Danny Granger of the Pacers is having a career year. The fourth-year pro out of the University of New Mexico is averaging a career-high 25.1 ppg (5th in the NBA) while leading the league’s sixth highest scoring offense. The explosive Granger has scored 30+ points in nine games this season, including two games of 40+.
But the 12-21 Pacers’ problem this season has been on the defensive end. Indiana gives up the NBA’s fourth highest average points allowed (104.9 ppg), including allowing 108.5 ppg over their last six games of which they won the last two. This unusually high points allowed mark for an Eastern Conference team is due mainly to the pace the Pacers like to play at. When looking at their roster it’s painfully clear that there's not a defensive minded player on this team. 7’2” Rookie Roy Hibbert was billed as a defensive player coming out of Georgetown, but his 2.8 rebounding and less than one block per game averages suggest otherwise. In fact, rebounding leader Troy Murphy is shooting the team’s highest three-point field goal percentage while not a single Pacer is even close to averaging two steals per game.
For the Nuggets, this match-up could either be a dream come true or a trap waiting to spring. We’ve seen Denver go toe-to-toe with teams that love to run the floor like the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks with favorable outcomes, but we’ve also seen the Nuggets lose to high-scoring clubs like Phoenix too. Usually when the Nuggets lose to teams that like to score it’s because Denver completely abandons playing any kind of defense and the selfish offense is soon to follow. In the most recent loss to Phoenix, the Nuggets handed out a season-low 15 assists in what was a complete and utter offensive disaster despite Denver scoring 101 points.
But what makes-up the anatomy of a Nuggets win?
Is it offense or is it defense? And does it even matter who their opponent is?
Well, surely playing Sacramento and New York more often than the Lakers and Cavs would be in the Nuggets favor, but I’d be willing to bet you didn’t know a few things that are dramatically telling as to what makes this team win. For starters, when the Nuggets win they average over 107 points per game. They do so by shooting an average of 48% from the field with a third of their made buckets coming by way of an assist. In losses, Denver’s scoring drops a full twelve points per game and they lose in the overall assist column. If this isn’t a clear example of how selfish basketball has a negative effect on a good basketball team I don’t know what is.
Furthermore, in Denver’s seven victories against the six teams with 20+ wins the Nuggets have defeated so far this season (Boston, Portland, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, and Dallas twice). The Nuggets have handed out 20 or more assists in all but one of those wins over the Mavericks while the 28 assist plateau has been reached twice. This means, and I’m happy to finally says this, the Nuggets are no longer a team that can get by with individual efforts.
This is a direct result of losing one of the greatest one-on-one players of all-time in Allen Iverson in return for one of the headiest team players in the modern era in Chauncey Billups. The Nuggets, with Billups at the helm, are a much more well-rounded team and it’s with this collectivity that the key to Denver’s success is held. Carmelo is not having the kind of year he did last year when he averaged 25.7 ppg while he and AI combined for more than 50 points nightly. More people are involved this year, as evident by Nene and J.R. Smith averaging career-high marks in points, and the Nuggets are a better team for at it as their record would indicate.
So, against the Pacers I would like to see the Nuggets play for the lettering on the front of their jerseys instead of the ones on the back because this team can be a lot of fun to watch on both ends of the floor when the Denver offense is spread around and everyone gets involved.