The Denver Nuggets couldn't get out of their own way in the second quarter of tonight's game in losing to the Houston Rockets 108-96 . All of the Nuggets interior post defenders, aside from Kenneth Faried, went in to halftime with 3 fouls. This obviously had the effect of destroying the Nuggets rotation, and things were helter skelter from there. The Nuggets couldn't get any penetration in the second quarter and thus shot jumper after jumper after jumper.
Also, Donatas Montiejunas just absolutely destroyed J.J. Hickson, Darrell Arthur (less so) and Kenneth Faried (very, very much). He was a man among boys there and managed to score a career high in points tonight with ____. It just wasn't a very good night for the Nuggets power forwards.
You know, James Harden and Dwight Howard are good basketball players, and sometimes we forget just how good they are. Both Howard and Harden seemed to effortlessly get "their" shots and made it look easy. Some of that was because of the Nuggets rotational defense, most of it was because they are both damn good. Wilson Chandler, who was under the weather just didn't have it tonight. He finished with 9 points and just generally looked ill. Soldiered through though and contributed as much as he could. Harden finished with a (generously termed) triple double and Howard had 3 blocks to go along with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
On a positive note for the Nuggets, Jusuf Nurkic played a career high in minutes and, despite his foul trouble, managed to make a rather significant impact in his minutes on the floor. He finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks and managed to have some epic battles with Howard down low. Nurkic is instinctual beyond his 19 years and you can see why Nuggets fans have been clamoring to get him more playing time.
It is clear, at least to me, the Nuggets secondary action needs to be something that DOESN'T result in a jump shot. The Nuggets have such a difficult time getting easy shots if the high pick and roll is shut down. Nuggets shot a ton of mid-range shots tonight. With the lane packed with Howard, the Nuggets settled and didn't adjust. This bogged their offense down so much that they stagnated. Nuggets scored 32 points in the first and looked dreadful on offense thereafter.
Another issue is the Nuggets breaks are scattershot. They don't get in the lanes as much as they used to, and therefore don't get steals that lead to fast breaks. Therefore the "easy shots" that they need to generate aren't available. Nuggets were just bogged down against a team that knew what the hell it was doing and their offense suffered on a night when their defense actually held up.
On to the Spurs tomorrow.