Thursday, March 29, 2007

Does Denver Need a Clutch Shooter or a Coach?

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets have been in a couple of very close games as of late and something that has bothered me has been the plays drawn up in the concluding seconds. Except for the Chicago loss when Allen Iverson put the Nuggets up by one with a driving lay-up before Tyrus Thomas played spoiler, the Nuggets have not been using their star players for clutch situations. The most recent examples coming in two last-second situations last night against the Sonics.

With the second to last possession of the game and the score, 97-99, the Nuggets burned the majority of the twenty seconds remaining and settled for Linas Kleiza shooting a three without calling a timeout to set up an offensive scheme. Unfortunately, Linas missed, but the situation still left me with an uneasy feeling. Denver had timeouts, but didn’t call one with the game on the line. Were they worried about getting the ball in? My apologies, maybe that was a low blow.

The Sonics rebounded the ball and Camby fouled and AI quickly fouled again to put Rashard Lewis on the line for two. Lewis hit the front end, but missed the second and the Nuggets called a timeout with just less than two seconds remaining in the game. Denver was now down by three, 100-97, with the ball being placed just past half court. I was thinking it was time for the Answer or Carmelo to shine as they have so many times before in their respective careers, but to my surprise, the play went to J.R. Smith and he missed the potential game-tying trey.

So many times we have been in this situation and the play always seems to go to someone other than our stars. Why?

Maybe George Karl has bought into the idea that if the stars are expected to get the ball then by going to the role players it will be easier to get the job done, but I have not. Your stars are your stars for a reason. They have made those shots in the past and relish being in those kind of situations. Karl had unlimited options to talk it over with 20 seconds remaining, but chose not to draw something up only in need of a deuce. As a result the Nuggets didn’t run anything special and had to settle for a Linas Kleiza three after Carmelo was shut down and forced to kick. Sure Linas isn’t a bad option from three, but I would have rather seen a play develop a lot earlier that would have hopefully involved our best ball handler in AI.

Evidently George Karl and I don’t see the game through the same lens, so that leaves me to propose to you the title of this post. It’s not that I don’t like George Karl, but as of late it has seemed that he was been out-coached while dealing with a more talented roster of players than the opposition, (not to mention in comparison to last year’s Nuggets), and now Denver is going to have to go on a real tear to even tie or improve on last year’s record. So what gives Nuggets fans?


nuggetshoops said...


As a fellow fansite owner, I've been very frustrated this season, just as you are.

I agree overall that Karl should be questioned for a lot of his actions this season. He hasn't been nearly as sharp this season as he has in the past, and his team is following that lead. For me, I wrestle with giving him slack for the human element, for the distrations in his life right now, but then I'm frustrated when my favorite team is not living up to expectations or talent this year.

I'm not sure Karl deserves flak for the final two offensive possessions though. I'm pretty sure he did call a timeout before Melo drove to the hoop, got cut off and then passed off to a wide-open Kleiza, who promptly missed the shot. I think Melo actually made a decent choice there, as he passed off to our best three point shooter on the team, percentage-wise, when his path to the basket was cut off. On the final shot JR got off a decent, but long look which harmlessly hit the back of the rim. He's our second best three point shooter, at least percentage-wise. Both are young guys, and neither were able to step up when it really mattered... something that I agree that both Melo and AI are better at when the pressure's on. But, AI was having a horrendous shooting night, and Melo had a decent night inside, but hadn't hit any outside shots either.

The one thing I would have liked to see Karl do in the 4th was get more creative guarding Rashard Lewis. He absolutely killed us, and no one seemed to able to do anything about it. Why not put a guy like Diawara in there who's a better defensive player than anyone else he had in there, and make it their sole responsiblity to shut down Lewis and make someone else beat us?

Nugg Doctor said...

Hey alan,

Unless memory is failing me... Wasn't that Allen Iverson who kicked the ball out to LK? ESPN and also do not mention there being a timeout called after Earl Watson missed a driving lay-up of which was Nene cleared the rebound. I didn't DVR the game so I can't go back to make sure.

As for Diawara getting some playing time, I guess I feel that it couldn't have hurt us to try that, but I think the larger Lewis would have dominated him down low. He might have done a better overall job, but I guess we'll never know because George didn't even give it try.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

nuggetshoops said...

It was definitely Carmelo that kicked the ball out to LK, of that much I am sure. I thought there was a timeout before, but I am not as sure about that one, and I didn't DVR it either.

I agree... we'll never know, but something different definitely needed to be done. Lewis made something positive for the Sonics happen over, and over and over in crunch time.

Keep up the most excellent work here. I wish I could find more time to write, but I do try and always catch what you have to say!

Nugg Doctor said...

Ok, not to start an arguement, but I consulted some folks who all say that it was AI who dished it to LK. I still can not say for sure because I can not find the replay, but the real issue at hand is that the Nuggets wasted a lot of time setting up that miserable offensive possesion and it cost them. There was no timeout and the necessary communication which should have been handled in a timeout dwindled the clock down to nothing.

I didn't sit well with me then, and it doesn't sit well with me now regardless of who made the pass or who took the shot at that juncture of the game.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

nuggetshoops said...

Okay, now I'm just being stubborn (sorry!) but I found the proof - it is Melo who starts on the baseline, drives toward the basket, then passes off to LK out at the three-point arc. (AI later does inbound to JR). I do tend to question my short term memory alot these days, since I rarely sleep, so I had to check to be sure. :)

More importantly, I agree with you, it was not the kind of play we needed at that point in the game.

Here's a direct link to the video from

Nugg Doctor said...

Righ you are!

ThaAnswer said...

I have to say I have not been happy with George Karl lately. I show more emotion in my living room during one quarter, than he does in the entire game. I live in Ohio! Anyway, like you said the plays to finish games have been suspect. Why jack up a three when you're down two with plenty of time? You have two of the greatest stars in the game, they come up clutch. That's why they're superstars. I love JR and Linus but in most situations they shouldn't be taking the last shot. (if they're wide open, I'll let that slide) And why haven't I been seeing more pick and roll with AI/Melo? AI hasn't been getting his shots/points lately, and we've been struggling lately. Coincidence?

Unknown said...

Nugg Doctor, I know you know this already, but it DEFINITELY was Melo who passed it to LK. And it was the proper thing for him to do in that situation. I am not sure what Karl could have done about that.

You definitely could question whether or not AI or Melo should have taken the last shot instead of JR, but...AI and Melo are not great three point threats and we needed a three pointer.

But I think the biggest coaching mistake he made last night was not playing Diawara or even DJ, both of whom would have done better verses Lewis than Melo or Nene or Camby did. Karl is getting outcoached though, and he needs to step it up.

Side note, I really wish we had Kmart the other night, as he would have single handedly stopped Lewis. He has the quickness and size!