NBA Regular Season Game #25:
Remember all those rings Melo and AI won? Oh yeah, it was just magazine covers.
Tonight the Jazz face off against an old mountain rival in the Nuggets. Denver and Utah both made news in the same season by moving All-NBA players Carmelo Anthony (to the New York Knicks) and then Deron Williams (to the New Jersey, but now, Brooklyn Nets). Since that time the two franchises have tried to quickly rebuild and stat competitive. Denver has been more successful, and a large part of that has been the simple point that the Knicks gave the Nuggets back actual NBA players. The Jazz received only the whispers of potential and future realizations back for Deron. I'm not mad about it. The Jazz received Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and two picks for D-Will. The team moved Harris for Marvin Williams (a starter). One of the picks became Enes Kanter (a should be starter), and the other (Gorgui Dieng) was packaged in a deal with our pick (Shabazz Muhammad) to get Trey Burke (another starter). The Jazz came out well down the line from the Nets trade, but the benefits have yet to pay off as the young players are only now making contributions to the team. For the Nuggets their 'take' in the Melo trade brought back many starters as well, but they still have one last prize, the 2014 1st round pick from the New York Knicks.
Both teams did well moving their stars, but only one team has actually moved forward. The Jazz squandered a few seasons trying to stave off rebuilding and chicken-hawked their way into the playoffs once -- only to be unceremoniously dispatched in four non-competitive games. The Nuggets have made the playoffs each year after Melo, and look increasingly capable of advancing past the first round.
Even with all of the coaching and front office upheavals, and the trade to give away Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets are still standing tall. They've even been without two of their better players this season in Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee. Yet they still stand, and stand with a 13-8 record in the dangerous Western Conference. Denver is 6-2 at home, an impressive 6-6 against the West, and start tonight off as #6 in the West. We are the worst, are 2-10 on the road, and 0-5 against our division. Our conference record looks like a war crime right now. Denver has been a better team since the Melo trade, they look to be moving forward faster, still have a Knicks pick in their pocket, and are a playoff team -- and have been one every year since the trade.
And they're playing without two of their top players so far.
Denver is playing well this season, and the 13-8 club has much to be proud about. They are the #11th best team in the league at scoring (in PPG), and have the #9th best offense in terms of Off RTG at 107.5 points per 100.0 possessions. Their defense is middle of the pack, but they do play at a Top 10 pace as well. They like to run and can with guys like Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, and Andre Miller (old but knows how to run a fast break) with the ball in their hands. They reign fire from three as the team that is #9 in the league in 3pt%, no doubt a product of guys like randy Foye, Jordan Haamilton, Wilson Chandler, Evan Fournier and company doing damage. Well, you can't overlook the improved three point making from Nate Rob and Ty Lawesome either. They run, they shoot, and they are full of energy. The Nuggets are #5 on OREB%. You would think that energy and pace would mean mistakes, but no, they are #7 best at not turning over the ball (as seen in their TOV% on offense).
They are a fun team, and guys like Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson can be matchup problems. They will be because both are more mobile than our collection of bigs, and Faried is just very physical, too physical for some of our guys.
It's going to be a contrast of styles tonight as they go with the flow, while our flow is only limited to Andris Biedrins isolation plays (watching them on synergy makes me a bad fan).
One thing the Nuggets don't have much of is a defensive rebounding presence. Their high OREB% and low DREB% mirror our own problems, so expect a lot of second chance points tonight. And hope we see some Rudy Gobert. It's not like we can get two losses tonight, at worst we lose the game. After that there's only gain to be had by trying different combinations of players. After all, the Jazz are healthy right now.
Utah wasn't healthy when the team lost by 19 at home. Utah still leads the season series 100-72, but we're only 32-53 on the road. Our team is trying to stave off loss #20 on the season, Denver is trying to prevent giving up a 101th win in the head to head. This is, as our astute coach would say, a Numbers Game.
Hopefully at the end of the game Trey Burke and company can have the larger number. I feel like we're due for a win tonight, but reality tells me tonight is a loss.