Nene dominates paint in Nuggets win
The 26 year-old Brazilian know to Denver fans as "Nene" has shown this season why Denver traded for the 7th overall pick in the 2002 draft.
Nene is enjoying his best season in the NBA. Not only are the Nuggets winning regularly (unlike his rookie season when Denver went 17-65), but Nene is one of the major reasons for the Nuggets success this season.
The Brazilian is averaging 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds this season (both career highs) and Nene is on pace to play in 77 games this year, which would tie him for the second most games he's played in a season, in his seven year NBA career.
Looking over an interview Nene did with Nuggets.com as a rookie it's been interesting to see his strong work ethic come to light. As a rookie Nene said of his biggest adjustment coming to the U.S. from Brazil, "It seems like here people live to work. In Brazil they work to live."
(read the whole interview here and find out how Nene (meaning Baby in Portuguese) got his nickname)
Now, you can't tell me a comment like that today wouldn't get some national play. I can hear the guys on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption now ...
"This guy is lazy."
"He's got an attitude problem."
But as Nugget fans we all appreciate Nene's work ethic after battling back from a torn ACL in the 2005-06 season to battling testicular cancer last season. And through it all Nene has also revamped his game.
Nene has always had insane athleticism and very quick feet, which often get credited to his country's soccer prowess and the fact that Nene played a little soccer growing up.
But this season Nene has shown an ability to not only get to the rim, on basically whomever he chooses, but the ability to step back and hit the 15 foot jumper with regularity.
Nene ranks 2nd in the NBA for field goal percentage at 60.9%, just behind Phoenix's Shaquille O'Neal (61.2%). And last night versus the Thunder Nene shot 75% going 9-12 from the field including 5-6 from the charity stripe. He notched his 19th double-double of the season and the Nuggets improved to 14-5 when he does so.
It's a rare occasion when Nene takes over 13 shots in a game. He has only done so on seven occasions. When Nene went 12-12 and tied Bobby Jones' all time shots made in a game without a miss record on January 25th against the Jazz he was very humble about his performance.
"If I make, I keep going," said Nene in an ESPN postgame interview. "If I miss, I just pass the ball."
On that night the Brazilian set his career scoring mark with 28 points and I've often wondered just how many he could pour in if he got more selfish. But that selfishness just does not seem to be what Nene is about and perhaps that is why he has fit in so well this season with the team.
As Vince Vaughn playing Trent Walker once drunkenly said in the movie Swingers, "Our Baby all grows up!"
- It may be a goofy college tradition, but I love how the Oklahoma City bench all stays standing until the Thunder make their first basket. A road tradition the team has adopted from their home crowds.
- The Nuggets starters often wait until an "energy" guy comes into the game before they get fired up. Renaldo Balkman (9-1 as a starter) filled in for Kenyon Martin and really looked like the only player in live action to start things as his teammates seemed to be stuck in slow motion.
- Missed layups ... like I've said in the past. The Nuggets have issues finishing around the rim. I believe Scott Hastings mentioned roughly 294 times that Denver had missed at least 5 or 6 layups in the game's opening period. The Nuggets often go for the lay in when a dunk is called for. That has got to change.
- Kevin Durant opened up with 7 points in the first quarter and finished the game with 31 points ... just one point off his 32 ppg average against the Nuggets in three games this season. I'm not looking forward to playing him four times a year for the next 10+ seasons (barring he stays with the Thunder).
- Jeff Green was also quite effective for the Thunder once again scoring 24 points including a ridiculous last second three pointer in the 3rd Quarter to cut Denver's lead going into the 4th to 89-84.
- Speaking of points ... the Thunder finished the series against Denver averaging 111 points per game after scoring 112 last night. This team surely can score, but Denver really didn't come to play defense last night.
- To start the 2nd Quarter George Karl's lineup was Anthony Carter, J.R. Smith, Linas Kleiza, Renaldo Balkman, and Chris Andersen. This group outscored the Thunder 12-10 and gave the Nugget starters the game back tied 39-39. When Melo, Billups, and Nene checked back in with the game tied the Thunder immediately went on a 7-0 run. I was not impressed with the "starters" defensive effort last night. We saw the "let's outscore them" Nuggets of Christmas Past and I wanted to light a fire in the chimney and hope that'd keep Santa Claus away.
