Box Score | Highlights

The Denver Nuggets failed to show up tonight even though they should have been prepared for a fired up San Antonio Spurs team. Denver was flat from the start and when the Spurs got hot from the perimeter and the Nuggets never brought the necessary defensive intensity to make things uncomfortable for them.

The Nuggets were typically in the right spots, but they did not pressure the ball at all. When the player with the ball has five feet of open space in front of him it is only a matter of time before he can make an easy pass to a teammate in position to score. On top of that the Nuggets plan for playing the pick and roll was either poorly schemed or poorly executed. The Spurs ran the high pick and roll over and over with Tony Parker and Fabricio Oberto and Denver basically rolled out the red carpet.

There are many ways to play the pick and roll, the least effective is to have the on the ball defender picked off while the defender assigned to the opposing player setting the screen watches the dribbler drive to the rim uncontested. The Nuggets pick and roll defense was only slightly better than that.

Nene, or whatever other big man was involved in the play, did show on the other side of the screen, but he was playing so far off the ball that he might as well have just stayed with Oberto and let someone challenge Parker when he got to the rim. Parker had his choice of an open shot, a pass to the wide open Oberto cutting down the lane or drive. When you give a player like Parker such a plethora of options you are going to get scored on. Over and over. And that is what happened.

Nene needed to step out aggressively, push Parker back as he came off the screen, preventing the easy pass to Oberto and allowing Billups to get back into position. The weak side forward would have to step in the lane and cover Oberto rolling to the rim and then Nene would rotate back to the weak side.

Heck, as much as I hate switching that would have been a better solution than the way they played it.

Offensively Denver played the one pass, go one on one and force a shot. What made things even more frustrating was they moved the ball so well against the Raptors. Obviously the Spurs are a much better defensive team than Toronto, but that only means ball movement and motion are even more important.

If they wanted to play the way they did offensively the one thing that worked almost every time was Melo driving to the rim from the right wing. No matter who guarded him he made it to the rim and scored. He blew by Bowen, he blew by Parker, he blew by Finley. However, as soon as he stopped his momentum and turned his back to back his man down everything went to pieces.

In the game preview I somewhat alluded to the danger inherent in tonight’s game with San Antonio coming off of a couple of poor performances, but I did not mention how Denver was ripe for a letdown after such an easy win against Toronto. I hoped they could use that game as a building block instead of treating it like some kind of accomplishment, but it is pretty obvious it went to their head.

Other Observations from Game 20:

As bad as the Nuggets defense was in the first quarter Melo stood out for his ineptitude.  He allowed Michael Finley to abuse him on a drive resulting in a wide open pull up jumper, he ran into Ginobili setting a screen Finley was not using because he was ten or 12 feet away from it thus allowing Finley to receive a pass and hit an open jumper and on top of that he failed to provide help on more than on occasion resulting in some easy baskets.  On one occasion after a Spurs offensive rebound he was guarding Duncan and Martin was on Bonner.  Martin and Melo astutely switched, but instead of staying with Bonner, Melo chose to cover Bowen, who he was originally guarding to star the possession.  As a result Bonner dove to the rim and scored a wide open layup.  
Dahntay Jones might have been the Nuggets best player tonight.  As nice as that may have been for him, it was not good news for the Nuggets.
There was some debate on the game thread as to whether or not J.R. had a good game.  On one hand as commenter cessair pointed out, J.R. ended up with a double double, tied for the team lead in assists and did not turn the ball over.  My opinion is that while J.R. did end up with some good numbers and seemed to rediscover his shot at the end of the game, he did not come on the floor ready to play.  He started out 1-5 from the free throw line and definitely lacked focus.  He was responsible for a few aimless possessions where he overdribled and took three or four bad shots.  He did rebound well including pulling four offensive rebounds, all of them tough boards in the paint plus he did what you want your guards to do when a shot goes up and hung out by the free throw line ready for a long rebound.  Overall it was a mixed bag from J.R., but he certainly could have played worse.

Razzle Dazzle Game Stats

The pace factor was considerably slower than the average Nugget home game. Coming into tonight’s game the Nuggets had been averaging a pace factor of 96.0 in home games, but that has fallen down to 95.4 after posting the slow as molasses pace factor of 89.4 against the Spurs.

The Nuggets defensive efficiency was a porous 120.7 raising their rating for the season up to 104.2.

The Nuggets managed to post their tenth straight game with an offensive efficiency rating of over 100 with a rating of 101.7. That drops their season average to 107.9.

Pounding the Rock