Denver started Allen Iverson, Yakhouba Diawara, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, and Marcus Camby and jumped out to a 20-10 lead early in the first quarter. It was to be the first of four double-digit leads the Nuggets would enjoy throughout the contest, but Seattle does deserve credit for being resilient and battling back before conceding completely to the Nuggets in the second half.
Now, before I get too deep into the individual statistics, I have to mention both a couple of things that are really positive for the Nuggets and things that have to be corrected immediately. First off, the Nuggets have got to get better at defending the pick and roll. Too many times they allowed the player setting the screen to flare out to the three-point line for an open look or, in the case where the screener was a post player, an easy roll to the basket for a lay-up. The ideal way to defend the pick and roll is for the screening man’s defender to hedge, thus giving the man being screen time to recover and re-position himself in front of the ball handler and giving his help time to regain position on the screener. Too many times the Nugget defense double teamed the ball handler and left the screening player wide open. On a few occasions it was Chris Wilcox for a dunk, (and he played like a beast might I add), but on others it was Damien Wilkins who hurt the Nuggets by going 4-6 from downtown.
Another area where the Nuggets looked rusty was finishing around the goal. Not a single big man for the Nuggets finished scoring in double figures and it wasn’t because they didn’t have their chances. Nene especially needs to regain his touch around the basket as he missed four bunnies finishing just 1-5 from the floor. Usually those touches would have been violently slammed through the rim, but it appeared that Nene is still not at full-strength or conditioning yet. Marcus Camby also had a few chances on the offensive glass but finished 1-5 from the floor too. In a game against the rebuilding Sonics these two aspects of the game were not fatal, but against a team with more firepower and moxie the Nuggets may not have been so fortunate.
All that being said, the Nuggets had some incredibly bright spots for this being just their first game of the season.
The first thing that jumps out at me was how the Nuggets shared the ball. With 31 assists in total everyone got into the distribution act, but none were better than Allen Iverson. The Answer gave the Nuggets a game-high 14 assists, 25 points, seven steals, and five rebounds in an all-around game fitting of mid-season form. Such a performance also adds some legitimacy to the idea that when Allen Iverson dishes double-figures in dimes that the Nuggets are very tough to beat.
Other areas of lucidity were Marcus Camby’s 15 rebounds and five blocked shots, Linas Kleiza’s 18 points coming by way of five three-pointers, Eduardo Najera’s 14 points and four boards, and Yakhouba’s 12 points on 5-8 shooting. The Nuggets also shot a respectable 40.7% from three-point land with ‘Melo hitting 3-6 from the arch in addition to Eduardo Najera cashing in on 2-3 from the land of plenty.
Who knew, “The Grout”, had been working on his long ball?
And as for my foresight of Kevin Durant’s box score... Was I close enough for everyone? I predicted the rookie would finish with a final box score of 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists. He actually finished 18 points, five rebounds, and just one assist. Who loves ya, Nuggets Nation?
Up next for the Nuggets is a Friday night match-up with the Timberwolves. The game is set for 6 pm MST and will be on Altitude TV.