- As the Nuggets went into the locker room down 56-53 I thought this verbatim, "The Thunder have a tendency to go into jump shot mode and turn the ball over on wasted possessions. They constantly give up leads and back away from their aggressive play. It makes no sense." Who else does that sound like? The only difference I see in the Thunder and the Nuggets aside from the youth and such is that OK City has no clue how to close out games and turn up the defensive intensity ... if they figure this out then look out.
- Sure enough in the 2nd Half the Thunder came out and played most of 3rd Quarter from the perimeter and it cost them. Denver on the other hand continued to work and mix the inside/outside game ... though more on the outside than I would have preferred.
- In the end Oklahoma City once again got out-matured by the Nuggets. (I just made that word up! ... I think) ... not the greatest win, but a key win.
(continued after the jump)
Individuals: Box Score
- Carmelo Anthony went 11-21 from the field, including 8-8 from the chairty stripe. Melo's final stat line: 31 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Another pretty complete game from #15. I thought his defensive effort was a bit lax last night though. We've seen a much improved Melo on the defensive end and he needs to keep that effort more consistent. I recall one play where the Nuggets triple teamed a Thunder player down low, but Melo (part of the triple team) was just sort of standing there doing nothing. The play resulted in a dunk after the offensive player was able to pass out of the triple team and on the replay I just remember thinking to myself, "What was Melo doing there?" That thought creeps in too often with Melo on defense.
- Nene was a force tonight. He did get into a bit of foul trouble, but his dominance inside keyed the victory I thought. I'd like to see him be that aggressive tonight against the Lakers.
- Chauncey Billups turned in a nice consistent CB7 type game. 18 points, 9 assists and 8-8 from the free throw line. I take his play for granted - you just know he's going to help you basically every night.
- Linas Kleiza ... the inconsistency continues! Last night LK showed us his good side. His play late in the 4th Quarter has to show up against the good teams. He hit a couple big threes, got to the line after a made layup (but missed the free throw), and had a nice assist to Nene for an easy dunk and before you knew it Denver was up 114-102. Kleiza then missed two three point attempts and left the game with 3:02 left, but finished the night with 17 points to lead the bench on 6-13 shooting (2-5 from deep). LK is the key to a Nuggets easier time in the playoffs.
- J.R. Smith played a very efficient game. He only shot 1-3 from downtown and I was happy to see him only take three attempts. He was getting to the rim with ease all night and finished off some great drives to keep Denver in the game early. Smith led the team with a +22 off the bench and was 4-4 from inside the three point line.
- Chris Andersen turned in 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 blocks. Birdman even took a three-pointer at the 5:09 mark of the 3rd Quarter ... I think coach Karl threw up in his mouth a little with that attempt and Denver down 72-69. It was uncharacteristic of the Bird to take that sort of shot and go outside his normal role ... surprised me quite a bit. Andersen continues to flirt with the points, rebounds, blocks triple-double. His block of Thabo Sefolosha with 2:03 left in the game was awesome. I love when Bird has the full court chase and swat at the rim. Great hustle.
- Anthony Carter scored 7 points and distributed 5 assists. AC and LK have good chemistry on the floor together on the fastbreak. Carter often looks to get LK going.
- Dahntay Jones played 14 minutes last night and really wasn't much of a factor. He started the game with Denver's first layup and seemed to get some energy going, but other than that it was another vanilla game for Jones who finished with 2 points.
- Renaldo Balkman finished with 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. His interception of a Kyle Weaver pass at the 8:14 mark of the 1st Quarter was hilarious to say the least. Balkman had nothing but open court in front of him and nearly lost the ball two or three times before laying it in. You could tell he wanted to fire the crowd up with a dunk, but was only able to provide his teammates with some locker room fodder.
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets current 8 game win streak is tied for the 5th longest in franchise history. The longest Nuggets win streak is 12 games set in 1982.
- J.R. Smith has made 166 three-pointers this season (tied for 3rd with Michael Adams 1988-89) and is only one back of Micheal Adams' mark of 167 makes in the 1990-91 season ... but J.R. wont catch Dale Ellis for 1st place on the threes made in a season list. Ellis had 192 makes in the 1996-97 season.
- The Nuggets finished the season with 11 season series sweeps. I believe their previous record for a season was 9 sweeps. The Nuggets have swept Oklahoma City, L.A. Clippers, Dallas, Memphis, Charlotte, Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia, New York Knicks, Miami, and Washington this season.