It is a good think that game was outside otherwise there was absolutely no reason to keep watching.
I am going to assume that the cold and wind made an impact on the shooting by both teams. I think that is a safe assumption. There were a couple of things to take note of so let’s get to some game notes.
Before training camp Nene said that he still feels the effects of his chemotherapy from time to time. Well, I do not know if that had anything to do with it, but I thought he looked less explosive than he did the night before against the Timberwolves. He did a good job guarding Shaq and on the glass, but I think he had a couple of shots blocked that he would typically be able to get away. I have no idea if there is any connection between the lack of spring in his step on the back end of games on consecutive nights and his cancer treatment, hopefully it was just the fact he was playing more than 20 minutes on consecutive nights for the first time since early January. Regardless of the reason his physical performance in the second night of back to backs may bear watching.
I thought it was interesting Mateen Cleaves played the back up minutes at the point. At the time I wondered if George Karl was giving him a chance to state his case as to why he should be kept around. Whatever you want to think of Mateen, he played a solid game. After Smush Parker made a nice contribution on defense against the Timberwolves it will be interesting to see how the minutes are divided over the next couple of weeks.
The energy from the bench was very good once again. Chris Andersen, Renaldo Balkman and Ruben Patterson bring an in your face enthusiasm that the Nuggets have been lacking for a few seasons. Add in Dahntay Jones, who started in place of Carmelo Anthony and then Linas Kleiza and/or J.R. Smith coming off the bench as well and the Nuggets are going to be very deep.
Speaking of Kleiza, so far I have not seen anything that has led me to believe the 2008-2009 LK is going to be any better than the 2007-2008 LK. He did do a good job crashing the boards against the Suns and grabbed a couple of caroms that required him to jump a zone or two over from where he was when the shot was in the air.
One of the stated reasons the Nuggets traded their first round pick in the last draft was because a rookie would probably not contribute on a playoff team. A few days later they made a draft day trade for Sonny Weems. Well, it looks like the guaranteed contract they gave Weems is going to cost them a veteran who could contribute much more.
Between Juwan Howard, Ruben Patterson, Smush Parker and Mateen Cleaves Denver will have to let at least two of them go and all of them have made a solid case so far for having the ability to contribute.
I believe Howard is the closest thing to a lock to making the roster out of that group. He is not the player he used to be, but his game was never based on athleticism and will be an asset not just behind the scenes, but on the court as well.
Patterson brings a style that excels in chaos. He is good at creating an up tempo “atmosphere” with his energy (some people just make things feel faster based on the way they move and Patterson moves in a frenetic way that makes everyone else respond by speeding up what they are doing too).
Parker can be an effective full court player. He has good size and is very quick. I was very impressed with the group of Parker, Patterson, Jones and Andersen with their ability to shrink the court with their athleticism.
Cleaves has the lowest ceiling of the four and I think would be the easiest to let go. He really duplicates much of what Anthony Carter already provides.
The bad thing is none of them can shoot very well.
Chucky Atkins had an amazing performance. Despite not playing, he somehow garnered a rebound. Well done Chucky.
Andersen has really earned the moniker “Birdman” during the first two games. If an opponent even thinks about looking at the rim he takes flight. He can be a very good shot blocker, but what would make him a potentially great shot blocker is the ability to stay on the floor until the offensive player actually shoots. That is something Tim Duncan excels at.
I was not a fan of the Jones signing, but he has won me over quickly. He has never shown a desire to play lock down defense in the past and has tried to get by with his offense. However, he has clearly realized that the way he will get minutes based on his defense and has shown that he can be a scrappy player. He received a stamp of approval from Charles Barkley who when informed Jones played for the Kings last season uttered soomething like, “Why’d they get ridda 'im?”
The Nuggets struggled again with their communication and rotation on defense leaving the man with the ball open off of a pick and roll on a couple of occasions, but it they were much better than in the previous game. They have made it clear that they are going to pressure the ball and try to clamp down on pick and rolls this season. Those are two areas which will be easy for everyone to follow as the season progresses.
It was kind of cool seeing blimp shots during a basketball game.
It was kind of funny seeing basketball players trying to keep warm during a game.
If we cannot count on it being warm and windless in the desert then we might as well make these outdoor games really interesting and start holding them in Chicago or Boston. Let’s see how well these guys play wearing ski gloves and moon boots.
By the way, here is an eyewitness account that was emailed to me from someone who was actually at the game.