The Denver Nuggets can't overcome an atrocious offensive first half on their way to falling to the LA Clippers 100-94.
Proof that you still need good offense to win close games.
It all went wrong in the first half. A terrible shooting percentage (finishing the game at 39%), missed layups, perplexing foul calls and a general bad atmosphere went a long way to toward the worst game played by the "New Era" Nuggets. With five days off in between the Nuggets have plenty of opportunity to fix their offensive problems. One of these problems is the continued bad play of a certain bench forward. More on this further down.
This was one of those games where the defense wasn't the issue. The Nuggets clamped down on the Clippers in the second quarter, only allowing 18 points to be scored. On the flip side the Nuggets only scored 15 in the quarterand were out of sorts for most of that first half, on their way to a paltry 38 halftime points.
Lets get tonight's goats out of the way
Tonight's big goat has to be "Big" Al Harrington. He finished with 0 points on 0-8 shooting. Lord only knows what has happened to him. Is he out of shape? Is he still injured? Or is he flat out lazy? There's no excuse for his offensive performances, and his defense isn't much better. The Chris Andersen and Big Al second unit switch gets alot of crap, but I must say that Bird has been holding up his end of the bargain (who finished with 5 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks and several "almost steals") and was hustling all over the court. I can's say the same for Big Al.
Another goat is J.R. Smith. Poor J.R. couldn't get any jumper to fall and looked like he had virtually no confidence. He was called for several ticky-tack reach-in fouls and let the officiating get in to his head. Finally when J.R. was called for a block on an attempt to draw a charge at mid-court, he clapped his hands in frustration and was given a technical. That was the end of his evening. J.R. finished with 5 points on 2-11 shooting. Bad night for J.R. Smith.
Now for the good parts of the game. This was another good game for the "midget lineup" that I dislike (still do). Raymond Felton finished with 18 pts and 6 assists. Ty Lawson finished with 11 points and 8 assists. In the second half Ty used his quickness to penetrate the lane, and along with Raymond Felton brought the Nuggets back into the game. While the Nuggets weren't able to close things out (which is a shame because Eric Gordon left with an injury, and for some reason the Nuggets couldn't stop Randy Foye) it was great to see both small guards breaking down the lanes and preventing the Clippers bigs from setting their feet.
The Nuggets bigs did a decent job on Blake Griffin. While he finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, his explosiveness was limited by the Nuggets big men combo of Kenyon Martin, Nene, Birdman and ... yes ... Timofey MOZGOV. Griffin was held without a dunk the whole game. Nene had an outstanding game and finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, far outdoing his counterpart DeAndre Jordon (who had 10 pts and three early first half dunks)
In summary the Nuggets were done in by an awful offensive first half, and an inability to close. True story.
Nuggets of Wisdom
What can we take from this game? While the Nuggets defense has vastly improved, it can't overcome a horrific "team shooting" night. Without a dynamic scorer it's up to the entire team to step it up (Arron Afflalo left the game with a hamstring injury) to pull the team out. The scoring by committee has worked out so far, but when the team collectively goes in the toilet offensively it's going to be very hard to climb your way back in every game by just playing good defense. They almost did it tonight, but they won't be able to do it every night.
When George Karl puts in Harrington, the momentum of the game seems to get sucked away. I'm not sure what Big Al's problem is but in my observation it's an offensive black hole that suck away all the momentum. When Danilo Gallinari returns I'm sure Al's minutes will diminish, but in the meantime what to do? George Karl's rotations are still baffling at times, and I hope as we approach the playoffs he has a better grasp of what's going on with the "flow" of the team.
The Nuggets managed to overcome Kenny (6 techs in 18 seconds) Mauer and his personal hex on the Nuggets (as my buddy and fellow Stiffs writer Nate Timmons pointed out to me via text tonight "Melo is gone, Mauer should ease up") and play fantastic defense for three quarters. It's great to see despite the loss. During these next five days it's up to the Nuggets to keep working on offensive flow (hopefully Gallo will be back) and prepare for the always tough matchup with Phoenix on Thursday.