Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Playoff Hokey-Pokey

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(Boulder-CO) Sing it with me now “The Nuggets put their right foot in the playoffs, they take their right foot out… They take the second half off and they bring back all the reasons to doubt.” Seriously, how are you going to play your best first half of the season after catapulting yourself into the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff scenery and then allow a team to score 81 points in a half, swing the score 34 points, and lose?

I’m waiting for the answer and if I’m here all day it doesn’t matter!

The Denver Nuggets of my dreams showed up in Phoenix last night and absolutely destroyed the Suns on their home floor in the first 24 minutes of the game. At half, the Nuggets led by 19 points, 70-51, largely in thanks to collectively shooting 60.4% from the field while holding the Suns to 32%, Carmelo recording a first half double-double of twelve points and ten rebounds, and three other Nuggets also registering in double-digits offensively. Even Nene saw his first meaningful minutes since returning and he too played spectacular. He grabbed four rebounds, scored four points, blocked a shot, and didn’t take any noise from Amare Stoudemire when the two got tangled up resulting in a double-technical foul being called in his six minutes of burn in the second quarter. Things were clicking on all cylinders, offensively and defensively, and I almost needed someone to pinch me to reassure that I wasn‘t dreaming.

Ow, damn it, not that hard! Why did you have to do that? Now what was a dreamy first half quickly turned a second half nightmare.

In recent posts, I have mentioned that this team seemingly doesn’t play up to its potential without substantial pressure being applied and I think after playing so well in the first half the Nuggets felt no pressure to play in the second. The Nuggets played absolutely atrocious defense around the three-point line in the second half surrendering countless open treys to Steve Nash and the interior defense on Amare Stoudemire and the rest of the Phoenix bigs was embarrassing. Amare would finish the game with 41 points and 14 rebounds while Nash added another 36 points off of 8-12 from downtown and eight assists in a second half where the Nuggets allowed 81 points while only mustering 47.

Here’s a list of five main reasons why a beautiful night in the Phoenix desert was ruined:

1. Like I already said, the Nuggets do not play well without intense pressure to win. Even if it’s only a single half of hoops. This was blatantly obvious from the way they just tried to loiter their way to a victory in the second half, thus wasting the best 24 minutes of basketball up to this point in their season.

2. George Karl might as well have went out for dinner after halftime. It took Karl four and a half minutes to call a cursed timeout after the Suns opened up the third quarter with a 15-7 run. He didn’t call another timeout for five more minutes and until the Suns were within six points after Denver started the half up by 19. And even after that timeout was called it didn’t appear to me that the Nuggets made any adjustments defensively.

3. Marcus Camby was non-existent on the glass. Only four rebounds in 31 minutes is not getting it done and it wasn‘t because the rest of the Nuggets were all relentlessly attacking the boards. Carmelo led the team in rebounding with eleven squeezes, but he had ten after the first half alone! The Nuggets were dominated 50-33 overall in rebounding.

4. I’m not sure how to say this other than just to say it, so… Eduardo Najera was manhandled by Amare Stoudemre! Out matched in almost all categories, Najera provided no resistance against STAT on defense and was void offensively. 23 minutes of playing time, only five points, and two rebounds in an effort that includes fouling out is a clear indication of A) how good Stoudemire is, and, B) how easy it is for a bigger, more athletic player to dominate Eduardo Najera.

5. The final reason why the Nuggets let this one slip away is they weren’t able to flip the intensity switch back on in the fourth quarter. We’ve all seen it time and time again with these Nuggets. They play great for a stretch, tune out for a quarter or so, and then tighten back up to win the game. Well, against a team of the caliber of the Suns that just doesn’t work. Phoenix came out with fire in the third quarter, but even after three quarters of play the game was still there for the Nuggets to win as they were up by six. But, the switch just doesn’t get thrown that easy against a team like the Suns and consequentially the Nuggets were blindsided by a 46-25 fourth quarter.

And the worst part about an unraveling like last night’s is the timing. Dallas won its game last night and Golden State was idle and now the Nuggets are right back on the outside looking into the Western Conference playoff picture having to play the Suns again tonight. Granted, they return to Pepsi Center for tonight’s match-up where they have been much sturdier, but it will be a surprise to me if the Nuggets’ memory is that short. They have to be wondering how they fell apart so dramatically last night, but the only way to look at a game like this is to pretend you lost on a buzzer beater. The reason being is at this point in the season a loss is a loss. It doesn’t matter if it was in the unfortunate manner that it was because the only thing that does matter is the next opportunity to get a W. And tonight, that opportunity is also a chance to enact some revenge and regain some professionalism because there is no true applicable excuse for blowing a 19-point halftime lead, with as much is at stake at this point of the year, to lose by 15.
Get 'em tonight, Denver.
Go Nuggets!


ThaAnswer said...

Dear God, I haven't had a basketball game send me into depression in almost 5 years; but I've been sulking since last night. The highest of high, followed by the lowest of low.

I'm sure I wasn't alone at halftime, as I worried about how quickly we could blow that lead. There are many people we could blame, but the glaring choice is George Karl. As is the season-long story, terrible rotation and substitutions, awful choice in timeouts. We're going to have to depend on AI to call these damn timeouts when they're needed, from the floor. GK sure isn't going to do it.

Last night was the first time I couldn't wait for the bench to come in. Our starters just don't bring it, as a group. Bring in JR and LK and things pick up; defense, outside shooting. The rotation last night was just God-awful, I can't express the frustration.

Seeing how depleted I am as a fan, I cannot imagine how the Nuggets get geared up for tonight's game. I hope they have revenge on their mind.

I sure hope League Pass shows the game on Altitude tonight. The Suns announcers were probably the worst I've heard all year.

Note: Golden State didn't win last night, they were idle.

Nugg Doctor said...

I feel ya, that game really hurt. My mistake on GS. Maybe it just feels like they won!

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

Geerten said...

I have noticed that Camby has had bad rebounding games all year against OTHER good rebounders. He can simply DOMINATE the glass, but when he is going against, say, a Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, Amare, Tim Duncan or Yao, he suddenly ain't that spectacular...