In the preview I said the Hornets were having a "hide your face" start to their season, but tonight it was the Nuggets who should be looking to cover their heads after the stink bomb they unleashed in NOLA.
The Nuggets are now 1-1 without Chauncey Billups since he arrived in Denver last season and 0-1 this season without their floor leader. But in Billups' absence the Nuggets found out one thing for sure ... Ty Lawson deserves the bulk of the time at point guard if Billups isn't able to go on Sunday and 26 minutes was not enough for the young guard.
I really don't want to knock Anthony Carter's game because he can be a game manager, but he cannot be a difference maker like Lawson can and was tonight against the Hornets. When Lawson was on the floor Denver's offense seemed to move the ball better and got more opportunities to get out on the fastbreak.
But if you want to point out some areas where the Nuggets failed tonight you have plenty to look at. Ball movement seemed to slow when the ball found it's way to Carmelo Anthony, missed shots/free throws were costly and as the old saying goes live by the three, die by the three.
I completely understand that superstars need to get themselves involved in the game, but Melo's unwillingness to pass the ball tonight was a frustration. When Melo did give up the rock he had success (4 assists), but too often he was trying to force his way to the basket or force up highly contested shots. A good amount of blame also has to be put on Melo's teammates because as double teams came nobody was cutting through the lane. I've played with guys who dominate the ball and sometimes you start to refuse to cut because you know you wont see the ball and that could be what some of the Nuggets think, but at the same time there is no excuse for players to stand around or for Melo to hold the ball as much as he does. The Nuggets are not going to win too many games when Melo shoots jusst 31.2% from the field. Melo did get himself to the foul line (7-9) and got the benefit of some whistles (as did Chris Paul ... it's good to be a star in the NBA).
The Nuggets didn't enjoy a good night shooting the ball. From the field Denver shot a semi-respectable 46.8%, from the foul line just 73.9% and from beyond the arc an atrocious 18.8% (3-16) from downtown. Poor Arron Afflalo was the main dud from beyond the arc tonight going 0-6 from deep ... a very off night for Double-A, who has been playing pretty great for the Nuggets this season.
Without question the Nuggets best lineup tonight featured Ty Lawson and J.R. Smith. The duo combined for 39 points (14 and 25 respectively) and helped build a big lead and helped erase a fourth quarter deficit (79-71) on four straight possessions to start the final period. When Lawson was pulled at the 8:17 mark of the fourth quarter and not re-inserted until the game was basically over I had a big cringe on my face. Lawson seemed to have it going tonight and I would have liked to see Karl ride that hot play a little more than he chose to.
Smith's 4-4 ridiculously hot shooting performance to start the fourth looked like it was going to be enough to get the Nuggets rolling and put the Bees to sleep, but after Smith tied the game at 79-79 the team just never got the offense going again.
I applaud the Hornets for fighting their way back into the game and pulling out the victory in the final period. The knock on the Nuggets is looking like a familiar one from the 2007-08 season ... even if you are down big, hang in because the Nuggets will let you back into the game and maybe even collapse mentally down the stretch just a bit.
Andrew and I discussed a few weeks ago that perhaps he was the jinx this season with his recaps all seeming to be tough losses and now the tide seems to be turning as I've been having to recap some tough ones lately. Never to fear, I'm always a glass half positive person and I expect yet another loss to help motivate the team. One trend seems to be glaring ... when Denver is missing a key player they lose.
Of the Nuggets 8 losses 5 of them have come when the team is not at full strength. The Nuggets feature a strong eight man rotation when 100%, but if any of those eight guys are out this team is going to struggle because the back end of the roster has been unable to step up and while is nearly impossible to replace a Billups or K-Mart you'd think the team would pull through at some point.
Nuggets not at 100%:
at Miami (K-Mart only plays 12 minutes): loss.
at Atlanta (K-Mart out): loss.
at Charlotte (K-Mart out): loss.
at Detroit (K-Mart out): loss.
at New Orleans (Billups out): loss.
Views you can use:
- Ty Lawson started the game 6-6 from the field and finished the game 0-4 from the field
- The Nuggets combined for just 18 team assists ... Chris Paul put up 19 assists himself
- Denver out-rebounded the Hornets 45-43
- The Nuggets bench outscored the Hornets 43-13 and yet somehow lost
- The Nuggets starters were outscored by the Hornets 49-85
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Bill Haber