In the first half, the Nuggets did a great job hanging around and after Steve Blake hit back-to-back three-pointers to close out the half they owned a four-point lead, 48-44. Carmelo was hot and led all Nugget scorers with 14 points on 5-11 shooting, but AI continued to search for answers finishing the half with eight points on 2-9 from the field. Denver shot 42.5% from the floor and was also hitting their free-throws finishing the first half 10-12 from the line as a team. At this point in the game I felt if the Nuggets could just sustain the energy, continue to limit their mistakes, and get some breaks they could fathomably win this game.
But about three-quarters of the way through the third it was clearly obvious that the Nuggets were going to lose. Denver completely imploded and only managed to score eleven derisory points on a regrettable 5-19 shooting. The Nuggets fell in the love with the jump shot and as a result of only shooting five attempts from inside the paint found themselves down by four at the end of the third. Not an insurmountable lead by any means, but you could just tell in the body language of the Nuggets that they were not in the game mentally. They all played selfishly in the third and the team chemistry, which was fading fast at this point, continued to dwindle down to nothing in the fourth quarter.
Before I go into how the Spurs completely out-played, out-classed, and out-executed the Nuggets in the fourth, I have to get something off my chest about the play of Allen Iverson. Although he finished tonight’s game with 21 points and eight assists his performance was one of the most self-centered I have ever seen. The Answer showed no faith in his teammates as he repeatedly dribbled the air out of the ball before hoisting up some well-defended shot attempt and as a result finished 6-22 from field after starting just 2-9 in the first half.
Now onto why the Spurs are moving on and the Nuggets are going home and I can point to a three-pronged attack that includes execution, distribution, and limitation. When you talk about execution in tonight’s game you have to start with the performance of Michael Finley. Although he doesn’t get to the rim like he used to with the Dallas Mavericks, Finley still is a deadly offensive weapon and the Nuggets had to learn the hard way as he led the Spurs in scoring with 26 points largely in part to finishing 8-9 from long range.
When you look at the next prong on the trident of the San Antonio Spurs’ attack the Nuggets were badly out-distributed in the assist column, 25-16. The Spurs nearly always make the extra pass, often times turning down a good shot in hopes of finding a better one, and usually the unselfish play results in favorable outcomes. And if you were watching carefully their whole offense is actually based upon that principle. They regularly screen one pass off the ball in an attempt to continue swinging the ball around the perimeter to open up dribble penetration or to even further put the opposition in a state of recovery. Plain and simply stated, they play very heady basketball.
And the final spear that was thrusted into the breadbasket of the Denver Nuggets was the partially self-inflicted wound of turnovers. The only Nugget who did not commit a turnover in tonight’s game was Steve Blake while the rest of the Denver crew managed to lose the handle a combined 16 times resulting in twelve San Antonio points. And while the overall consequences of the 16 miscues was limited, the amount of empty possessions absolutely killed the Nuggets continuity.
It should also be noted that the bench heavy Spurs continued their dominance in bench contribution as their subs out-scored the Nugget reserves, 22-10, as the Spurs skated off with the game five win, 93-78.
From here the Nuggets have a lot of questions to answer this off-season starting with what to do with Reggie Evans, (who rarely ever played in the final 20 games of the season), DerMarr Johnson, (who rarely played at all, period), Yakhouba Diawara, and the most recently benched J.R. Smith. My opinion is the Nuggets have far too many players on the bench who are just not capable of providing any assistance and that if this team is ever to eclipse a first round foe they need to address the dead weight. The bottom line is deep teams go deep in the playoffs, and after watching how the Spurs made quick work of the Nuggets this year, I would find it hard to believe if any of you would disagree.
In the weeks to come I will still be posting regularly and will be working on gaining some outside perspectives from various media types in a search for insight to the Nuggets off-season. And as many of you already know from last summer, the off-season can be a very interesting time in regards to rumors, trades, player updates, and the upcoming Team USA campaign of which Carmelo Anthony should play a major role in. So, be sure to keep reading to stay current with all that swirls around these Denver Nuggets.
This is The Nugg Doctor signing off on the 2006-07 season. Thanks to all of you who have continued to read, comment, and make this the #1 independent source for all your Nuggets needs!