If the Nuggets were looking to build some confidence during this three game home stand I think the game against Toronto went a long way towards getting the job done.
Any concerns I had about the Nuggets taking the Raptors too lightly proved to be unfounded as Denver started out on fire. Toronto was able to keep up for a short time, but Denver built up a double digit lead about nine minutes into a game and found themselves up 44-23 at the end of the first quarter.
The Nuggets ran as well as they had in any single game all season. They pushed the pace at every possible opportunity. Whether it was off of a steal, rebound or even after made baskets Denver looked to run and Toronto was clearly not capable of reciprocating as they looked pretty unsure of themselves when they would try to run back at the Nuggets.
The fast breaking was a team wide accomplishment as everyone, even Camby and Kenyon, made nice passes up the floor to a streaking teammate for an easy duce. They also had a couple beautiful multiple pass, no dribble conversions which are always stirring to the soul.
I found the Raptors defensive strategy interesting as they focused almost entirely on Melo and AI which allowed Camby, guarded by Rasho Nesterovic to get open shots or drive to the basket, but the real thorn in the side of the Raptors early in the game was Anthony Carter. Carter hit two threes and was left all alone under the basket on two other occasions as Toronto seemed to think that it was not necessary to keep tabs on him.
I was also impressed with Carmelo’s play as early in the game he made a couple of very nice passes that resulted in easy buckets for Carter and Camby. Out of the Nuggets first 26 points, Carter had ten, Camby had six and Melo had accumulated four assists.
It is amazing how well the Nuggets share the ball when they are playing at a fast tempo. Fast breaks thrive on unselfishness as players mindsets must be focused on getting the best shot possible. That is accomplished by passing the ball ahead, drawing the defense to you and dumping the ball off for a layup or dunk.
Even though the Raptors could not hang with Denver, you can see how good of a team they could be with a healthy Chris Bosh. Nesterovic had a couple of nice buckets and passes out of the post, but he is no where near the presence that Bosh provides. All of those contested outside shots they took last night are open when Bosh is on the floor.
The Nuggets did not commit the sin of looking past Toronto and they will have to do the same thing tomorrow against a bad Seattle team.
Other Observations From Game 65:
- Toronto clearly had an off night on both ends of the floor. They are still trying to get back on defense on some of those break outs the Nuggets had. In the half court they did not do a very good job of keeping track of anyone other than Carmelo. Offensively, they were out of sync and turned the ball over 16 times (five more than usual) although it seemed more like 30.
- Carmelo did not have a great scoring night, but I really thought his shot selection was tremendous. He only took two shots from any further than 15 feet. One was a buzzer beater long bomb at the end of the first half and the other was a 20 footer in the last minute of the third, which was his last shot of the game. He did a great job of attacking the rim and the only thing he really did wrong was finishing with the wrong hand against a shot blocker. Moon sent a couple of Melo’s weak offerings out on a rail. Both occasions Melo would have been better off finishing with his left hand so that his body would have protected the shot from Moon’s long arms.
- Carlos Delfino was red hot in the first half, but he was not much of a factor in the second due to...that’s right, Kenyon Martin. Martin showed tremendous intensity and took the duty very seriously. Even more impressive was the fact that the Nuggets were up 30 at the time. Even more interesting than that was why the Nuggets had Martin guarding Delfino when Melo was guarding Jamario Moon. That raises the question of why Melo was not guarding Delfino. Maybe because the coaches had no faith in his ability to actually pay attention and do so much as make him break a sweat as he scored.
- Chucky Atkins ended up with pretty good stats, but he did not do much until the fourth quarter where he scored 12 of his 17 points and recorded three of his four assists. The good news was he did seem to get dialed in from the three point line.
- J.R. Smith had another solid offensive game making getting in the lane and making imaginative passes.
- Lastly, AI proved once again that he can shoot well with a fractured finger. Hopefully, he continues to prove it.
- Last lastly, I was waiting for a Raptor to get fired up in the fourth quarter after the way they were getting manhandled and one of them did finally get a little peeved, but it was not one of the team leaders. It was Primo Primoz Brezec, who has really put on some weight by the way. But all he did was have a little chat with Linas Kleiza that resulted in a T for LK.