The race for the 8th seed in the west is as interesting as the race for 1st. Tonight I had the opportunity to watch the Nuggets/Sixers as well as the Warriors/Clippers, and since only the first of these games was competitive, I’ll share my thoughts on it in full:
Simply based on talent, the Nuggets probably should have beaten the Sixers. Carmelo is the best player on the court and the other positions are pretty much a wash. The difference, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, is that the Sixers are playing like a team. Even though they were atrocious from the free throw line, they did a spectacular job of rebounding the ball and driving to the hoop. Andre Miller had a masterful game, Dalembert was deceptively effective, Willie Green was a constant nuisance, and Andre Iguodala shot well enough to keep Denver’s runs in check. Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith both played well and Smith even had a really nice stutter-step more to the basket early in the fourth. Young had some excellent plays around the hoop and was able to keep a few offensive possessions alive with well timed tap-outs and hustle plays. If he continues to mature in this direction, he can become a go-to defensive player who could frustrate the Carmelo Anthonys of the league to no end.
On the other hand, Denver constantly deferred to Iverson when the team needed a bucket, and Iverson suffers from such extreme tunnel vision that his frantic drive and dish moves were easily defended and proved to be an ineffective way to set up someone like ‘Melo. ‘Melo needs to have the ball in his hands to create his offensive game, but to recieve a frantic pass towards the end of the shot clock is to turn him into a spot shooter, which basically erases all of his best talents. If it were a team of JR Smiths, this habit would make a lot more sense, but in general, the Nuggets aren’t great spot up shooters – not many NBA teams are. JR Smith, as you can imagine, is as atrocious defensively as he is valuable offensively. His unnecessary fouls and completely immature personality resulted in him getting yanked in the fourth, meaning that he wasn’t available to take the shots that could have tied the game or put the Nuggets in the lead. Instead, Iverson took those shots and ended up missing the game-winning 3 on a horrible attempt.
The thing about the Nuggets is that each player on the team seems to do well, but they can still lose on any given night because there is no sense of cohesive or focused play. I understand the desire to stockpile talent, but there’s a way to do it that maximizes the team’s potential, and Carmelo needed a quality distributional point guard who can hit the open three far more than he needed Allen Iverson, who is sucking the life out of Carmelo and turning him into a stagnant and uninvolved player.
The Nuggets still have so much talent on their roster that they are a threat to make the playoffs and wreak havoc on any of the West’s best teams. But seeing George Karl stand frozen on the sidelines while watching his team’s dysfunctional offense waste multiple chances to beat the Sixers, I’m not surprised that they’re in the position they’re in – 9th place.
Highlights under the cut:
AI’s highlights (10 mins):
Carmelo’s highlights (10 sec):