This game was one of those "tweener" efforts. You wouldn't call it a good game, but it wasn't that bad either. Moments of brilliance and incompetence were strewn willy-nilly throughout.
Nuggets 107, Blazers 99
--I was actually impressed in the very early going with our team defense and rebounding. We came out with a lot of energy against an energy-type team. There was good help and a lot of active feet out there.
--About midway through the first things started to change. I think the genus of it was the refs not blowing as many whistles as the players thought were warranted. Zach in particular seemed to let the lack of calls get to him. He started out with as much energy as anybody but by six minutes in he was half speed out there. He ended up getting a technical and then things really went to pot. The team kind of followed suit. That's when the Nuggets really busted out on us. I'm not saying the refs were bad...they actually let a lot of things go on both ends all night. I'm saying I think we let the refs get to us.
--Turnovers killed us big time tonight. We're lucky Denver committed a lot back our way otherwise we would have lost by 20. It was a sloppy game.
--It was also a very physical game. Part of the Nuggets' game plan was to bump, outmuscle, and perhaps intimidate or even hurt us. I think we were taken aback at first but we got our legs back under us and didn't back down. That was great to see. This is maybe the best response we've seen to an attempted mugging all season. Learning how to play like men (and sometimes like gritty, somewhat nasty men) would be a big step forward for us.
--By the second half our transition defense had really disintegrated. Several times we only got one or two men back. We'd force them to miss the initial layup but they'd clean up easily on the rebound putback.
--We also let them get way too many offensive rebounds.
--The ball moved very well most of the night. Early on Zach reverted back to "shoot everything" mode and he was missing everything but I think somebody got in his ear (or maybe it was his conscience) and he started to move the ball again like he has the last few games. After that the offense really picked up. There was a TON of interior passing tonight...maybe too much at times. Guys were passing up "gimmie" attempts to get the extra pass in. The third quarter in particular was an offensive gem.
--Lamarcus had 24 points, 17 rebounds, and 4 blocks but the stats don't even begin to tell the story. This was his best game ever! If you kept the recording do yourself a favor and watch the first ten minutes of the first quarter over again. But instead of paying attention to the whole game just isolate on Lamarcus. His energy, his defensive intensity, his pick-setting and offensive action away from the ball...this was BEAUTIFUL! You noticed him almost the whole time he was out on the court. Just watch it and you'll see what the game should be played like. I can't say enough about what a great game this was for him.
--It was an entirely forgettable game for Zach. Yes he ended up getting his points but he shot 37% from the field and had as many turnovers as defensive rebounds. He also pulled about the biggest no-no a big man can pull TWICE. At the end of the first half Iverson went to the foul line with just a couple seconds left. He made the first but missed the second. Zach didn't box out well on Nene on the free throw miss and Nene had time for a nice shot which went in. Then in the fourth quarter we had a chance to cut it from six to four. Zach missed an easy layup (not the first he had missed either) and then after a foul was committed the same thing happened again! Instead of being within four we were now down by nine and that was just about the ball game. There is no reason and no excuse ever for letting your guy get an offensive rebound on a free throw. It's just not paying attention. Those four points alone would have made a huge difference in this game. Had everything else been perfect for Zach I would not mention this except for a short footnote but I'm explaining it in detail because it was emblematic of the kind of night he had.
--Both Brandon Roy and Jarrett Jack had pretty strong offensive nights. Both shot well, each had six rebounds (the small guy rebounding overall was excellent tonight), Jack had nine assists and Roy six, and Jack ended up with 13 points while Roy scored 16. What's more they actually did a fairly credible job on Iverson. He did score 31 but he was only 8-20 from the floor. He made 14 of 16 at the foul line, which we knew would happen before the ball even tipped. The only thing you'd grump about is Jack's four turnovers. But considering the caliber of their Denver counterparts I'd say this was a fairly well played game for our starting guards.
--Travis Outlaw also had a pretty strong game. He only shot 4-12 but he was taking his shot in the right spots and shooting it decisively. It just wasn't falling that much. I'd prefer him to do that than take spastic shots or none at all. Plus, as has been his habit lately, he filled up the rest of the stat line with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. That's exactly what was missing from his game earlier this year and all the rest of his career really. He is starting to show reasons to put him out on the court even if he's not scoring lights out.
--Udoka and Magloire had serviceable games. Ime's time was taken up trying to watch Mr. Swing-and-Dash so you can excuse him not having his most productive game in other areas. Jamaal only played a few minutes and was matched against quicker guys but what he gave was fine.
--Martell and Sergio go squarely in the "ugh" column tonight. Martell had another 0-fer game and his shots were pretty wide open. Sergio couldn't get a groove going, turned the ball over twice in six minutes, and passed up one of those no-brainer layups to try and make an ill-advised extra pass...the final offense that put him back on the bench. Sometimes Sergio is brilliant but other times it seems like he makes every decision the opposite of what he should. Better put: nobody can make the spectacular, jaw-dropping play like he does but he has trouble with the basics sometimes.
--I've been a staunch supporter of Nate game in and game out but tonight I finally have a major complaint about his decision-making. The tan suit was stylish but that striped grey tie didn't go with it at all. Next time maybe a muted green or mauve?
--I have never heard announcers complain so much about the referees as these Denver guys do. Frankly it's embarrassing, especially when they shot 35 free throws to our 21. What do you want, 47 to 10? I don't know if Mike Barrett is reading this but if he is... Hey Mike! Normally I'm all on board with you making the occasional officiating comment because, like you said, you're kind of seeing and speaking for the fans. But after hearing the kind of thing we heard tonight maybe I'm coming around a little to the Steve Jones "just don't talk about it" point of view. It's not so much that I think it's wrong, rather it would be nice to disassociate our games and broadcasts from the kind of thing that other crew did tonight. It might be nice to be known as the crew that always takes the high road no matter what. Something to think about anyway.
Back to the regular folks now... As I read the other blogs on our network I notice that fans ALWAYS attribute losses to bad reffing. Sometimes it is bad, but it's not generally THAT bad. I think we need to start a movement to be better than that. Maybe NBA broadcasting crews across the board should start being really invested in teaching people about the game and how good it can be and become less invested in encouraging them to blame everything on the officials, even if sometimes it's true.