J.R. earns crown vs. Kings
Last night watching J.R. Smith rain down 11 three-point shots against the Kings was undoubtedly fun to watch. But the Nuggets played a game that while some of it was very good, there was also quite a bit of bad.
So, I want to take a look at the game through Positive/Negative eyes ...
The Positive: Chauncey Billups opened up the game on the microphone saying that come playoff time he couldn't wait for the Pepsi Center fans to be the loudest in the NBA ... a good way to get the home crowd excited for the last regular season home game as well as something to look forward to this weekend for the start of the playoffs.
The Negative: Billups went out and shot 1-7 and finished the game with 5 points in 34 minutes. The Nuggets found themselves down 33-25 to end the 1st Quarter after the Kings went on a 26-12 run after being down 13-7 early. Billups was probably right ... the Pepsi Center will be deafening come playoff time with BOOS if the Nuggets play they way they did in the opening period last night come playoff time. The defensive effort was non-existent to start the game.
The Positive: J.R. Smith scored a career-high 45 points off the bench in 30 minutes of action. He went 13-22 from the field, 8-8 from the foul line, with 4 rebounds, and 0 turnovers. J.R. was an amazing 11-18 (61%) from three-point land. Smith finally broke the Nuggets franchise effort for most 3's made in one game beating out Mahmoud Adbul-Rauf's and Michael Adam's old mark of nine. And J.R. fell just one make short of tying the NBA record for 3's made in a game.
The Negative: Seldom used 25 year-old Ike Diogu, who is playing on his fourth team in four seasons and averaging 6.3 minutes per game in 28 games this season scored a career-high 32 points last night on 14-20 shooting, 4-7 from the free throw line, and Diogu grabbed 11 rebounds. Not bad for an undersized power forward listed at 6'9'' and 250 lbs. Oh, and Diogu is also credited with chipping one of Nene's teeth with an elbow to the Brazilian's face. The guy was on fire last night and scoring in a variety of ways. He played a season high 41 minutes mainly because Spencer Hawes was injured after landing awkwardly on a layup attempt when KMart shoved him off balance ... Hawes played just six minutes.
The Positive: Chris Andersen blocked five shots last night and a few of those came when Andersen was challenging jump shots! It was nice to see the Bird getting out on shooters. (Andersen's final numbers: 1 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks)
The Negative: The Nuggets gave the Kings far too many open looks. The Kings were making a lot of jumpers (40-85 for 47.1% on the game), but the Nuggets were not out challenging shots. I did count three times where Francisco Garcia, coming off a screen, had to pass the ball after looking to take the shot (on one he was called for a travel), but Denver clearly needed to get out on the shooters better last night. All the Nuggets potential playoff matchups (Mavs, Jazz, Hornets) are quality jump shooting teams that'll kill you if left open.
The Positive: Linas Kleiza has averaged 15 ppg in his last four games. Last night Kleiza scored 17 points on 6-7 shooting, 5-6 from the foul line, and added 7 rebounds. More importantly, LK did it going to the rim. He was 0-1 from the three-point line, but he only took one attempt! Eureka! An aggressive LK is a good LK. Like runningdonut pointed out in the Game Thread ... I too would like to see Linas grow a beard. Every once in awhile he will show the start of a beard and it gives him that tough Lithuanian look that says he could star in Hostel III ... and the Nuggets will need his toughness attacking the rim this weekend.
The Negative: If you look through Kleiza's Game Log this season, the inconsistencies are very noticeable. A small series of double-digit games will appear surrounded by games of almost complete ineptitude. Perhaps giving Klieza a consistent 20+ minutes in his last five games will allow him some consistency this weekend and beyond. Otherwise giving the energetic Renaldo "Crime Stopper" Balkman his first DNP-CD since March 9th is going to look bad when he's rusty coming off the bench.
The Positive: The Nuggets bench averaged a +/- of +24.75 last night. The bench outscored the starters 63-55. We all know how important J.R., LK, and Bird are to the Nuggets success coming off the bench. Those three guys in addition to AC and the Crime Stopper give Denver the best bench they've had in Melo's career and are probably going to be the make or break for the Nuggets in Round 1. Last night the bench showed they are capable of winning games for this team.
The Negative: The Nuggets starters finished a combined +1 last night. The defensive effort has been lacking from these guys for awhile. I'm talking about the regular starters (Chauncey Billups, Dahntay Jones, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, and Nene) not playing as a cohesive unit. Rotations are often late or non-existent. Stepping out on screens is lacking ... paving the way for open jumpers. Energy levels don't pick up until J.R. or Bird enter the game. This has got to change.
The Positive: Kenyon Martin is back and played 29 minutes going 6-10 from the field, 1-2 from the foul line for 13 points. He also contributed 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 assists. With Kenyon comes a certain attitude and toughness that Denver lacks when he is out. From his power dunks to his nastiness, he is Denver's attitude.
The Negative: Nene's mental edge. I can't pinpoint what has caused it exactly, but perhaps feeling disrespected or rather unprotected by the officials has taken its toll on Nene. Too often he is passing the ball while under the rim or finishing with a weak layup attempt that gets blocked or rolls off the rim instead of destroying the rim like we've grown accustom to. His left hand has been wrapped for the last few games and that may be throwing him off. Nene is a very talented finisher with his left hand and yet he hasn't been using it or has been unable to use it for a while now. From his run in with the Sun's Louis Admundson Nene showed he can be mentally taken out of a game. Hastings mentioned last night that the book is out on Nene in the mental regard. Teams will be trying to frustrate him even more in the playoffs and having KMart around to offer some protection will be key.
The Positive: The Nuggets are the Northwest Division Champs! This is the first season that the Northwest Division will be sending three teams to the playoffs. Who would have though that would happen this year? The Jazz were a shoe-in, the Blazers had the young talent to do it, but the Nuggets were supposed to be battling for the 8th seed ... not winning the division. Just a remarkable job this year.
The Negative: Playoff seeding is still up for grabs. Denver is in control of the 2nd Seed and they control their own destiny come Wednesday in Portland. They can't finish any worse than #3 ... and we still don't know who the Nuggets will play ... either New Orleans, Dallas, or Utah. Crazy times.
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets won the season series with the Kings 3-1 ... and in all three wins Denver scored 118 points. Has that ever happened before?
- The Nuggets not named J.R. Swish went 2-11 from three-point land last night.
- Dahntay Jones suffered a bruised shoulder last night and is listed as day-to-day, as reported by the Post's Benjamin Hochman.
- Opposition's Take: Sactown Royalty
Quote of the Night:
"The bench will bring us back. Hopefully." -Greyson
Nice call by Greyson. The Nuggets bench has been providing scoring pop all season, but never before like last night after getting a career-high 45 points from J.R. Smith and 17 more from LK.
Wednesday night ... Denver @ Portland with the 2nd Seed on the line.