On December 16th, Jeff Morton spoke with Brian Shaw about the team’s slowing pace. Morton cited the Cavaliers game on Dec. 4th as the time he began to notice the Nuggets “slowing down” – since that game the team has turned in a 3-6 record. Here is what Shaw had to say about the slowing down that has taken place over the past several games:

Shaw on Pace and D (click to play the short audio from coach)

As you heard in the audio, Shaw cited a few key elements to the slowed down Nuggets. Notably, Ty Lawson's absence from his hamstring injury that he's now recovered from along with the defense allowing too many made buckets that are not allowing for the Nuggets to get out and run in transition.

Some numbers to consider, Denver is currently playing at a pace of 95.9 – which is good for 7th fastest in the NBA. What exactly is "pace" and how is it determined? From BasketballReference.com:

Pace Factor (available since the 1973-74 season in the NBA); the formula is 48 * ((Tm Poss + Opp Poss) / (2 * (Tm MP / 5))). Pace factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team.

The Nuggets are still playing fast, just not at the breakneck speed they were during their seven game win streak when their pace was in the top-5 of the NBA.

The Nuggets offensive ratings and defensive ratings have been interesting to track this season as well, especially as the sample sizes have been growing.

What is offensive rating and defensive rating? Again, from BasketballReference.com:

Offensive Rating (available since the 1977-78 season in the NBA); for players it is points produced per 100 posessions, while for teams it is points scored per 100 possessions. This rating was developed by Dean Oliver, author of Basketball on Paper. Please see the article Calculating Individual Offensive and Defensive Ratings for more information.
Defensive Rating (available since the 1973-74 season in the NBA); for players and teams it is points allowed per 100 posessions. This rating was developed by Dean Oliver, author of Basketball on Paper. Please see the articleCalculating Individual Offensive and Defensive Ratings for more information.

Offensive and Defensive ratings throughout the season:

Nuggets Record Offensive Rating ORtg Rank in NBA Defensive Rating DRtg Rank in NBA
0-3 96.7 27th out of 30 105.3 19th out of 30
3-4 103.5 15th 103.9 12th
4-6 106.1 10th 107.3 23rd
14-12 105.6 13th 104.9 15th

Obviously there is a big jump from 4-6 to 14-12 with 16 games occurring between the rankings there, but interesting to see how the offense has stayed in the same territory and the defense has gotten a little bit better. The problem is that the Nuggets are right in the middle of the road and right on schedule to be a lower tier playoff team that will have to fight for their playoff life.

This is pretty much what your writers here at Denver Stiffs predicted this season, for the team to be in the hunt for the post-season. We'll be keeping an eye on these numbers and on what the Nuggets style morphs into as the season rolls along and we see more of what Shaw wants to do.

Thus far we have seen the Nuggets incorporate more inside-out play, running offensive sets that utilize the big men as offensive threats, more man to man defense, less gambling on defense, but also quite a bit of running and taking initial shots with plenty of time on the clock.

I thought with the increased half-court play that the Nuggets would have to be one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the league. Currently, the team ranks 5th in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game with 13.0, the Detroit Pistons lead the league with 14.2 per game.

The Nuggets have played at their best this season when they are out and running and blending the half court game into pushing the pace. As Shaw stated, a lot of it starts with defense as the team needs stops to get transition opportunities and catch defenses off guard.

The current three game skid has seen the Nuggets get out executed by the Thunder, give up a 21 point lead (and 10 point fourth quarter lead) to the Suns, and get roughed up in Los Angeles by the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back. The effort was there against OKC, there in the first half against the Suns, but was lacking for big stretches against the Clippers.

In a season long test for Brian Shaw and his team, it's time for a recharge.