When the Nuggets beat the tar out of a crappy team I generally claim there is not much you can tell from a win like that. Well, if we carry that philosophy to its logical conclusion I should avoid jumping to conclusions when they get pounded by a red hot team that may be the best in the league.
Cleveland completely destroyed the Nuggets on both ends of the floor and honestly it was not even close. Other than the fact that we can add a second team in the league that the Nuggets are absolutely outclassed by (I think we can now put the Cavs in the same category as the Lakers as teams the Nuggets have no chance at defeating although we do not need to worry about taking on Cleveland until next season) there were a couple of issues that really bothered me.
Early in his career Melo seemed to get caught up a little too much with his one on one competition with LeBron when they played, but he seemed to get beyond that pretty quickly. However, tonight Melo tried to win the head to head battle with LeBron and it really hurt the Nuggets on offense. The confusing thing though was how he settled for midrange jumpers. There was only one occasion where Melo really attacked LeBron and he blew by him with ease for a dunk. The numbers suggest that when LeBron covers Melo the Nuggets would be better off for Melo to pass the ball. In the first meeting Melo was 2-7 when covered by LeBron and ESPN showed a stat at one point during tonight's game that Melo was 1-7 when guarded by LeBron.
The good news was Melo did not only try to go after LeBron on offense, but he played some decent defense on him at the other end of the floor. He did try to pressure LeBron and really played some of the most intense defense I can remember. On the other hand, he seemed very eager to switch off and he did not guard LeBron the entire time they were on the floor.
Melo was not the only Nugget who played with impatience on offense. As against the Rockets Denver met their opponent’s defensive resistance with lazy one on one offense. They did not move without the ball and even though they totaled 20 assists only nine of them were passes in the lane. Had Denver not shot 10-20 from three point range the score would not have been nearly as close.
I guess if you are looking for some good news, Chauncey was the only Nugget to play over 30 minutes. Since the outcome of the game was pretty much set by the middle of the third quarter Karl could afford to rest his starters knowing they have a game tomorrow night in Phoenix.
Denver is off to a disappointing, but predictable 1-2 start to this important six game stretch, but they can still salvage their rep if they can play some good ball over the next four days.
Other Observations from Game 26:
After boosting his assist average to 4.5 Carmelo has had three or fewer assists in ten of his previous 11 games. The Nuggets had success with a set where Melo would get the ball on the left wing and having the weak side players run circle cuts through the lane. I have not seen that set for a while and it may be part of the reason why Melo has seen a drop off in assists.
Sticking with Melo I know he is shooting a good percentage from the three point line, but I really wish he would reduce the number of threes he takes. I may be way off base, but I think it only adds to the temptation to become more of a perimeter player, which is his greatest mental weakness on offense.
The way the Nuggets run their ball screens has been driving me nuts. The Nuggets big men slip almost every screen. The entire point of the pick is to dislodge the defender from his position. Slipping the screen can be a great tactic when it is set up with a plethora of solid screens. If you do it every time it does not work. The ball handler does not get the benefit of his defender being bumped off and the screener does not get the benefit of his man being forced to leave him in order to hedge on the dribbler. Slipping screen after screen is simply inane.
The way the Cavs shot the ball it is difficult to assess the Nuggets defense. When Zydrunas Ilgauskas is draining threes (he had nine career threes entering tonight’s game) and splashing 18 foot fade aways with Nene in his mug there is only so much the defense can do. The Cavs also did a great job of moving the ball. They make such crisp swift passes the defense does not have the time to rotate and organize.
Razzle Dazzle Game Stats
The pace factor was 94.4, which is right about average for a game in Denver.
The Nuggets defensive efficiency was a seemingly disappointing 111.3, but they did manage to hold the Cavs below their average offensive efficiency for the season.
The Nuggets string of 15 consecutive games with an offensive efficiency over 100 has come to an end after posting a 93.2.