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Nuggets/Blazers Recap...

Article courtesy of "Goldennugget," photo courtesy of "Mordecai".

First off, starting JR was the best decision Karl has made since, well, forever probably. He played great, provided many key plays throughout the game (from the first point of the game to the put back over Joel Pryzbilla which gave us a lot of energy and started our first big run of the game, to the half court buzzer beater) and helped relieve some of the duties off Chauncey Billups' shoulders. J.R. simply brings countless things to the table that Dahntay Jones does not (big surprise). I think at this point in time head coach George Karl needs to realize that J.R. may be dumb as nails on the court sometimes, but he plays at an All-Star caliber level most of the time, and starting him is to the benefit of the team.

Carmelo Anthony had a great game too. The Nuggets, and Chauncey in particular, function much better when Melo is on. When Melo is the one taking on most of the scoring responsibilities it allows Chauncey to relax and do his thing, much like Rip Hamilton did for him in Detroit. I felt the biggest "theme" of the night was "don't let yourself beat yourself". Yeah, maybe the grammar isn't correct, and it doesn't roll off the tongue, but it is dead on the money.

We
beat ourselves when we lose, not the other teams. When we decide we want to play the right way and be disciplined, we win about 80% of the time, it's when we let Boy George get inside of our players' heads that we start playing bad. Anyways, it was really nice to see the Nuggets do what they were supposed to do tonight and put away a division rival.

Tomorrow's game is even bigger, hopefully we can catch Utah at a time when they need a little rest as we did with the Lakers when they were on a roll. Here's to keeping the season alive!


Nuggets/Blazers Preview...

If I wanted to watch a team
eeek its way to a 50-win season just to pick up the final playoff seed and get routed in the first round while routinely blowing third quarter leads, serving up erratic substitution patterns, giving up season scoring highs to opposing teams, wearing down its big men and having its best player publicly defy the coach, I'd just watch highlights of the 2007-08 Denver Nuggets...perhaps the least satisfying 50-win season in the history of the NBA.

This Nuggets team was supposed to be - and until recently has been - different. Having been counted out by all the NBA pundits before the season began, this Nuggets team was supposed to play with a chip on their shoulders all season long. This Nuggets team was supposed to respect the regular season by taking care of business against the Eastern Conference's lesser squads. This Nuggets team was supposed to play with an energetic, gutty spirit that couldn't be doused easily.

What the @#$% happened to this Nuggets team?

A few things. First off, even though
Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen are all having terrific seasons, George Karl's refusal to play backup power forward Renaldo Balkman significant and consistent minutes has worn those three bigs down. They're banged up and they're exhausted. And given that Balkman produces every time he's on floor, it makes absolutely no sense why he hasn't spared the main front line guys from the start of the season. Balkman needs more minutes and he needs them now.

Secondly, the Nuggets have gone away from two very simple formulas that result in successful outcomes: shoot more free throws than personal fouls committed and shoot at least 30 free throws. In the Pistons loss on Tuesday, the Nuggets mustered a mere 22 free throw attempts (yes, I know Carmelo Anthony didn't play) while committing 27 personal fouls. In the Pacers loss on Sunday, the Nuggets had four more free throw attempts than fouls, but only attempted 27 free throws. Whereas in the victory over the
Lakers on Friday night, the Nuggets shot 36 free throws and committed only 26 personal fouls. Can someone please forward this paragraph to the Nuggets coaching staff?

Thirdly, while Karl deserves blame for his erratic substitution patterns and underusing of
Balkman, the players deserve blame for their blatant carelessness with the ball and poor shot selection as of late. Melo has shot over 50% from the field twice in his past 11 games and during that span he's had a five-turnover game and two four-turnover games.

And fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, the Nuggets once stingy defense has cratered into a free-for-all that gives up open layups and three-pointers with frightening regularity. Over the past 11 games (kicked off by that 44-point humiliating loss in New Jersey), the Nuggets have given up at least 100 points seven times.

The last 11 games haven't been pretty. The Nuggets lost six of them, two of which (the New Jersey and Boston games) were blowouts of historical proportions. But while this happened, glimpses of the 2008-09 Nuggets have appeared as well, with splendid victories over Orlando and the
Lakers.

Looking at the immediate future, the Nuggets need to rediscover the team that made this season so special up to and until 11 games ago. It begins tonight with division/playoff/conference/everything you can imagine/rival Portland coming to Denver for a TNT night cap. As fans in Nuggets Nation don't need to be reminded of, the Nuggets have lost all but one game when
broadcasted by TNT, and that was a game when Shaquille O'Neal sat out. Tonight is a must win and will tell us if the 2008-09 Nuggets have a chance of re-emerging, of we're stuck with the 2007-08 version all over again.

On a side note, I'm taking off to
Las Vegas this afternoon for a bachelor party. Since I'm already losing all my money in the stock market, at least I'll have fun losing my money for a few days. While I should be able to watch tonight's game and tomorrow's all important game at Utah, I certainly won't have time to write game recaps. So loyal Denver Stiffs reader and commenter extraordinaire "GoldenNugget" will be taking over game recap duties for the next two games.

In case anyone is curious (I certainly am), the line on tonight's game is Nuggets by seven. IF I bet on the game (which is doubtful, I never like betting on my own team), I have to take the Nuggets to cover. The last thing you want to do is root for the opposing team to lose but beat the spread against your team.

Go Nuggets!!