The Nuggets beat the Hornets

On the second night of a back to back, the Hornets went into Denver to take on a team that has only lost 3 times on its home court.  Missing David West, they took the game to overtime, and then fell short as the guy they were leaving to double Carmelo(Afflalo) hit two big threes to bury them.

I’m still staring at the box score, though, and trying to figure out how the game ever went to overtime in the first place.  The Nuggets shot better(and hit more shots) from three, took 14 more free throws, and outrebounded the hornets by 24(!!!) but still only managed 6 more points.  They had 6 more turnovers, which I guess helps close the gap, but . . . still.

James Posey & Devin Brown

These two guys drew the duty of containing Carmelo tonight, and they did a remarkable job against him.  Yes, Carmelo scored 30, and yes, the AP recap seems to think he carried his team, but that’s pretty far from the truth.  Brown and Posey were physical with him all game while Collison, Paul and Songaila regularly doubled him.  I’ve seen Melo handle that sort of defensive pressure well in other games, but tonight he seemed dead-set on taking shots no matter what.  It was good for the Hornets as he scored 30, but took 28 shots to do it.  Yeah, that wasn’t really helping.

That all said, Posey and Brown may have been making Carmelo’s life hard on one end of the floor, but they were making it easy at the other end of the court.  Melo was guarding them all night, and they ended up going 4-15 and 2-9 from deep, and a lot of the missed shots were wide open.

The Starters

Sometimes it’s stomach-churning how little athleticism there is in the Hornets starting linup.  Okafor is okay.  Paul is superb.  That’s it.  That causes tremendous problems late in games.  In the first quarters, when teams haven’t yet dialed up the defensive intensity, Brown or Peja can get free for shots.  Songaila can get open looks from mid-range.  But when overtime kicks off, and teams are buckling down defensively, Brown and Peja do not get free, no matter how many screens are set for them.  Songaila can not get seperation on a pick and pop.

Tonight, it made Chris Paul look particularly lame as he dribbled back and forth between his legs and no open pass for a shot became available.  Indeed, Chris Paul may have looked like he was trying to be Kobe or Allen Iverson, but he wasn’t really.(well, most of the time) If you take your eye off the ball and watch the rest of the team, you’ll see them setting picks.  Guys are running.  No one is getting open.  Time is ticking.  It’s part of why Paul looked like he was trying to go all Superman at the end, taking tough shots.(and making them)  The few times guys did get open, he hit them.  And they were usually so rushed, they missed the shot.

Typically this problem mitigated a little bit by having David West there.  No, he’s not an amazing athelete, but he can run a pick and pop with Paul to perfection, and his shot is quick and nearly unblockable due to its fade.

Rookie Report

As has become normal for the rookies and their second unit, they were instrumental in several key runs in the game.  In the second, the Posey, Collison, Thornton, Wright trio increased the tempo and helped keep the team ahead.

Thornton may be one of the best little guards I’ve ever seen at finishing with power near the rim.  He doesn’t dunk it, but he goes up with two hands, and uses the glass to great effect when finishing.  It takes a lot to bother him.

Darren Collison had, in my opinion, a great night.  His boxscore looks empty, but his defense was very, very good, and he kept the pressure on offensively all night.  I particularly loved the way he could double a post player and recover so quickly the Nuggets rarely got an advantage by swinging the ball.  Good stuff.

Other Observations:

  • JR Smith still makes the same stupid mistakes he made in New Orleans.  His natural talents continue to carry him, but if his shot isn’t on, the guy is probably more of a detriment to his team than an ice cold Peja Stojakovic is to the Hornets.
  • Don’t get carried away by Songaila’s 20, 7 and 3.  It was good, yes, but it took two quarters before the Nuggets finally started to realize “Hey, this guy can make shots.” and started defending him.  Even then, they never sent any help against him and it cost them in the end.  Sadly, he got shoved out of position for rebounds so easily, he might have been on rollerskates, while defensively, he helped well on screen and rolls(better than West usually does) but got absolutely destroyed in the post by Nene and Kenyon Martin.(Much worse than West does)
  • Speaking of Kenyon Martin, even if he didn’t have the lips tattoo on his neck, I’d still despise his preening butt.  And no, he’s not one of those guys you hate on other teams, but would love on yours.  He’s possibly the least likeable player in the entire league.
  • Sean Marks played 6 minutes and got a foul and a pair of free throws.  Honestly, he looked winded out there after only playing a couple minutes.  I guess that’s to be expected considering how long he’s been out.  I hope he gets into game shape soon.  The Hornets so desperately need a rebounder.  Outrebounded by freaking 24.

Next game is Monday night in Portland. Have a good weekend.

UPDATES: Check Mr. Kennedy’s post-game Journal report, plus game highlights from…

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