Thursday, November 1, 2007

Opening Night Done Right

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets have officially started the 2007-08 season off on the right foot. In their season opener at home, Denver trounced the Sonics, 120-103, behind Carmelo Anthony’s game-high 32 points, five rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block.

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.

Go Nuggets!


btalk said...

I agree. The Nuggs looked ready for a big year. Avoiding injuries, which will be huge, they appeared to have a team concept. Nene will have ample time to get in shape if KMart stays healthy. On the hand, he may have time to sit at the end of the bench ordering nachos from the vendor if KMart continues like he did last night! Nene...once was forgiveable, twice and you're borderline idiot!

Commish CH said...

Depth. Man, I was impressed with the depth. And that's with Atkins sporting a fresh green cast and JR serving his time.

Tyler said...

Come on. You think that the Nuggets aren't drilled in practice how to defend the pick and roll? Say what you want about Karl and Moe but they at least know the technique; implementing it is another issue. Against teams like the Spurs, Jazz, Mavs, and Suns, this is what kills us the most.

Next point, how ridiculous is the notion that players would come into the season out of shape? Nene is obviously trying to gain his legs as the season progresses which will make him more injury and mistake prone for the time being.

K-Mart looked strong in his limited minutes role. It will interesting to watch him progress but it was definitely great to see and feel the energy in the building when he was on the floor. Forgot what we missed when he was out. The Pepsi Center will be rockin' with AI K-Mart and Melo on the floor!

My final point, Carmelo is the sharpest he has ever been. You can tell, after watching the FIBA tourney along with last nights game, that he has extended his range a good 4 feet. This will further improve the offense as the jumpers previously taken from inside the arc can now be taken out side of the arc. However, for Carmelo to elevate his game to a level necessary to truly lead this team to the promised land, rebounding, court vision, taking care of the ball, and playing D must all improve.

All that being said, this year seems poised to be a lot of fun for us Nuggets fans. Good offensive sets, high FT %, no easy buckets, and no blown leads and pray for no injuries! Go Nuggets.

Nugg Doctor said...


I pray to God that they ARE drilled in practice on the art of defending the pick and roll, but where I'm a little confused is why they don't defend it more effectively.

And you are exactly right when you say, "Against teams like the Spurs, Jazz, Mavs, and Suns, this is what kills us the most" because those teams you mentioned are going to be four out of the eight playoff bound teams in the Western Conference.

Thus, making sure the Nuggets get defending the pick and roll handled is of upmost importance.

Great to have you aboard!

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

ThaAnswer said...

I wanted to get in on this earlier but better late than never.

The Nuggets looked great last night, and at other times good. First and foremost, Nene can't dunk the damn basketball! Not only can he not get up and dunk, he apparantly can't make 2 foot layups either. That was 4-6 points lost. Can the man get off his lazy but in the offseason and stay in shape? Why do we have to go through this exercise program every November?

Anyway, Iverson and Melo clicked pretty well with AI droppin dimes like weight. Someone told me today Iverson looked like he'd lost a step but I didn't see it.

Chucky will be back eventually as well as Anthony Carter. And if Kenyon Martin can stay healthy and improve on what I saw last night, it's gonna be tough for our opponents down in the paint.

Let's keep it going Nuggets Nation. I'll be interested to see how we compare to the best teams in the West, and lucky for us we don't see any of them until Dallas on Dec 6. I think we can put up a pretty impressive record here in the first month of the season.

nuggsfan15 said...

If K-Mart can stay healthy, he has already shown he will have a large impact on the defensive end. Which we need.

Sean T said...

Yo Doc,
You have to admit that my Noklahoma Sonics didnt look as bad as you had predicted in the pre season rundown. I think that the Sonics have the ability to turn some heads this year... unfortunatly it will be as thier bus drives by on the way to OK city. Super weak, I hope the NBA absolutly flounders in OK. What a horrible business decision. Sorry to get off topic, but we all know the Nugs are looking pretty sweet so far. I just gotta get this off my chest.