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 Denver Nuggets are 4-3 since the All-Star break, and they’ve taken some serious lumps this season thanks to a common weakness. They have gotten torched from 3-point range in their losses, especially by teams that are in the bottom end of the standings. In three of their losses this season, one each to the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks, those three opponents shot on average 44.5 percent from 3-point land.

In their wins, teams shoot 32.8 percent from 3-point range compared to 38.5 percent in their losses. Some of that is based on luck with teams getting hot for a night, but you also have to take into account the poor defense that Denver is playing on those nights. Frequently, you’ll see soft closeouts that give the opponent time to rise up and get a clean look rather than getting up into them.

So, are opponents just feeling it when they’re playing Denver, or are they actively allowing easier shots. I honestly think that a large part of it has to do with their defense as a whole. They had a defensive rating of 108.0, which was 10th, prior to the break, but they’re at a 117.9 since the break which is 27th in the league. Something messed up when they got that time off.

Let’s Close Out

Late in games, you might be tired or worn out, but there is no excuse to be worn out 45 seconds into the game. On the play below, Will Barton is in the middle of the paint, and, rather than sprinting out to the shooter, he jogs over. Mychal Mulder gets a clean look which started his big night. He ended up 5-of-10 from 3-point range on the night, and this is where it all started.

Gary Harris kind of gets caught in no-man’s land on this one, but he wasn’t exactly sprinting around the floor. If he wasn’t able to get to his man because he was helping someone else that had blown an assignment, it’d be a different story. The problem is that he was just standing in between two different players. He waits until the shooter rises up then jumps out at him, but it’s already way too late.

Closing out onto a shooter is all about effort. Both of these plays took place in the same game, and they were both within the first quarter. The team is coming out flat, and that is how you get beat by teams at the bottom of the standings. You let them hang around early in the game, and they just stick around until it’s over.

Let’s Transition to Something Else

Denver has struggled all year in transition against athletic teams which makes sense having two bigger guys up front in Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap, but it’s gotten especially bad as of late. When they’re trying to get back in transition following a turnover or missed shot, they’re moving around looking for someone getting close to the basket rather than trying to stay attached to shooters which leads to open shots.

Has Pascal Siakam been a great player this season? Absolutely. Do all four of the defenders that are in the play need to crash on him in the paint to try and stop a layup? Absolutely not. He pulls in every player that’s gotten back in transition, and they all leave their shooters open which means they only have to pass once or twice to have a wide open shot.

Malone has been ripping Denver for their defensive effort in transition all season long. They continue to show a lack of transition effort, and it’s leading to free points for their opponents. The best teams in the NBA know how to take advantage of mistakes like that, and they have to improve that area of the game to compete against the best.

Stick With Your Guys

The Nuggets don’t have faith in the other defenders on the floor, and that’s what happens here with Monte Morris. He’s matched up with Brandon Knight in tight coverage, but he overhelps with Thon Maker rolling towards the basket despite two different defenders being between Maker and the basket. It gives Knight more than enough room to rise up and knock down the triple.

I didn’t intentionally single Morris out twice in this section. It just worked out that way. I have no idea what he’s working for on this play. He’s not trying to close the driving lane off, and he jogs away from his man. By the time he realizes how far away he’s gone, it’s way too late, and he doesn’t even try to get a hand up into the shooter’s line of sight. These are the type of shots that you just can’t be giving up.

Screens are going to happen. Sometimes you’re going to get beat off the dribble. Getting beat because you don’t have trust in your teammates to do their job or you wander away from your man is not something that can happen. The 3-point shot is the highest valued shot in basketball, and Denver is giving up great looks at them in their losses. That simply has to change.

This Denver team has been struggling badly on the defensive end of the floor, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Some are effort based, and some of it may be based on the scheme. The bottom line is that, if they continue to allow teams to get looks like the ones we saw today, they’re going to get bounced out of the playoffs by a team that gets hot for a series.

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.