Nuggets face their first elimination game
The Nuggets have played their fair share of games in which they've had the opportunity to send their opponent packing. The Nuggets are actually 2-1 this post-season in games in which they had the chance to close-out.
Tonight the Nuggets will face an all too familiar game in which, if they lose, their season will come to an end. In the Melo-era (starting in the 2004 post-season) the Nuggets record when they face elimination is 0-5.
Last year Denver's season ended at the hands of these very same Lakers in Game 4 in Denver, 107-101. And in order for the Nuggets to stave off elimination tonight and force the ever exciting Game 7 in Los Angeles they'll have to take back the inside game. To borrow (and adapt) a quote from theorist Charles Horton Cooley,
"There is no way to penetrate the (lane in basketball) but by attacking it earnestly at a particular point."
The Nuggets must be determined to attack the rack. As Carmelo Anthony said in his post-game interview after Game 5:
"The games that we've lost, they had an advantage on the inside. The games that we've won, we had an advantage."
Here are my CB7 inspired Keys to Game 6 for the Nuggets:
- From above: Attack the Rack with purpose. Too many times the Nuggets will go to the hoop looking to draw the foul first and make the actual shot second. Denver must flip this around and look to make the shot first as stopping a man on a mission will typically result in a foul or like in Game 4 the Lakers may not even contest strong drives to the hoop.
Take care of the ball. In the Nuggets two wins they've averaged 10 turnovers a game (just 6 in Game 4), but in Denver's three losses they've averaged 13.3 turnovers.
If we dig a little deeper ... in the three losses Melo has averaged 4 turnovers and Billups has averaged 2.66. In Denver's two wins Melo has averaged 2.5 turnovers and Billups has averaged just 0.5 turnovers.
When Denver's key clogs on offense control the ball and make wise decisions, the Nuggets have their best opportunity to win the game.
Win the rebounding battle. Game 4 was a pretty crazy offensive rebounding performance from the Nuggets. Denver grabbed 20 rebounds or 39.2% of the rebounds on the Lakers defensive end. But Denver has been doing a great job getting on the offensive glass as their athleticism and effort has been pretty good. Here are the percentages of Denver getting an offensive rebound on the Lakers defensive end:
Game 1: 19.4% (pretty lousy and the Nuggets lost)
Game 2: 31.8% (pretty good and Denver won)
Game 3: 23.9% (not great, but Denver collected 11 offensive boards)
Game 4: 39.2% (stellar!)
Game 5: 30.4% (pretty nice effort with 14 offensive boards, but a loss)
If Denver continues to struggle from the perimeter, they haven't shot over 29.2% from three-point land in the last three games, then they must remain active on the offensive glass.
On the defensive end, the Nuggets have grabbed the following percentages of rebounds on their end:
Game 1: 63.8%
Game 2: 68.2%
Game 3: 80%
Game 4: 80.8%
Game 5: 74.3%
I think we can all agree that Denver must go back to school grades here and earn a B or above tonight to put themselves in the best position to force a Game 7.
- Move the ball on offense. The Nuggets turned in their lowest assist total of the series in Game 5 with 17 team assists. The Nuggets like to make the difficult pass and that can lead from an assist to a turnover in a heartbeat. They need to play smart tonight and that starts with Chauncey Billups. We already went over his turnover rate in wins and losses, but Billups assist total in wins is sort of alarming. CB7 is averaging just 3.5 assists per game in the Nuggets' two wins. How could that be from the Nuggets' savior? Seems very odd, but none-the-less the Nuggets must continue to work the ball on offense as Denver is averaging 21.5 team assists in their wins.
Take the smart shot. It's tough to say when guys should shoot the ball or not. As my roommates will tell you ... I often cringe at some shots and when they go in I get called an idiot because the shot ... went in (and that's the point in basketball right). My point is usually that even though the shot went in that it's a low percentage shot. And three point shots are lower percentage shots than shots in the paint. Even if the Nuggets are open on the three-point line ... they must decide if it's the best shot to take. A lot of Denver's threes have been taken when they are wide open so you can't really fault that, but Denver has taken 24+ threes in each of the past three games, where they haven't shot over 29.2%. Perhaps passing up on some of those attempts would be wise, especially if they are not falling early. Very interesting conundrum.
Stop whining Nene. I'm sick of seeing the Big Brazilian complain after every call. Like I've heard bantered about ... Nene has entered the "Boy who cried Wolf" territory. When you complain after every call then why should the refs listen to you at all? But when you complain and pick your spots then you may start to get some credibility to your argument. Nene's technical foul in Game 5 could not of come at a worse time with Denver down 5 (81-76). Nene has to put the team above himself.
Just win baby. Leave it all on the floor tonight. I want to see Denver go all out tonight. Dive for loose balls, stay in front of your man, go after every missed shot on both ends of the floor, don't allow any uncontested shots ... especially dunks, play smart basketball, take the harder path to the hoop instead of settling for outside shots, and just win this game.
Effort in basketball can go a long way. If Denver gets the right effort tonight it could carry them a long way as well ... roughly 1,000 miles back to Los Angeles for Game 7!