Maybe when George Karl said he wanted to win one game on the Nuggets two game road trip through Charlotte and Atlanta, he was being optimistic.
In the Game Thread for the contest I wrote something along the lines that the Nuggets should be in good shape if Charlotte decides to try to outscore them. A mean spirited person would say, "Duh, every team tries to outscore their opponent. You cannot win if you score less than your opponent stupid blogger guy." Those of you who are less sarcastic and not so full of anger probably recognize the point I was making. Charlotte played at the Nuggets’ pace and lived to tell about it.
Denver was up 110-106 and seemingly had the game somewhat under control when things fell apart offensively. The Bobcats were playing a zone knowing the Nuggets were having an absolutely horrid night from downtown. They ended up a frightening 4-21 from three point land. The Nuggets passed the ball plenty, but all the passes were completely around the perimeter. None of the passes created a threat to the zone and there was no movement from cutters inside the lane. The game basically turned into a defensive shell drill for Charlotte.
With the Bobcats in that zone here is how the Nuggets finished the game after taking that 110-106 lead:
- Melo called for three seconds.
- Alley oop to Melo tipped away, Kenyon retrieves the ball, misses a short running hook and Camby misses the tip in.
- Melo loses the ball making a move on a three on two fast break.
- Carter misses a three and Melo misses a short tip in.
- Melo makes a strong baseline drive and dunk.
- A good passing possession with Melo and Martin making nice feeds. Camby receives a pass from Martin and goes up weak on the short shot and loses the ball.
- Carter misses a three.
- J.R. makes a three.
- Down two Melo is fouled, makes the first, misses the second, retrieves the rebound and is called for traveling.
- Now down three, the final play has Melo inbounding the ball to Kleiza who is looking for J.R. coming off a screen. Klieza cannot get J.R. the ball in time for Smith to get a shot off.
That list is sad yet it does not do justice to the offensive ineptitude the Nuggets displayed late in the game. The few possessions where they had a good shot, it would roll out or they would miss a relatively easy tip in.
Charlotte on the other hand made big shots down the stretch. Jason Richardson, came out of a shooting slump to hit two big threes and Gerald Wallace made a three down the stretch to put the Bobcats up one.
There are two ways to look at this game. The don’t get mad at one game crowd will say that it took a near career high by Gerald Wallace, a big night from Emeka Okafor, a couple of threes by a cold shooting Jason Richardson a season high of 19 points by Matt Carroll, a season high of 15 assists for Felton and a team season high for points in order for the Nuggets to lose this game.
The pessimistic sky is falling crowd will say this game proves the Nuggets do not have what it takes. They came in with a lackadaisical effort on defense allowing Wallace to get hot a la NBA Jam, they settled for too many perimeter shots on offense even after the found out they were ice cold, they were horrible from the free throw line and they lacked the focus to close the game out. Oh yea, and all those season highs and near career nights, the Nuggets poor defense caused that not any kind of superhuman talent the Bobcats posses.
There is probably truth in both arguments, but what is clear is that this is a costly loss which the Nuggets could not afford. Portland won in New Jersey and Utah beat Milwaukee making the Nuggets currently the number seven seed in the west. They are only a game and a half ahead of Utah for the ninth seed.
It was a common theme on my old site and RyanBuff made the point in the Game Thread, the Nuggets cannot lose games like this and expect to avoid the San Antonio’s and Phoenix’s of the world in the first round.
Tomorrow night becomes a must win game. A loss in Atlanta to the Hawks would put this team in a dangerous position with almost half the season gone and their tougher months yet to come.
Other Observations From Game 36:
- This game really reminded me of the game earlier this season in New York against the Knicks. The Nuggets could not make the necessary plays down the stretch to defeat an inferior team. Any game that reminds me of that one is not good.
- Melo played good defense late in the fourth quarter on Jason Richardson. He is becoming more and more physical on both ends of the floor and that is only going to make him a more effective player. Of course, he still has a long ways to go before we can start even thinking about considering him a complete player.
- On the final play of the game, Kleiza lost his nerve a little bit. Just when J.R. was breaking past the second screen he became skittish and dribbled the ball. At the very moment he should have been hitting Smith with the pass, the ball was bouncing on the floor. By the time he regained control J.R. had to make an extra cut and did not get the ball in time to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.
I vote for someone else to get the inbounds pass next time.
The one image that I remember seeing after the debacle to end the game was AI and Melo staring off looking at who knows what wondering why neither one of them had a chance to touch the ball on the game ending play. If Karl wants to keep those two happy, he better start making sure they get the ball in game deciding situations.
- That being said, Melo is losing some of his game ending mojo. Not only did he miss the game tying free throw, but he was fortunate enough to have the rebound bounce right back to him. Now only down one with the ball and a chance to win the game, he ends up traveling while making a jab step to set up a long jumper.
- I briefly mentioned the Nuggets poor free throw shooting earlier, but we need to give that stat a bit more attention. Actually, it was not really the whole team that shot poorly from the free throw line, it was Melo who went 11-17. J.R. also went 2-6, but other than those two the free throw shooting was good.
- Anthony Carter has been the man in the clutch for the Nuggets lately, well, tonight he fell off the wagon. He missed two threes in the last minuets and was a non factor for the most part of the game. It was probably his worst game as a Nugget. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back tomorrow.
- It is clear from the box score, but Camby had a very good night. The only thing he really needs to do better at is to take the ball strong to the basket. Charlotte has good defensive big men in Okafor and Mohammed. On at least two occasions Camby tried to avoid contact and ended up missing shots instead of either making a strong take or getting fouled.
- Iverson kind of disappeared towards the end of the game tonight. Well, that is being too kind. He might as well have been watching the end of the game with me eating Salisbury Steak (I just found out how to spell one of my favorite foods, thanks spell check!). In the last five minutes of the game he did not take a shot, get an assist, get a rebound or even make a turnover or get called for a foul. He did draw a charge when Felton just lunged into him with just over two minutes left, but the Nuggets need much more out of him in games like this. Also, to be fair he could have had an assist or two had some long jumpers fallen, but they did not.
How can this great player, who I believe should be a dark horse in the running for MVP this season, have absolutely no impact on the end of a close game that is slipping away from his team? Maybe we can get a replay like the Heat did on the grounds that the Bobcats kidnapped AI and held him hostage or somehow slipped a mickey in his water bottle.
Check out Queen City Hoops for some insight from the Bobcats’ perspective.