The Nuggets fell into the typical home court template where one team jumps out to a lead in the first half, the other team comes back in the second half, but the Nuggets screwed up the important final phase. They failed to be the winning team. Of course, last night was a bad game to try to implement the home court template because they were not playing Charlotte or Atlanta. Utah is too good of a team for the Nuggets to give away an entire quarter and expect to end up winning.
I wrote about how the Nuggets played with effort and passion against Portland for a full 53 minutes. The Nuggets need to duplicate that effort over and over again in order to be successful and the fact that they failed to duplicate that performance at home against the Jazz in their very next game was disappointing.
The Nuggets allowed themselves to be outworked by the Jazz in the second quarter from start to finish. The best example of that was Utah was able to get an offensive rebound on three different occasions off a missed free throw.
The other problem the Nuggets had in the second quarter was offensively they played almost completely on the perimeter. The Nuggets started off the second quarter missing seven jump shots. For the quarter they shot 2-10 from outside ten feet. However, when they were able to get inside, which was pretty much whenever they wanted, they converted all four of their shots.
The other problem in the second quarter was Kyle Korver. Apparently the scouting report the Nuggets have on Korver does not indicate that he can shoot, because the Nuggets continually left him alone over and over and he ended up with 15 points in the second quarter which equaled what the Nuggets produced as a whole.
In the first few minutes of the game and most of the second half the Nuggets did a very good job of getting inside on the Jazz and earning good shots in the paint, but like I said to start off the Nuggets cannot give away an entire quarter and expect to beat a team like the Jazz. Their nearly complete lack of effort to get the ball to the basket in the second quarter was inexcusable.
Another problem was the Nuggets free throw shooting. In a game that went into OT and was decided by three points you must make your free throws. How close was this game? After the 9:53 mark of the fourth quarter and through overtime, neither team ever had a lead of more than three points. In a game of that nature, free throws are crucial. The real problem was through the first three quarters the Nuggets were 11-19 from the line which is only 58%. In the fourth quarter and OT they were much better (14-18), but the damage had been done.
Even with all of the problems the Nuggets had they still had an open shot to win the game at the end of regulation and another to give them the lead in the waning seconds of OT. This team has an amazing amount of talent, but that is part of the problem, they know it and they rely too much on physical talent instead of mental toughness.
The lack of mental toughness and focus cost them the game, not just in the second quarter, but in the last minute of regulation too. The Nuggets had a three point lead, the ball and a full shot clock with fifty seconds left. Carter made a bad cross court pass that was easily intercepted by Kirilenko. Then on the other end of the floor AI was screened off of Deron Williams and Carter did not help off which gave Williams the most wide open three in the history of basketball which of course, he made to tie the game.
The Nuggets still had a shot to win and Melo barely had a 20 footer rim out. My problem with the shot was there was no reason for him to be that far out. He could have been a step closer and still gotten it off. It was a great play by Iverson to get in the lane, draw the defense and kick it out to Melo, but to me Melo’s positioning was another mental mistake. He should have been closer.
Those are three big mental mistakes in the last 35 seconds of a game the Nuggets really needed to win.
In my mind the game Monday at Portland was the official kick off of the most difficult portion of the Nuggets schedule. Over the next eight weeks they play games at Cleveland, at Orlando, at Chicago, at Houston, at Utah, at San Antonio, at Detroit, at Toronto and at Phoenix. Home games include battles with Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, San Antonio, Toronto, Dallas, Golden State and Phoenix. There are games against Memphis, Miami and Seattle mixed in, but this is going to be a big challenge for the Nuggets.
They better be able to play with effort and passion for more than one game in a row if they are going to make it through this stretch as a top eight team in the west.
So far, they are 1-1.
Other Observations from Game 48:
- Anthony Carter has no business taking 14 shots. He was 4-14 including 0-4 on threes. His hot streak from downtown is over and he needs to realize that. By the way, Melo only had 17 shots making ten of them. Melo: 1.7 points per shot. Carter: .86 points per shot. Pass the ball in the half court a little more Carter and you will not have to worry about hearing any more Jason Kidd rumors.
- Kenyon Martin’s free throw shooting is becoming a problem. Over the Nuggets previous seven games he is only shooting 7-16 and his percentage for the season has fallen to 57%. His best month was January and he only shot 65% then. He shot 71% two years ago. I would think that recovering from microfracture surgery would give you a lot of time to shoot free throws.
- I thought Marcus had the quietest 17 rebound four block game I had ever seen. When I looked at the box score and saw that he had 17 boards, I was shocked.
- The luckiest moment in the game for the Jazz might have been when Ronnie Brewer was fouled hard by Martin. Brewer did not return to the game and he took his team worst minus nine plus/minus rating with him.
- Iverson was an impressive 5-7 form three point land, but a frightening 4-20 from inside the three point stripe. Too many contested 18 footers?
- As in Portland the other night Kleiza did not play much in the fourth quarter. He played the first five minutes, but sat out almost the entire last seven minutes. The man was 3-4 from downtown, but he did not do as good of a job getting out and running as he did in the previous game against Utah.
- In fact, no one did a good job of running. The Nuggets had 38 fast break points. Last night they ended up with nine. Good for the second lowest total they have had at home all season (they had seven against Minnesota in game 13). Boozers Hammy tried telling us that Utah was playing better defense as of late, but I did not see it. They definitely did a better job on transition D, but for the Nuggets to have 106 points in regulation with only nine fast break points indicates that Utah’s D is not too sturdy yet.
Once again check out My Utah Jazz for some completely asinine name calling and a little bit of game analysis too. If that is not enough Jazz crap for you to handle Basketball John and Biased Fan can help you feel sorry for these sad little men who have nothing better to do than perpetuate the outdated notion that the Nuggets are just a bunch of thugs.