Wednesday, November 25, 2009

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers: An NBA Experiment Vol. 2.2

It's almost a month into the 2009-2010 NBA season, and it's apparent that the Nuggets are lacking two things: a big-bodied, true center; and the discipline and focus to step on the throats of clearly inferior opponents early in games.

We'll address the first issue much later on in the season, when it becomes an even more glaring problem. But now it's on to the lack of focus and so-called "killer instinct." Denver has blown out a few teams so far this year on their way to a 10-4 record, but just about all of them have been second-half runs. This could allude to the fact that the coaching staff is making necessary adjustments at halftime, but I'm of the mind to believe that most of the time the players are just deciding to play defense more than every third possession or so.

Take last night's game against New Jersey, for example. Three weeks ago, with the year in its infancy, the Nuggets beat the Nets 122-94 on the road. That 28-point cushion has stood up as the Nuggets' biggest margin of victory of the year ... however, Denver actually trailed by one at halftime; it took a 44-point explosion in the third to make it a cakewalk. And even though they led by dozen at the break last night, the Nets had a 10-0 run at one point in the second. The highlights will likely show the Nets turning it over again and again in a montage befitting an 0-14 team. Yet they barely lost the turnover battle to the Nuggets, 23-22. If you're the only winless team in the league, your miscues define you. If you're a division leader, your sloppy play gets glossed over all too easily.

This may seem like nitpicking, since the Nuggets won by 14 anyway, but here's the thing: Chauncey Billups was 1-8 from the field. He actually airballed a 3 from the right wing at one point, which I don't think I've ever seen him do. He played "only" 27 minutes, but if the Nuggets effectively put this one out of reach early, Billups can take most of, if not all, the 2nd half off. They can get Ty Lawson even more involved in the offense, and J.R. Smith has shown - albeit sporadically - that he can also play the point. Chauncey is 33 years old. Those minutes, especially at altitude, are going to take their toll. The quicker you break a shitty team's will, the quicker you can sit your starters and get them rest they'll need in April. This team's good enough to look that far ahead. And they should start.

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