Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Nuggets Perish in the Alamo City

(Boulder-CO) No matter how much it kills me, and I’m assuming the rest of you who read this column too, history has a funny way of repeating itself. The Spurs calmly defended their home court tonight and made what seemed like easy work of the Nuggets, 93-78. The loss officially ends the Nuggets 2006-07 campaign in the exact same manner as last season’s postseason with the Nuggets only winning one game in their first round series.

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!

18 comments:

nuggsfan15 said...

Do you think A.I. was being selish, or do you think he kinda tried, and tried a little too hard in my humble opinion, to carry the team?

There is a fine line between the two, and given his years in Philly, Im inclined to lean towards the latter. But thats just again, my opinion.

Curious to hear your thoughts. Also curious to hear your thoughts on the fate and future of George Karl

ptshowdown said...

Rough end to a up and down season. Thanks for all the insight Nugg Dr. Also any predictions for the off season?

btalk said...

Another good game summary Nugg Doc. Your site has become a daily ritual for me. Your readers are, for the most part, knowledgeable fans of the game. This makes reading the comments you generate very entertaining.

It's more than obvious what the Nuggs need to do in the off season. Time will tell if they are able to bring in the supporting pieces they need. To me the first item to address isn't to find a shooter, as opposed to a scorer, it is to do something with KMart. I'm not sure what exactly the best course is. KMart's health mixed with his less than professional attitude severely limit his trade potential. On the other hand, barring another injury to Nene, KMart isn't the missing ingredient. Other than spending big bucks on a free agent, the Nuggs are in a precarious position because you have to give something to get something in a trade and KMart isn't "something". That leaves the draft...which means an untested rookie again come playoff time. What's your thoughts Doc??

Nugg Doctor said...

nuggsfan15,

I have to respectfully disagree with your thoughts about AI trying to carry the Nuggets because unlike the 76ers, who never had anyone of any real significance around him, the Nuggets have some help but he didn't even try to use it down the stretch.

As far as the future of George Karl... You will have to wait to get my full analysis on that in a few days. I promise a full evaluation of GK is in the works.

ptshowown,

It is my pleasure and passion to run this column. All the recognition I need is for the statcounter to keep on rolling! My prediction for the off-season is some major shake-ups at the four position, (mainly KMart, Reggie Evans, and Eduardo Najera), a potential change at Head Coach, and maybe some other surprises that nobody, and I do mean nobody, can foresee. Be sure to stop by regulary so you can keep up with all the pending changes.

btalk,

My thoughts are that this off-season's draft is going to be a non-event for the Nuggets because of the AI trade and what Denver gave up to land him. However, the Nuggets could potentially trade some of the playes that I mentioned above for some other team's first round picks in attempt to draft some help in what should be a very deep draft.

Stay tuned, folks, the off-season is a switch of gears, but nevertheless there is always still something going on the land of Nuggets baksetball!

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

Jason said...

btalk, unfortunately Denver does have a draft pick this year, which is one of the reason's they signed Von Wafer late in the season, to sort of serve as their draft pick.

But after this series, once again it proved Denver is not among the elite, even with Allen Iverson. And as much as I love AI's heart and passion, I do think that he is selfish some times. Maybe it will take time for him to get used to working around more talented players, but he seems to force too much too often, especially when you have a guy of Melo's talent (not to mention Nene) on the court.

As far as offseason moves, Kmart is going nowhere unfortunately. No one is going to trade for him. However, if he can come back healthy, I think he can still help this team. Personally, that is why I see Camby's days done here in Denver. I don't think the FO wants to trade Camby, but his trade value is probably at an all time high, and he is getting older. I wouldn't be surprised to see Denver package Camby and JR in a trade for a more reliable outside shooter. Although more likely we just trade Camby alone. I still think Denver will work with JR to help him out.

But in my opinion, these are the players to keep your eye one as far as something happening:

Camby (as already mentioned)
Reggie Evans
JR Smith
Eddie Najera (doubt he goes though)
DerMarr Johnson
Anthony Carter

I really feel that unfortunately, Denver has to at the VERY least, get rid of Reggie Evans. If Kmart is healthy again next year, we have no use for Reggie. Heck, Karl wasn't playing him now anyways!! His salary is hefty enough were we might be able to pick up a good shooter.

I think the perfect solution is to find a combo guard that can play point, shoot well, and defend as least marginally! That way you have someone with size to start next to AI and defend the bigger guards. Blake and AI should not be your starting backcourt next year.

