For starters, the Nuggets still can not defend the pick and roll. It’s a play that seemingly is easy to stop, but if the offensive players run it to a T, it’s nearly infallible. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili (cringe) did just that against the Nuggets. The Flopper and the Fundamental would run close proximity pick and roll about a thousand times last night and basically made this game a two-on-two match. Countless times Timmy would delay the screen as to trick the Nuggets defenders into switching and would then roll to the basket for the easy deuce. Manu, forced with a decision, would either throw bounce pass to Duncan and record an assist, of which he had game-high 14 of, or he would just take it himself if the post defender stood pat on Duncan. So simple, so fundamental, but yet so aggravating to watch and defend if you are the recipient.
Another area that the Nuggets need to address, especially lately, is the unforced turnovers. Recently, the Nuggets seem to be trying to force the fast break when it’s not there and the results range from passes over the top that nearly always are too long or ineffective to passes that get stolen in traffic. Denver needs to realize that if the ball isn’t cared for with a certain sense of responsibility that ultimately you waste too many precious possessions and you fall short at the end of the game. Against the Spurs, a team that likes to make you wince after a mistake, those turnovers turn into points (like, say, 19 of them) and with 16 miscues, many unforced, the Nuggets are left to only blame themselves.
Those two key points are what I believed swung this game in San Antonio’s favor. In almost all other aspects of the game I think the Nuggets outplayed the Spurs, but yet still took the L.
Somebody must have told J.R. Smith it’s a contract year. In the last few games, J.R. has been simply electric. He was part of the problem on the pick and roll, but Nuggets fans have to love the way he is taking the ball to the hole. Strong, confident, and when he’s patient, J.R. can finish with the best in the league. Smith is so big and strong that when he takes his time working his way to the hole and then explodes to finish he is almost surely going to at least draw the foul. J.R. shot an efficient 9-13 from the field on his way to scoring 22 points off the bench with three of his four misses coming from long range.
Even with a fractured finger, Allen Iverson still had a great game. The Answer struggled a bit shooting in the first half, but finished the team’s high-scorer with 28 points, four assists, and five rebounds. And like the warrior he is known for being, AI played in a game-high 43 minutes.
Unfortunately, there is one more negative point to discuss and that’s Carmelo Anthony. I’m not sure if this is the case, but ever since being named an All-Star starter it seems like Carmelo is expecting calls around the basket. In the first half of the season Anthony was finishing a lot better, but his frustrations with the officiating crews as of late have seemingly only made matters worse. My experiences with officials have always led me to believe that the more you gripe at a referee, the less likely they are to make a favorable call for you the next time down the floor. Rather, if you diplomatically go about speaking your mind, the next time a situation occurs you’re more likely to get the benefit of the doubt. But above all, throwing a fit never makes official-player relations improve.
But throwing a fit is exactly what Carmelo did after he was bumped into the backcourt and a violation was called resulting in a quick T and a trashcan getting spiked on the Nuggets bench. Furthermore, the boiling point was seemingly inevitable as Carmelo’s play has recently slumped in his last five games as his points and assists are down from his season averages. In last night’s game, ‘Melo scored only 18 points, but did grab a solid eight rebounds.
Upcoming is a must-win trio of home games starting with the lowly Grizzlies tomorrow night. After these three, there is only six remaining home Nuggets games left on the regular season schedule in comparison to ten roadies. The time is now or never.