The Nuggets showed us exactly why they have not defeated a playoff quality western conference team in three months. After a spectacular first half where Denver did almost everything right they completely lost sight of the things that they did to create their big lead.
No more running, no more cutting and rolling to the hoop, no more defensive awareness and no more controlling their own destiny. Thanks to the Mavs win in Los Angeles Denver is once again in ninth place.
We all saw how Denver was able to run up and down the floor and scored point after point at the rim in the first 24 minutes. It was high quality basketball and left me very impressed.
Then came half time.
After the break do you recall any instance where Denver pushed the ball up the floor? I can’t. How many times did they drive and dish or make the extra pass in the paint for an easy dunk or layup? Maybe three or four at the most. Carmelo at least made an attempt to stop their jump shooting ways and drove to the rim on a couple of occasions, but he was left without passing options as it was back to the same stand and watch offense they ran for four and a half months that got them in the situation they are in at this point in the season.
As bad as they played on offense, it was the defense that was a complete embarrassment. Once again everything they did right in the first half was no where to be seen in the second. In the first 24 minutes they were jumping the pick and roll, scrambling to rotate and still covering the paint. In the second half the bigs were no where to be seen when Nash came over top of their high screen. There was no anticipation in their rotations and no one was able to stay in front of Amare or handle Shaq.
The result was an 81 point half for the Suns thanks to a barrage of threes and an assault on the rim. The Suns only scored eight points on shots other than threes, short attempts at or near the rim or free throws in the second half. Eight out of 81!
Once again we are left to wonder how they can completely forget the things that gave them success and play a completely different style for two entire quarters.
No one has to worry about the Suns anymore though. They have learned how to play with Shaq. His presence allows them to space their three point shooters and even though he takes up a big chunk of the low block, he can sit there on the left side and allow Amare to drive right all game long. Shaq’s man cannot leave to help or else Shaq will have a dunk. Because of that by the time the help arrives Amare is already at the rim.
The Nuggets have to play the Suns again tomorrow night and they will have to regroup quickly. The Suns probably will not be as hot from downtown as they were tonight, but Denver will have to come up with a way to handle Amare and Shaq inside.
Other Observations From Game 74:
- J.R. Smith had another tremendous game. Looking at the box score it appears he took too many threes, but two of his nine attempts came in the last minute and his last attempt was a half court heave at the buzzer. He still had four assists and four rebounds in only 23 minutes. Oh yea, and he lead the team with 23 points.
- AI has not been getting to the rim over the past couple of games. The shots he has been taking are very tough and even though he shot a decent percentage tonight he made things very difficult on himself by playing too much one on one.
- Marcus Camby had the third game over his last seven where he played over 30 minutes and corralled six rebounds or less. For the month of March he has averaged only 10.3 rebounds. Camby usually misses seven to ten games a season and he has played in all but three games this season. On top of that only two of those three he missed were consecutive games and that was back at the beginning of February. I think he is wearing down.
- Nene played significant first half minutes tonight and he looked great. He took up space in the paint, kept Shaq in check and showed some feistiness drawing a double technical with Amare. He looks good and the Nuggets may need him to be able to play 15 to 20 minutes a game in the last week of the season. Hopefully he is up to the task.
- I mentioned in my preview that if the Nuggets keep making their unselfish interior passes they had a shot at getting Amare in foul trouble. He did pick up two quick fouls trying to defend Kenyon on a couple of dunk attempts in the third, but the Nuggets did not do enough of it after that point to get him off the floor.
- The other issues that cost the Nuggets dearly were the rebound disparity and foul shooting. Denver was outrebounded 50-33 and Phoenix shot 33-36 from the free throw line and the Nuggets were a flaccid 16-27. You cannot win against a good team on the road if you do not rebound and take advantage of your freebies.
Bright Side of the Sun has some great insights for Nugget fans to check out as we gird out loins in preparation for tomorrow night’s rematch. Rumor has it Dirk Nowitzki could return Wednesday night and Denver needs to win every home game they have left on the schedule.
George Karl liked to say that with every win the next game gets bigger. Well after losses they become massively colossal.