shot, and grab the rebound." said Chandler.
Ill Will said that about the Blazers attempt to hit a three-pointer in Overtime with the Nuggets up 114-111. But with Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and Chandler in the game at the same time (or just Gallo, Iggy, and Faried) the Nuggets have a tremendous ability to be able to switch everything and still have a quality defender ready to take the switch.
Let's look at the comeback with Denver up 95-86 ...
3:32 mark: Nicholas Batum buries a jumper over Faried. (95-88 Nuggets)
Portland runs a pick-and-roll with Nic Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge on the right elbow (next to Nuggets bench) above the three-point line. Iggy was on Batum and Faried on Aldridge. Batum used the LMA screen and Iggy started to come over the top, but he stayed with LMA and allowed Batum to go at Faried. Batum went across the top of the three point line towards the middle of the floor, used a cross-over on Faried to get some space and then moved towards the left elbow (away from Nuggets bench) at the free throw line and made a jumper; while Faried tried to recover and get a hand in his face.
What happened: Faried went for the steal on the cross-over and got himself off balance and never recovered to really challenge Batum's shot. Good play by Batum.
3:11 mark Iguodala misses a three ... Damian Lillard rebounds and pushes the transition offense, passes to Batum, and Batum finds JJ Hickson for an open layup underneath. (95-90)
What happened: The Nuggets were slow getting back on defense. Gallinari was guarding Hickson on the previous possession, but this time he was back on defense and picked up Batum. Faried had been on LMA and there was confusion by Lawson and Faried as to who would pick up Hickson as he was sprinting right to the rim.
Faried was running with Hickson, but he slowed up (to stay with LMA, I presume) as Hickson sped up - so nobody recovered from being able to pick up Gallo's man (as Gallo was on the ball with Batum). That's a failure to communicate on defense - gotta talk there and realize Gallo is on the ball and his man is free.
2:39 mark Lawson hits a pull up jumper over Lillard at the foul line ... (97-90)
2:26 mark Lillard brings the ball up, post play for LMA, LMA misses left hook, Hickson with a tip in (97-92)
What happened: LMA had the ball in the left block on Faried. Manimal did a good job forcing LMA to take the harder left handed fading baseline hook. Gallo came over to double-team as LMA was spinning baseline and that disrupted LMA's shot. That left Hickson alone under the hoop where he out-jumped Faried and Iguodala.
Tough play there as Iguodala was on Batum and never got into position to box-out Hickson. Good play by Hickson.
2:00 mark Lillard blocks Lawson's layup attempt, Wes Matthews secure loose ball, and Faried fouls Matthews to prevent the transition offense ... (97-92)
1:51 mark Matthews misses open three in the corner in front of Nuggets bench, Blazers get the rebound, but Lawson forces a jump ball with Lillard ... (97-92)
What happened: Andre Miller had been covering Matthews and 'Dre loves to help on defense and was sagging off Matthews on previous possessions. Batum had the ball on the left elbow and drove towards the foul line, Matthews went to the corner, and Miller ran at Batum and lost Matthews - 'Dre was also pointing at Gallo and Hickson just before Batum drove the ball ... Miller got a little lost there - good thing Wes was having an off night.
Long rebound off the miss as the ball hit Hickson and Iguodala before Lillard pounced on it and Lawson pounced on him.
1:34 mark Lillard throws the ball to LMA on the left block again, LMA moves towards the paint, and Faried fouls him. LMA hits both freebies ... (97-94)
What happened: Pretty standard power post move by LMA and Faried just leaning too much on defense.
1:16 mark Iguodala misses fadeaway jumper off the dribble at the foul line ... (97-94)
1:05 mark Batum finds an open LMA who uses a nice post move to hit a layup ... (97-96)
What happened: Lillard pushed the ball in transition, the Nuggets scrambled on defense, but had time to get set up. Faried had been chasing after the loose ball and followed Lillard up the court, Faried took Hickson as JJ was at the top of the key and Faried saw Iguodala going with LMA towards the rim. The only reason Iggy was with LMA was because it was transition offense. Faried failed to rotate back over to his man in the half-court set and doubled Hickson with Gallo.
Lillard had the ball on the right elbow above the three point line, passed to Batum over at the left elbow, Iggy left LMA before the ball got to Batum as he realized that was his man, Faried had his back to LMA and Iggy and didn't see Iggy leave LMA (who was Faried's man), Batum got the ball with Iggy flying at him and immediately swung it down to LMA, Faried recovered to his man late, LMA used a pretty up and under and finished left handed over Gallo ... pretty incredible shot.
Again ... failure to communicate by Denver's defense. Iguodala and Faried should have been talking to prevent LMA from being wide open.
Video of the above play - slowed way down.
Portland is on a 6-0 run ...
:50 mark Lawson burns Lillard and gets to the rim for a layup ... (99-96) ... timeout Blazers
:42 mark Batum dumps the ball to LMA on left elbow just inside three point line as Faried had been fronting him, LMA dribbled to the foul line and was doubled as Iguodala came to help, LMA fired the ball to Wes on the right elbow and he sinks an open three. (99-99)
What happened: As Miller often does he was down in the paint with his man on the three point line ... Miller never really moved off the block and never recovered as Wes lined up his shot.
Odd/bad perimeter defense by Miller. Although with Iggy's double, Batum floated to the corner, but Iguodala recovered pretty well. Miller's position there didn't allow for an open pass to Batum, but Wes was open. Matthews was struggling with his shot, so maybe it was better to have him take it, but he wasn't challenged there at all.
:20 Lawson moves towards right elbow (away from Blazers bench) and instead of trying to split the double, like he did on the previous possession, he hands off to Iggy coming behind Ty. Iguodala takes another free throw line elbow jumper off the dribble ... no good (99-99)
:01 Lillard misses a running jumper as he drove down the left lane and tried to hit a J.R. Smith-esque shot.
What happened: The Blazers took their time and went isolation for a guy who has hit big shots this season. The whole left side was cleared out as Lillard tried to take Lawson. Ty did a fantastic job staying with the rookie on a slight hesitation move. Ty challenged the shot and was right in his hip pocket the entire time.
The rest of the game is history.
The breakdown on Blazers six possession resulting in points:
Bad communication: 2 (Faried no help on Hickson as Gallo was on ball, Faried and Iggy no communication on LMA)
Bad switching: 1 (Iggy and Faried swap guys in pick and roll)
Bad rotation: 1 (This was really a good hustle play by Hickson, but Iguodala late to rotate as Gallo left man to double)
Bad foul: 1 (Faried foul on LMA in post)
Bad on man defense: 1 (Miller playing a zone on Wes and Wes hitting open three)
What needs work: The biggest area of concern for me is the number of breakdowns by Faried above. The easiest fix seems to be communication. Simply talking on the court would go a long way to solving problems. The Nuggets have been pointing this out and need to keep working on it.
This begs the question ... with Wilson Chandler being such a good rotation defender and on ball defender - how long can Karl go without using him to close out games? But having Faried out there is key to rebounding the ball and I'm not comfortable seeing Chandler tying to play center!
The biggest problem with the breakdown last night was Faried's defense, but Miller was costly too. Keep an eye on how the Nuggets close out games and if they come to a different unit as the season moves into the second half.
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