The Denver Nuggets missed an opportunity to gain some momentum for their season with their 112-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day. One of the reasons that they were unable to grab the victory was because of the offensive play of their perimeter players.
Denver’s perimeter-play has been inconsistent this season. When those guys are solid, the Nuggets look like one of the best teams in the NBA. When they are struggling, the Nuggets look strikingly average.
In their Christmas Day game, the Denver guards and small-forwards struggled mightily in almost every offensive aspect of the game.
They finished with 69 points combined and shot an acceptable 47.9 percent from the field. However, they shot an abysmal 23.1 percent from beyond the arc. More than that, the Nuggets perimeter players finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio of only 1.83, quite low for perimeter players. That’s not going to win basketball games.
For the Nuggets to be successful, they have to be able to execute on the perimeter.
In their loss on December 20 against the Portland Trailblazers, Denver’s guards and small forwards combined for 67 of the team’s 93 points. That’s actually a pretty decent number in itself. But when you consider that they did so while shooting 29.2 percent from the field and going 0-22 from three-point range, the 67 points lose their luster.
The main problem with the Nuggets perimeter play is that they keep taking outside shots or tough shots even when they’re not falling. Despite the fact that the Nuggets have quality post-players like Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee, Denver’s outside players insist on taking the bulk of the teams shots.
That’s exactly what happened to them against the Clippers on Christmas Day. Despite the fact that Faried, Koufos and McGee were all playing very efficiently in the post, the guards continually pressed the issue and did so unsuccessfully much of the time.
Against bad teams, particularly bad rebounding teams, that won’t kill the Nuggets and they will still be in games. However, against good rebounding and offensively efficient teams like the Clippers, stubbornly forcing shots up from perimeter players isn’t going to work.
Going forward, Denver has to establish more of a balance within their offense if they want to be successful. Their perimeter players are talented, but can’t be relied on to carry the scoring load every game.
The Nuggets have to abandon that strategy if they want to realize their enormous potential. If not, they will continue to be exactly what they don’t want to be a middle-tier team.