Once again the Nuggets starters sleep walked (or would it be slept walked?) through a full half of basketball yet somehow lived to tell about it. If it was not for some scrappy (that is scrappy, not crappy) play by J.R. Smith in the second quarter the Nuggets might have been in big trouble.
The play of the Nuggets starters is best exemplified by what Marcus Camby did in the first half versus the second half. Marcus had 2 rebounds in the entire first half and Miami playing with a small lineup outrebounded the Nuggets by ten or so. Camby came out much more motivated in the second half and it showed as he pulled down 14 boards and the Nuggets ended the game with a three rebound edge.
Maybe no matter what NBA players try to tell themselves about how records do not matter and they have to play hard every game, maybe it is just nearly impossible for them to force a focused all out effort when playing a team with the worst record in the league. Kind of like when I have to watch a movie like Pretty Woman with my wife, I tell myself that it will not be that bad, but fifteen minutes into it I am scraping a butter knife along my wrist. My point is, you can only fool yourself for so long when deep down inside your mind is already made up. The Nuggets minds were apparently made up that Miami was the worst team in the league and the game would be an easy win.
The Heat may be at the bottom of the league standings, but they certainly have a lot of fight left in them. I was very impressed with their effort from start to finish. Unless the Heat shut Wade down for the rest of the season at some point I would not be surprised to see these guys play .500 ball after the All-Star break.
Carmelo cooled off a little against the Heat as he shot 9-23 and only attempted five free throws in 41 minutes. He did open OT with a couple of nice jumpers and I thought played a decent all around game nabbing 11 boards and ending up with four assists.
Aside from J.R. Smith and Camby the other Nugget player that stepped up when he was needed was Kenyon Martin as he dropped in 12 big points in the third quarter. Every shot was a quality shot for him until he tried a silly 20 footer from the baseline, but I guess there is an unwritten rule that stipulates we have to allow every NBA player to chuck up a heat check shot like that so I guess I cannot complain.
The Nuggets continue to pull out these close games, but you have to wonder if that extra work in OT will cost them a little bit of their legs tonight as the game progresses in Orlando.
Other Observations From Game 51:
- It is obvious that Dwyane Wade does not feel right. Almost all of his offense is predicated on pump fakes in order to get by his man. There really is no reason for him to be out there playing. He is a great competitor as he showed diving Superman-style into the seats to try to save a ball from going out of bounds, but why keep trotting him out there and expose him to further injury in these meaningless games. It is not like any fans are showing up to their games anyway.
- The Dwyane Wade one day off stats seemed to be about right on. His scoring was within a point of his average for playing with one day of rest. He shot much better from three point range than usual, but his shooting percentage was lower than the typical 50% he averages on one day of rest.
- I was pretty disappointed that AI took the last shot in regulation. He was clearly not shooting well and I though that they would have been better off had he dished off to Melo after he set the pick for AI.
- All in all, I could not figure out why AI did not have a better game. Miami was doubling Melo all night long and in the second half they would not leave J.R. to help due to his hot shooting from deep. AI really should have had a big game. I think part of it had to do with Miami’s length. When they have Wade, Dorrell Wright, Marion and Blount in the game that is some serious wing span on Defense and Wade, Wright and Marion can cover a lot of ground too. Throw in Ricky Davis and that is a tremendously athletic team.
- I know that J.R. was on fire and I have no problem with him taking 14 threes, but he still needs to learn that he is better off taking one in rhythm after a couple of passes than just shooting it off the dribble as he comes up the floor. That being said, I was very impressed with the three he made from the corner after landing out of bounds trying to catch the high pass from Melo. As Scott Hastings pointed out on the telecast, the way he can leap for the pass then bounce off the floor, rise up and take such a pure shot is amazing. He has shown some good advances in his mental game this season at the age of 22 and I believe whether he is with the Nuggets after the trading deadline or not, he will develop into a very good consistent player.
I know after watching the replay of the game last night I had more to say about it, but with other thoughts slipping my mind at the moment and the need to post a preview for the Magic game tonight it is time to wrap this up.