Nuggets sluggish start to blame for loss
Throughout this game I found myself hitting the "INFO" button on my remote control to make sure I was watching Altitude TV's coverage of the Denver Nuggets vs. the Phoenix Suns game. I kept thinking that perhaps I had accidentally changed the channel to the WWE's Monday Night Raw.
I really think that all those years of losing to the Spurs in the playoffs has rubbed off on the Suns and caused them to turn into one of the top flopping teams in the NBA.
Steve Nash sets a moving pick on Nene and Nash goes flying on his back across the hardwood. Foul on Nene!
Kenyon Martin near the free throw line spins while standing still ... Jared Dudley acts as though he was hit by a bus. Foul on KMart!
Billups starts his drive at the top of the key, Nash still moving his feet goes flying on his back across the hardwood. Foul on Billups! (that was actually probably a good play by Nash, but my homerism at the moment isn't allowing me to see it that way.)
Nene touches Louis Admundson with his elbow and you would have thought Admundson had been hit with a wrecking ball. Nene ejected!
Now I must say that the Nuggets also did/do their fair share of flopping as well. I realize this is a very difficult sport to officiate, but are we even watching basketball at this point?
Do me a favor ... go to your local gym or blacktop and play some pickup hoops. Then spend the entire game calling fouls whenever you shoot and heaving yourself backwards on any type of contact. See what type of reaction you get. I'm willing to bet that the other players will wind up using your face as a punching bag or would like to.
In the words of Popeye the Sailor Man, "That's all I can stand that I can't stand no more!"
To the game ...
The Suns started the night with purpose. They looked like the desperate team that they are and came out with the energy one would expect of a team scrambling for the playoffs.
The Nuggets started out with purpose as well ... to not play any defense and to let Phoenix dictate the pace of the game early. The Suns opened up a 14-4 lead and things were looking ugly early. They only got worse when you realized the Suns out-rebounded the Nuggets 17-7 in the 1st Quarter and 46-33 on the night.
Phoenix's hustle on the offensive glass turned into them grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets' 21 defensive rebounds. A 41% chance the Suns were going to grab their own bricks along with shooting 50.6% for the game equates to a Nuggets loss. You could see how important each extra possession was as the game drew closer to the end.
Denver on the other hand was only able to grab 27.9% of rebounds on Phoenix's end and for most of the night the Nuggets were not even attacking the offensive glass. For the first time in 5 games the energy of Balkman and Anderson didn't seem contagious to the rest of the team.
Allowing a pretty scrub Phoenix team to score 118 points, while missing All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire and reserve guard Leandro Barbosa, is pretty horrible. The Nuggets only decent defensive effort came in the 3rd Quarter when they held Phoenix to 25 points and that is still too many. Had Denver turned in a decent defensive effort they would have won this game rather easily.
The Suns are not a good defensive team by any stretch of the imagination and yet the Nuggets for long stretches of the game pretended that Shaq was his old Lakers Version self. The Nuggets looked scared to take the ball strong to the rim when the Diesel was in the game. For the life of me I could not understand this.
Shaq was clutch from the foul line hitting 7 of 8 foul shots. The motion on his free throws actually resembles a shot now ... incredible! The Nuggets again were pretty stellar from the foul line themselves going 29 of 33 good for 87.9%.
For how bad things were looking for the Nuggets they escaped the first half down only three, 63-60, thanks to Linas Kleiza's running hook-shot three-pointer from the top of the key.
At the half I asked myself this question, "Are the Nuggets really in this game?"
I knew what the scoreboard read, but it really seemed like an error. The Suns should have been up by a lot more than three points.
To start the 3rd Quarter the Nuggets, like the Suns, utilized a 14-4 run to open things and found themselves up 82-71at around the 6:00 mark. Denver's offense sparked by Nene had come to life and it looked like a tale of two halves. Phoenix looked sluggish and turned the ball over 4 times to go along with 3-8 shooting to start the second half. I got that old familiar feeling that the Nuggets were going to keep rolling and win this game.
Phoenix closed out the quarter on a 17-10 run and cut Denver's once 11 point lead down to 4 at 92-88 to start the 4th Quarter.
The key moment of the final period came at the 7:25 mark when Nene was ejected from the game after a head-butt and then left elbow to Admundson's head. After the ejection Nene got in the face of referee Bill Spooner who ejected him, Scott Hastings said Spooner may have perhaps been the one to get in Nene's chest. It'll be interesting to see if the league will look into this incident further.
Obviously Nene grew very frustrated with the Admundson. I always figured that with the ponytail and odd name that Admundson was an overseas guy until they revealed last night he is from Monarch, Colorado. Being a Colorado lifer, after they announced that Admundson is from here I died a little inside. Every team needs a dirty player and an agitator and Phoenix has their guy in Louis.
This game really allowed me to find a hatred for the Suns that I never knew existed. I can no longer stand any players on their team, their coach, or the fans (who were booing mightily after Shaq steam-rolled Melo on Melo's layup attempt late.) Ha ha ... nothing better than just despising a team after a game like this. Though I do get that if some calls went against the Nuggets at The Can there'd be boos-a-plenty to go around.
Coming down the stretch I was exchanging texts with my boy Rory. We each expressed our newfound hatred for the Suns and I was really hoping Denver would pull this game out. Hatred for a team can only come during a close and hard fought game.
With just 3:36 remaining and Denver clinging to a 105-104 lead this game turned into one heck of a slugfest.
We witnessed 6 lead changes:
- 107-105 Suns on a Shaq And-1 play
- 108-107 Nuggets on a JR 3-pointer
- 109-108 Suns on a Grant Hill jumper
- 111-109 Nuggets on a Melo 3-pointer
- Tied at 111 on two Dudley free throws
- 113-111 Nuggets on two Billups free throws
- Tied at 113 on two Shaq free throws
- 115-113 Suns on a Hill jumper
From there Nash drew a bogus* charging foul on Billups and Billups then went on to miss a game-tying runner off the glass and a desperate three-point attempt by Melo didn't find its home.
Denver lost a heartbreaker on the road and missed a key opportunity to move 2 games ahead of both the Jazz and Blazers with their 9th straight loss in Phoenix.
I obviously would have been a lot more pleased with a win and Denver has shown the ability to close out these close games all season. A missed opportunity here and a turnover there and you lose. It was good to see them put up a fight against a team desperate for a win, but let's not kid ourselves ... the Nuggets should be just as desperate right now.
*My homerism wont allow me to say it was a good play by Nash.
Opposition: Bright Side of the Sun
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets last win in Phoenix came on April 7th, 2004 when Melo dropped 36 points and led his team to a 111-96 win
- In 5 of their last 6 games the Nuggets have recorded 22+ team assists (their season average) ... last night was the first time in those 5 games they lost while doing so
- The Suns turned the ball over 20 times last night ... the Nuggets only converted those into 21 points
- On the flip side the Nuggets recorded 15 turnovers and Phoenix was able to convert those into 18 points