Retrospective Diagnosis of Game 2: Jazz 100, Nuggets 117

DENVER, CO - MARCH 21: Nene #31 of the Denver Nuggets dunks the ball in front of Amir Johnson #15 of the Toronto Raptors at the Pepsi Center on March 21, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

If we were going to escape December with a win, I felt like tonight might have been that one chance. Instead of showing heart these Jazz just took another beating, and were sent back home – with two blowout losses in two nights. These aren’t the same old Denver Nuggets anymore. They went on a fantastic run after divorcing themselves from Carmelo Anthony last season, and made the playoffs. They made the playoffs after trading away their franchise player. Think about that.

On the flip side, these aren’t the same old Jazz anymore either. We don’t knock people on their butts, we let them dunk on us. We don’t have surgical precision on offense as a counter attack either. Our coaches won’t play our guys with the most chance to learn from a butt kicking (seriously, what more can Al Jefferson get out of a blowout loss?). And our front office isn’t admitting that we’re a lottery team in a rebuilding year. As a result, this cognitive dissonance, or flat out defiance, is retarding potential improvements for the sake of "saving face". Enough of the big picture though, let’s look at what happened in the game . . .

What happened in the game before:

They were getting destroyed by the Lakers. The defense was porous, but overall the lack of offensive effectiveness was the downfall of the Jazz. Especially inside. Too many misses inside spelled our doom as we weren’t getting any scoring from outside the paint. Our youth sat while our old guys floundered. We lost big – Paul Millsap did his job.

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What happened in this game:

Game Result: Blowout Loss (Streak Alert: two in a row)

This game had a number of déjà vu feelings about it. We were more than holding our own, winning even, and then Derrick Favors picked up two early fouls and sat for an eternity. Denver was smart enough to recognize we didn’t have any defenders on the floor (yes Raja Bell, you aren’t a defender anymore), and went to the basket like they owned the place. (Technically, yes, they did.) Nene Hilario was dunking all over us, and our help defense moved with the urgency of drowsy sloth, and they quickly ran away with the game.

Unlike the Lakers game this blow out wasn’t because we couldn’t score; rather, because we couldn’t get any stops. After Favors went to the bench Denver scored on 7 of their next 10 shot attempts. We were still keeping pace with them, up till the time out the Jazz took at the 2:47 mark. After that Denver went on to score 7 more points in a row, while we didn’t get anything the rest of the quarter until C.J. Miles’ buzzer beater. We played catch up the rest of the way, which is hard if you aren’t getting any stops. We weren’t fouling them either (they only had a +1 FTA advantage over us), just letting them shoot, or get open for layups. This is the effort question that Tyrone Corbin is right to question. The Nuggets finished the game with a 53.5 fg% mark, scoring 117 points, at a 1.36 points per shot (pps) efficiency. That’s like Michael Jordan. We let the Nuggets have such a great scoring game, they scored on us like Jordan used to – as a team.

The Main wrecking crew were Nene (who went 10/13, and finished with 25 points), and Al Harrington (8/11, finishing with 18 points). They just kept making shots. They were not difficult shots, mind you – they were getting the shots you want because our defense was so lacking. The Nuggets had 68 points in the paint. We’re a paint oriented team and we only scored 42 points in the paint. The third main wrecking crew guy was our own ball handling. Against the LA Lakers the Jazz had 10 turn overs for the game. Against the Nuggets the Jazz coughed it up 22 times, which lead to 27 fast break points for Denver.

At the end of the day we didn’t get blown out the same way, but we got blown out regardless. The Jazz even shot 44% from deep in this game, making more threes than the other team. How frequently does that ever happen on the road? This last game truly was one for the ages – we proved how the Golden State Warriors are so capable of losing so many games every season. Good offense and no defense makes other good offenses turn into great offenses. And you end up with another loss.

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The Lab results came back . . .

. . . and they are not good. Again. The first quarter I could live with, provided that the Jazz made solid in-game adjustments (which wasn’t a Jerry Sloan strength either). We did not and the Nuggets won the second quarter 35 to 23, and then followed it up by winning the third quarter 25 to 20. The game was so over our head coach remembered that we had a guy named Alec Burks on our team. But more about him later. The Nuggets had 40 shots at the rim last game, and they made 29 of them. Their % would have been higher than it was had Kenneth Faried made any of the three alley-oops he missed in garbage time. We did okay scoring at the rim too – but we only got 21 shots there, which is half of what Denver got. We need to defend the paint better. It might be a bit easier to do if Kanter (14 mins) and Favors (17 mins) were there to defend it, instead of on the bench. They instill a greater confidence in me on defense, as absolute NBA noobs, than Big Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap do.

Turn overs, transition defense, and defending the paint – that’s what lost this game for us. That and bad coaching rotations – but hey, Tyrone gets 10 games from me before I start to get really upset about things like that.

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Problem Areas

I am getting upset with some piss-poor defensive rotations. There’s one sequence where it looks like guys don’t know where to go / when to help. That sequence so far has been called the 2011-2012 regular season. More specifically on dribble penetration one extra guy is helping too much, which elicits super duper open guys. In the Lakers game and the Nuggets game I’ve seen a lightbulb go off in the mind of one of our bigs a few seconds too late "Oh, I’m supposed to be guarding THAT guy", and then he lumbers over there in time to get a good front row seat of how a guy shoots and makes an open jumper. Obviously a longer training camp would have helped – but we did not get one. As a result, our new defense is going to take a lot longer to figure itself out. Remember how Corbin is focusing most of all practices on defense? Imagine how bad it would look if he wasn’t practicing defense . . .

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The big picture:

The big picture is that we got a great opportunity to see Alec Burks actually play basketball. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of him in the future. I’m working on a rotation post, but I’m waiting for 10 games of data to come in before doing my Henny Penny impersonation.

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Prognosis

"Blowouts hurt, but they hurt twice as much if you don’t learn from them." - me

I wrote that last time, hopefully I will not have to write it again after the Sixers game. But I’m not holding my breath. I’m just going to assume every game is going to be a blowout loss from now on until the team I love proves me wrong.

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