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Game 35: Denver Nuggets 113 - Orlando Magic 103

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Box Score

Before we get started please say a prayer for Nene.  The news that he is out indefinitely for an unspecified medical reason is very worrisome.  Hopefully his condition is nothing too serious.

I thought the Nuggets started the game with very little focus and desire on the defensive end.  They got away with it temporarily to start the game as Orlando started off a little cold, but as they heated up the Nuggets found themselves facing a double digit second quarter deficit.  

They made a more concerted effort to defend the perimeter after they fell behind by 11 in the second quarter and that intensity seemed to build all night long until the crescendo of activity and determination in the fourth quarter that sealed the deal for the Nuggets.  

In the first half the Nuggets were switching every perimeter screen which was creating unnecessary mismatches.  They began fighting through screens in the second quarter and it made a big difference.  Switching screens is lazy defense and I believe that technique fosters a less aggressive attitude on defense as a whole.

Martin did a great job, especially in the fourth quarter, of making things hard on Dwight Howard in the paint.  He worked his tail off to push Howard out of the paint where he hurt the Nuggets in the first three quarters.  Heck, he hurts the whole league in the paint.  There is no one in the league like him right now, but Kenyon definitely did not back down and took up the challenge of shutting him down.  

However, Kenyon did not have to do it all on his own as he received help from his teammates, particular Anthony Carter.  Carter would double Howard after his man cut through the lane in order to prevent an entry pass from reaching Howard.  He even broke off his man to tip an entry pass to Howard and create a turnover at a key point in the game.

The fourth quarter of tonight’s game was some of the best team defense the Nuggets have played all season.

In our preview we talked about the mismatches Orlando creates and the Magic definitely got the better of the Nuggets in those matchups.  Rashard Lewis was able to get whatever he wanted against Camby and Lewis was a primary reason why Orlando built their second quarter lead.  At one point in the second first half the Nuggets had Martin and Camby switch so Camby was guarding Howard.  Camby was no match for Howard and he did not guard him much after that.  

It continues to baffle me that an NBA center is unable to take a smaller player into the post.  Camby made no effort to do so when Golden State had Mickael Pietrus guard him, as I noted in his scouting report, and he never made any attempt to take Lewis into the post tonight either.  When the Nuggets break into individual drills during practice does Camby just go with the guards to practice his 19 foot sling shot shot instead of working on his post moves?  How can he not be able to take a smaller player in the post and attempt to toss in a jump hook from time to time?

OK, I got that off my chest.  Getting back to the big picture the Magic clearly invoked a strategy of reducing the Nuggets’ opportunities to fast break.  They rarely sent more than one player to the offensive glass and with four players running back on defense after every shot, fast break points should have been difficult to come by for the Nuggets.  Because of that strategy the Nuggets were not able to run the floor after missed shots, but they did do a good job of creating turnovers and even running off made baskets.  Denver ended up scoring 22 fast break points which is impressive considering how committed Orlando was to preventing them from running.  

The strategy may have even backfired a little for Orlando as they only grabbed eight offensive rebounds which has been a problem area for the Nuggets in several games this season.

This was an important game for the Nuggets.  It was a good win against a quality opponent.  They did struggle at times on both offense and defense, but they made the plays they needed to in order to win.  

Those of you who know me know I try not to just regurgitate stats from the box score, but tonight I think some of those numbers are telling.  Carmelo fought hard on the boards nabbing 11, many of which were in traffic, and he also had a good offensive game shooting 11-20.  Iverson did a good job of not forcing shots down the stretch and ended up with 13 assists.  Anthony Carter continued to prove his worth quietly racking up 11 assists and making big plays down the stretch including a three from the corner and eight points in the last three minutes of the game.  Camby fought hard on the glass and grabbed 12 boards.  The Nuggets also had 32 assists on their 42 made baskets and only turned the ball over ten times.  That is a great ratio.

Tonight we saw a good game by the Nuggets who have now won seven of their last nine games.  Starting Monday they head into a quick road trip to Charlotte and Atlanta before returning home for the first meeting with Utah this season next Thursday.  

They are on a bit of a roll, but it will be interesting to see how they react to the Nene issue over the next couple of week or so.  Just two weeks ago it seemed like they were finally healthy, but since then Nene and Chucky Atkins have gone back on the shelf.  

Other Observations From Game 35:

  • Marcus Camby may be the worst cutter in the league.  Someone needs to tell him that the cut is not just designed to simply get him from point A to point B at his leisure.  The idea of the cut is to be a threat and force the defense to react to you thus causing a breakdown that your team can exploit.  Camby cuts like he is a 75 year-old arthritic without his walker.
  • The Nuggets gave up a buzzer beater shot at the end of the half and the announcers were content to chalk it up to bad luck.  Sure bad luck is a part of it when various opponents keep making 30 or 40 foot shots at the buzzer, but beyond that it is up to the Nuggets to make sure they get the last shot of the quarter.  
  • Tonight Kleiza made his jumper towards the end of the half with over three seconds left on the clock.  That shot should not go up until the clock is under two seconds.  When you keep giving your opponent enough time to get a decent shot off before the buzzer sounds, you cannot just blame Lady Luck.  That is like blaming the weather for melting the ice cream you left out on the back porch in July.  
  • A few minutes into the second quarter I was thinking to myself, "Self, you good looking genius you, Kleiza has not done anything since he came into the game."  You know what, I was right.  Kleiza entered the game with three and a half minutes left in the first quarter, but did not accomplish anything positive until over four and a half minutes into the second quarter.  He quickly made up for his lack of production though as he scored ten straight points for the Nuggets in the middle of the second quarter and ended up with 13 points at half time.  
  • Altitude is running a promo for the Nuggets’ upcoming game against the Bobcats, but the Bobcats’ player they feature is none other than Adam Morrison who is out for the season.  Their second choice for the spot was probably Sean May.  Is there any way to get some kind of Director of Sports Information over there to keep them from showing replays over game action and commercials like that one?
  • J.R. Smith did not make a good case for more playing time tonight.  It is clear he is trying on defense and is making a concerted effort to attack the basket and not chuck threes up at every opportunity on offense.  In an effort to win George Karl over I think he is changing his game too much.  He needs to play with more discipline, but he also needs to utilize his talents.  Right after he came in he was called for a technical arguing a blocking call and turned the ball over trying to force a pass off a drive.  I am still a J.R. supporter because of how much potential he possesses, but he is over thinking right now and is definitely not helping himself.
  • Hedo Turkoglu undoubtedly helped the Nuggets tonight with his horrible shooting and equally wretched shot selection.  Many people expected Turkoglu to break out when he arrived in Orlando the consensus was that he would produce very nice numbers and capitalize on his versatile skills.  He was a disappointment and was somewhat forgotten until this year.  He is having a career year in every major category other than blocks.  He is a big part of the Magic’s success and was a big reason why the Nuggets were able to win tonight.
  • Melo has shot over 50% in seven of his last ten games.  Coincidentally I have had over a 50% success rate with my pathetic attempts at humor in three of my last ten posts.  Those are vast improvements for both of us.  Melo had only hit the 50% mark in two of his 15 games before his current hot streak.
  • Originally my goal with the Pickaxe and Roll Film Room was to post clips from every game, but as I have produced two such compilations I have realized that it is just too much work as inefficient as I am at it right now.  I will put together clips from the more interesting games.  I am planning on putting some clips together on tonight’s game so keep your eyes open for that in the next day or two.

For some insight from the Magic’s perspective check out Third Quarter Collapse another great SB Nation NBA blog.