If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
The NBA, over the last few weeks, has been progressing rapidly towards finding away to finish out a possible truncated season followed by the playoffs. Whether they have a tournament with a varying number of teams or something else, we’re going to get an ending to this season that would be nearing the Finals in the coming weeks in a normal year.
With that in mind, the Denver Nuggets need to begin preparing themselves mentally and physically for that final push. They need to get themselves back in shape. (That was not a shot at Nikola Jokic, who some people in the community rumored could weigh 500 pounds five years from now.) They’ll have to get a grip back on the things they were doing well before this stoppage, but their main focus will need to be on what they were doing not so well. That’s why we’re here today.
At the beginning of the season, they were shutting teams down with their defense. There have been stretches where they have been lights out on offense. All season long, they’ve had varying issues that teams can exploit when the playoffs get started. The time to fix those is now. Like Captain Li Shang said, “Let’s Get Down to Business!”
Slow Down The Big Wings
This area of the game has been an absolute nightmare for them all season long. Going back to their fifth game of the season, Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans had his way with them all night long. He finished the night 7-of-12 shooting from the floor, and he was 9-of-11 at the free throw line. They couldn’t slow him down or keep him out of the paint. That fact has remained true no matter if it were Ingram or someone else.
In this specific clip, Ingram takes on not one but two of the team’s better defenders on the play. After getting a screen to switch him from Torrey Craig to Paul Millsap, he blows right by him on his way to the rim. They still don’t have a better answer to players of this size, and the ones in the playoffs are even better than Ingram at this stage.
I understand that Michael Porter Jr. has been dogged for his defense this season, but that’s no excuse for him to get worked over by Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins doesn’t fall into the category of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, but he’s a taller wing with good offensive acumen. He takes Porter 1-on-1 with no trouble. Denver can’t allow that to happen against the best teams, or they’ll be bounced out of the playoffs in a hurry.
Get Back and Communicate on Defense
This area of defense for Denver has been terrible all year. When they get set, they’re a decent group. In transition, it’s a different story. They’re 20th in the NBA in points per possession allowed in transition at 1.12, and they’re 22nd in the NBA in scoring frequency as they’re allowing a basket on 51.5 percent of their transition opportunities. Allowing baskets that frequently just isn’t a good recipe for success.
Because of how close Jokic plays to the basket, you’re often playing 4v4 or 5 if they miss the shot. You have to take that into account if you aren’t getting the offensive rebound. Good teams are going to get out and run, and you’re going to give up an easy basket. On this play, they got back, but they didn’t communicate. Marquese Chriss then dunked it all over them.
I’m going back to that fifth game of the season because it still has left a bad taste in my mouth. You’re worn out in the middle of the second quarter waiting for half time in late January? That’s one thing. This was less than three minutes into the game in the fifth game of the year, and Denver was giving up an easy bucket. Spoiler alert, this wasn’t the first or close to the last from this game.
Get the Lead Out
Good things happen to those who hustle. This statement was said by a former French-Cuban female writer named Anaïs Nin. I don’t know if she was a basketball fan, but taking this bit of information to heart would be a good idea for Denver. They’re 29th in pace, and they’re only faster than the Charlotte Hornets. Am I asking them to start running at Golden State Warriors or Pelicans levels? No. I’m just asking them to get moving faster.
On this play, Denver shows the benefit of running in transition. The Houston Rockets never get their defense set, and it leads to a wide open 3-point shot for Jerami Grant. They ended up losing this game, but, when they get out and run like this, it gives them easier shot opportunities. Going against a set defense is just more difficult, and it’s not particularly close.
Running in transition also usually gives you a player advantage. Your opponent didn’t get back following a turnover, or you got a long rebound. Denver here is running with Will Barton and Millsap leading the charge. With the defense on their heels, Jamal Murray has an easy path to a wide open look. You’re not going to be able to do that for the duration of a game, but, if you do that in Denver, it can wear out your opponents in a hurry, especially over the course of two games.
Denver has things that they can improve on both ends of the floor. As soon as they’re able to work together as a team, they need to start improving on these few things. If they get that done, they’ll be so much more of a contender in the playoffs. Good teams can take advantage of those weaknesses. If you don’t have weaknesses that are exploitable, that gets a lot more difficult.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.