Hopefully we will see some positive things happen and go into next year with renewed hope!

nuggsfan15 said...

The biggest issue I have with everyone wanting to trade Marcus Camby is they all want to trade him for a backcourt guy. YOU CANT TRADE A BIG MAN WITOUT GETTING ANOTHER ONE IN RETURN!!!!!

Just my opinion. Look what the Nuggets had in Dikembe Mutumbo. And look how horridly it played out for Denver. Damn you Bickerstaff!! Damn you!

While I think the trade for A.I. was a no-brainer, this team would be 100% better had we been able to accomplish the trade without getting rid of Andre.

You would have never seen the Blake trade, and we would probably still have Boykins to come off the bench.

As a Nuggets fan, this offseason already frustrates me. We obviously need some serious bench help, and at the same time, get help that deepens our team not only in the backcourt, but the frontcourt as well.

nuggsfan15 said...

Doc,

Its true in Philly A.I. had no supporting cast. While here in Denver he does. Melo and Nene anyone?

But he played in the situation he did for 10 YEARS. I dont think the habits and such that came from that can be dropped off in the course of about half a season and a tough playoff series with a new team. He even said he was upset that he didnt have a better impact on this team in the Spurs series.

Nugg Doctor said...

nuggsfan15,

It is refreshing to see AI take the heat and admit to his shortcomings. I also think that this team, as long as we don't do anything completely Bickerstaff in the off-season, should be a solid contender next year.

This season was a roller coaster ride that derailed at the end. Hopefully with a solid training camp and some cohesiveness from the word go next season all of us can enjoy a much more fruitful season in 2007-08.

Did I just mention training camp?!?!!

Go Nuggets!

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

ThaAnswer said...

OK...call AI selfish all you want. But who else would you have rather had jacking up shots last night. Camby? Blake? AI is a scorer, and when you have a team without outside shooters, against a great defense like the Spurs, no one is going to get great shots. And sorry but if thats the case, give AI the ball.

Now last night...Blake couldn't seem to stay in front of Eva's boyfriend. Camby seems to think he has a jumper, still. Najera taking two three pointers? Had you told me that would happen before the game I could have guaranteed a loss then and there.

This offseason is going to be very important. I like Blake, I really do. But there is a reason he came off the bench in Portand and Milwaukee.
Camby is great on the defensive end but questionable offensively. I think we need someone with a low post presence to open up the offense, along with a real shooter. If Camby is who must be sacraficed, so be it.
Nugg DR, do you think we could run Nene at the center? I know he's not as tall as we might like but is a great rebounder and can post up. Kenyon could play the four.
Isn't Jason Kapono a free agent? Imagine him at the 3. Talk about opening up the offense.

In the end we were beaten by a better team, and you can't really say we should have won. We played like a team that should lose 4 games to 1. It's going to be hard to watch the rest of the playoffs, not to mention a long ass summer. (and I dont know if I can even bring myself to wear my new AI jersey now).

We'll just have to pick up the pieces and do what we can for next year. go nuggets.

Nugg Doctor said...

thaaswer,

I absolutely think that since we have a tremendous scoring tandem in AI and Carmelo plus with the emergence of Nene as a beast this season that Camby's time in Denver could be coming to an end.

Especially if we can land a rock-solid, Andre Miller solid, point guard who doesn't need to score to keep his ego intact.

I would also like to see the likes of Eduardo Najera, DerMarr Johnson, Jamal Sampson, Yakhouba Diawara, and Reggie Evans somehow, some way be packaged up for some players that can contribute on a more consistent and meaningful basis. Don't get me wrong, Eduardo is one of the biggest fan favorites, but his solid games are few and far between.

As far as the three is concerned... I think that is where Carmelo will be starting for the Nuggets for quite some time, but a threat from outside, who can also hold his own on D, would be a very welcome addition off the bench in Denver.

So with the potential departure of Camby for an real starting point guard you are left with this starting five:

PG - To be determined
SG - AI
SF - Carmelo Anthony
PF - Kenyon Martin (Pray to god!)
C - Nene

That then brings these names off the bench:

PG - Steve Blake
SG - J.R. Smith
SF - Somebody for either DerMarr or Yakhouba
PF - Somebody for either Najera or Reggie
C - Somebody, anybody, for Sampson!

How do you like those apples?

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor
C

Nugg Doctor said...

