The first half was absolutely atrocious. If you were a Nuggets fan wearing a Nuggets’ jersey while taking in the game at the Palace in Auburn Hills you probably left with your garb inside out. Denver seemingly came to play in the first quarter as they held a 12-6 advantage right out of the gate, but the quarter ended with the Nuggets on the wrong side of a, 34-25, beating at the first period‘s conclusion. And only adjectives like stagnant, lazy, lackadaisical, uninspired, and gutless do a good job summing up the second. The Pistons mopped the Nuggets up and down the floor in all phases of the game for twelve straight minutes leaving me, for the first time in a long time, speechless during halftime.
I just couldn’t believe the effort the Nuggets put forth. Do they realize that their playoff hopes are on the line? Seriously, the first half numbers were enough to make me puke!
Carmelo and AI combined for eight points. Yup, eight. Detroit shot 58% from the field as a result of wide open lanes that turned into uncontested lay-ups, wide open three’s, and more assists (23) than the Nuggets had made baskets (20). Denver, pitifully, only grabbed twelve rebounds in a putrid spectacle of a rebounding effort to be down by 22, 73-51, at intermission.
The first thing I said when I broke my silence was that I was turning the game off if the Nuggets didn’t come out in the first five minutes with some fire. And I don’t know what was said in the locker room, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to scrap their pre-game speech for the one given at intermission.
The Nuggets came out in the third with fire in their eyes. Denver showed renewed signs of commitment to the defensive end, took the ball to the hole for some foul shots, and managed to take back half of the Pistons’ 22-point lead in the third quarter. Carmelo and AI snapped out of their four-point funky first halves. AI scored nine and ‘Melo scored another 16, but Denver collectively was unable to get involved and flatlined in the fourth to lose by 16, 136-120.
But, after that kind of first half you just don’t give yourself a legitimate chance to comeback. Even if you play an unbelievable quarter of basketball.
Denver allowed the Pistons the most made field goals, most points, and one of their easiest victories of the season and I think I have two solid insights to how they did it (or if you prefer, how the Nuggets did it for them). First off, with the momentum swinging on two different occasions George Karl made, in my judgment, bad personnel changes. On both occasions the substitution was Eduardo Najera for Kenyon Martin and on both occasions such a move left the Nuggets soft on the glass and vulnerable in the middle. The first occurrence was with the Nuggets barely hanging in the game in the first half. I’ve already illustrated how bad the Nuggets were out-rebounded and the loss of Kenyon’s presence in the middle was a death sentence. The Pistons controlled everything physically and by halftime the damage was already too severe. With the Nuggets mounting a big comeback in the third and closing the gap to ten points, Karl once again made that substitution and the Nuggets saw their momentum slip away. The Pistons extended their lead back into the high-teens and kept the Nuggets at bay.
The second, and more fundamentally sound, reason why the Nuggets were embarrassed by the Pistons tonight was because their defense was embarrassing. Flat-out… The Nuggets just didn’t get it done on the defensive end. They tried to match Detroit basket for basket and when the ball didn’t fall they just got left in the dust. Simple as that.
A short memory is key as the Nuggets have to lace it up tomorrow night against a Sixers team that has a lot to play for. And no, I’m not talking about beating the Answer in his return to Philly. The Sixers are in the midst of fighting for playoff position and are not going to go easily into the night.
The possibility for the Nuggets to go 4-1 on this excursion is still there, but their going to have to muster up a better effort than they showed tonight.