I am finding it difficult to take this team seriously anymore. We have all said it and written it and repeated it, but I still cannot get over how a veteran team can be so inconsistent. If it were not for two tough jumpers by Allen Iverson in the last minute this game would have turned out differently.
Facing a team that only had two scoring threats the Nuggets somehow managed not to guard either one. Corey Maggette and Al Thornton took turns hitting either open jumpers or getting to the basket all night long.
However, the bad defense did not end with those two. Iverson did a terrible job as he allowed Brevin Kinght to get wherever he wanted on the floor, but it was not all AI’s fault. The Nugget big men gave no help when AI would get picked off. Once again, there was no cohesive team concept on defense and it showed. I used to write about how the Nuggets played an inside out protect the paint brand of defense. I cannot even see that kind of strategy anymore.
Offensively, the Nuggets were stagnant again and relied a great deal on isolations. In the first half Melo did a great job of passing out of double teams and hitting cutters. The proof was in the pudding as he ended the half with five assists. In the second half he did not do nearly as good of a job passing and the Nuggets did not do nearly as good a job of cutting.
After running the Sonics out of the land of Eddie Vedder, Nirvana and Mother Love Bone they were not quite as aggressive running the floor against the Clippers. They only had four steals, as opposed to the ten they pilfered in Seattle, and that reduced the number of fast break opportunities.
Another key to the game was without Chris Kaman the Clippers played small all night long. It worked well for the Clippers as at one point the Nuggets actually had Eduardo Najera guarding Dan Dickau on a couple of possessions. The small ball kept LA in the game, but it also lead to the one area the Nuggets enjoyed a clear advantage in, rebounding.
The Nuggets outrebounded the Clippers 55 to 41 including 18 to ten on the offensive glass. Melo grabbed eight of those offensive rebounds himself including two that helped clinch the game in the waning seconds.
Once again the Nuggets let a bad team hang around and actually take the lead in the last two minutes. Again the good news is they won another game after being behind in the last two minutes, but the bad news is the had to go to the last two minutes to beat a bad team without two key players in the Pepsi Center.
We have seen them raise and lower their level of effort based on who they play or how badly they want to win. That approach is not going to work in March, or in the playoffs.
If they even make the playoffs
Other Observatons from Game 58:
- I get upset with this every time I see it. It scars me like being exposed to male nudity in a movie. It is switching on defense. Last night the Nuggets were switching on some out cuts to the perimeter. Switching for no reason simply allows a lazy mindset. No one feels any responsibility when someone like Maggette or Thornton starts lighting it up. Not that any of the Nuggets feel any personal responsibility for defense anyway.
- Thornton is an absolute chucker. I have no idea how he can be averaging 0.9 assists a game as little as he passes. Thornton played a very good game, but the play that took the wind out of the Clippers sails was his terrible three pointer with just over 30 seconds left. He is going to be a bear to play with at the rec center after his career is over.
- On TV Melo was given a great deal of credit for his two late offensive rebounds and I mentioned them here as well, but Scott Hastings went a little overboard in his praise for Melo. The first rebound was grabbed over Cuttino Mobley, not exactly an impressive play. Al Thornton was nearby, but Melo had much better position than he did. The second offensive rebound was turned into a loose ball after being tipped around a couple of times by Camby, but once again, Melo was the biggest player with the best position when the ball came over to him. They were big rebounds and he did worked to get them, but lets not act like he went over Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnett.
- Kleiza continued his unimpressive play missing three of four free throws and adding virtually nothing during the game. At this point the Nuggets might as well of traded him for Taurean Green instead of Von Wafer.
- J.R. Smith was bad last night too. I heard a second quote from Karl on the ESPN broadcast that said something along the lines of J.R. has no concept of time and score. He plays the same way no matter what the situation. He has stopped going to the basket as much as he used to and he is jacking up threes at an alarming rate. I have written that I am fine with Smith taking a few bad shots here and there when he is hot, but he is now taking bad shots even when he is flinging bricks.
- I mentioned how poor Iverson’s defense was on Brevin Knight, especially in the second half. He is constantly heralded for his ability to play 40 plus minutes a night. Well, he is bringing great effort consistently on offense, but he definitely takes plays off on D. I think Denver needs to give either Kuba Diawara or even someone like Taurean Green some time here and there to reduce AI’s minutes.
- Anthony Carter made some big shots early on in the season against San Antonio and Houston, but those days are long gone. He missed two perimeter jumpers in the last couple of minutes last night and now his name is nowhere near the top of the list of players I want taking a big shot down the stretch anymore. The Nuggets would be better off if he just spiked the ball off the floor like they do in Aussie Rules Football and creating a loose ball situation because the Nuggets would have a better chance of recovering a 50/50 ball than the rebound.
Head on over to Clips Nation to see what Clippers fans have to say about the game.