I would like to make one ammendment to that five I previously listed off the bench as I have totally forgotten about Linas Kleiza. Who by no means should be dealt if it can be avoided.

The bench situation should look like this:

PG - Blake
SG - J.R.
SF - Linas
PF - a contributor for DJ, Najera, or Diawara
C - a contributor for Evans and or Sampson

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

Nugg Doctor said...

For some reason our old friend Gucci is having trouble logging in so they just emailed me their thoughts on the season and the situation.

Here is what Gucci had to say, "Doc, first I want to thank you for all the writings, previews, and postviews. Without those I don't think the games would have been as challenging to see if the predictions proved correct. I love the passion you send out within your writings which makes me all the more interested. Second I can hardly wait for the historical glimps's, those are truly great! Third, and last, last nights game, what a pathetic ending to what could have been. I believe that the players could have handled the Spurs however they didn't and I attribute that to coaching! AI, "the answer" has been selfish since day 1 and how we could have allowed it is beyond me. The 4th period was dismal at best! It is good it is done so there isn't any more embarrassment for a team that could clearly be on top but aren't for many, many reasons, coaching is key! Thanks again Doc, looking for a great off season and a new one on the horizon. One suggestion, I have looked to the site for game times, found your preview's but no times, would you post them next season? Much appreciated! Best to you during the off season and I'll be reading you faithfully!"

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

ThaAnswer said...

I was just doing some brainstorming here as far as good acquisitions for the Nugs...

Maybe impossible, but it sure sounds good. Some kind of sign and trade deal to get Billups. I'm sure detroit would love to have the DPOY to fill the void Wallace left.
Another potential starting 1 for us..Mo Williams. A free agent this year, helluva player.

A couple of other free agents that could fill in at the 2/3 spot off the bench. (they're almost interchangable to me, considernig the offense we want to run)
Kapono
Matt Barnes
Deshawn Stevenson

Granted these guys are more starters than bench players but they're all available. And AI can run the point fine and dandy if need be.

just quick thoughts while im at work

JM said...

A few things the Nuggets need to do to get out of the first round:

1. Don't play a top 4 seed in the first round. Play consistent throughout the year, win the division, and get a top 4 seed. Then you won't be playing an 800 lb. gorilla in the first round. This team has the personnel to do just that. I would rather play the Lakers or Golden State (unless I'm Dallas) than the Spurs, Suns or Mavericks in round one.

2. Whatever you do, stay committed to a game plan throughout the year. Sell out to the game plan, and stick with it when you get into the playoffs. Denver is a talented team, and instead of enforcing their will on San Antonio, they allow San Antonio do just that to them. If you are a fast break team, be one in the playoffs. Their scheme completely changed, and it wasn't because San Antonio did anything, it's because of Denver stopped doing what worked. They have done it every year.

Perhaps, it's because George Karl is overcoaching and wants to surprise the opposition, but did San Antonio do that to Denver? No. They did exactly what they do every year, because it works.

3. Get some veteran scorers off the bench. Someone for LK and JR to learn from. They expected too much from these two, and San Antonio showed how beneficial it is to have someone like Horry or Berry or Ginobli coming off the bench when their other stars are resting.

Do these things, and the Nuggets will go deep in the playoffs next year.

ThaAnswer said...

Since it's basically offseason for us now, here is my favorite YouTube video of all time. The true Iverson fans will appreciate it more than others.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9MiqUHx4_g

Nugg Doctor said...

Thanks for sharing that link, thaanswer.

James said...

Hey Doc,

Was wondering if you saw some of the Spurs-Suns game 1 and if you noticed anything different the Suns did against the Spurs that allowed them to run up 106 points in a loss. Did they impose their fast break will on them? Were they simply making shots? Or did the Spurs not go back on their transition defense as much? Right now, I'd like to think of the Suns as a more efficient version of the Nuggs, and maybe there were some things in this game that they did better than in our games.

Just wondering. You have great site! I read it every morning with my Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News!

Nugg Doctor said...

James,

First of all I would like to thank you for reading The Nugg Doctor. It's readers like you who make all of this possible.

To address your question, I think that the main difference in the Suns versus the Nuggets is Steve Nash. I truly feel that Nash is going to conclude his career as one of the all-time great point guards in the history of the NBA and his presence is invaluable.

He is the motor that makes the Suns run and his passing is second to none.

The Nuggets do not have anyone that can even come close to reaching 20 assists on any given night and he is why the Suns are such a strong team.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor