Sunday, November 23, 2008

Game 14: Bulls @ Nuggets

(Boulder-CO) The Chicago Bulls are in town tonight to take on the Nuggets and I'm anticipating a huge bounce back after Friday's let down in L.A. In particular, I'm expecting a huge game from Carmelo Anthony.
To say 'Melo has struggled as of late would be an understatement. Anthony is coming off of his lowest point total of the year (10) against the Lakers and is averaging under 20 points per game (19.6) for the first time since probably 5th grade. Additionally, Carmelo is averaging only 16.3 points on 33.7 percent shooting in his last six games despite Denver winning four of the aforementioned contests.
I feel what's plaguing 'Melo is the loss of Allen Iverson. Sure, the Nuggets are winning and I wouldn't undo what has been done, but the loss of AI has put a ton of the offensive onus on Anthony because opposing defenses are aware of Denver's lack of a second go-to scorer and are sending more double-teams 'Melo's way.
And the way I see it... there's two ways to deal with it.
The first way to counteract this is for 'Melo to get aggressive when the ball is in his hands and start to beat the double-team before it comes by taking the ball to the hole. Once 'Melo has established his game going to the rim, defenses will be reluctant to send a double as quickly because it will leave Anthony with too many open teammates to dish off to from penetration.
The second way is Denver has find another player that keeps defenses honest around the perimeter. Chauncey does this if he and Anthony are on the strong side and Billups' man decides to release and double, but when Chauncey's on the weak side and either Dahntay Jones or Anthony Carter are on the perimeter it immediately becomes a double-team on Carmelo because neither poses a legitimate threat. The answer to this is to consistently have either J.R. Smith (preferably) or Linas Kleiza in the game. J.R. is shooting the second highest three-point percentage on this team and is practically unguardable around the rim and LK gives the Nuggets a slashing big man for 'Melo to pass to if indeed the defense does choose to double team him.
As for the Bulls, I'm geeked to see how Derrick Rose matches up with Chauncey Billups. The rookie is averaging 19 points, 5.8 assists, and nearly four rebounds over his last five games which includes a dreadful six-point performance against the Trailblazers. He's the same size as Chauncey, probably quicker at this point, and is a capable finisher around the rim. However, Billups is without question the stronger of the two and will have his way with the rookie down in the blocks. It should be a question of whether seasoned savvy or raw youth gets the upper hand.
Another match-up that should be great is Drew Gooden and Nene. Gooden is a strong lowpost defender and Nene is a jungle cat with his back to the basket. I've also been very surprised with how well Nene has been shooting the mid range jumper and if he can make Gooden respect his shooting ability with a few makes it should open up quick dribble penetration for Big Brazil. On the other side of the floor, Gooden is a crafty offensive player and great offensive rebounder so Nene is going to have to put a body on him when the ball goes to the rim and stay on his feet when Drew starts head faking.
I'm expecting no let downs in front of the Mile High fans tonight, so say it with me now...
Go Nuggets!

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