The Denver Nuggets closed the month of January with another win and finished the month with a 12-3 mark. George Karl and his players have been pointing toward this month since the start of the season and to their credit, the Nuggets took care of business. The final win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night was not always pretty, but they all count.
The Nuggets are obviously a very good offensive team but if they are going to damage down the stretch and in the playoffs, they are going to have to do it on the defensive side of the court. It may not look like it if you look at the final score but the game turned in the Nuggets’ favor when they turned up the defensive pressure. They turned an eight-point deficit into a double-digit lead in a span of five minutes from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth, and it was because of their defense.
The Nuggets are an up-tempo team that relies on fast-break points but it is their defense that sets up the offense. The key to that defense is Andre Iguodala, who appears to finally be getting comfortable with the Nuggets. He is starting to set the tempo on the defensive end of the court and that is leading to turnovers, which are leading to easy points. There are some who are frustrated with Iguodala’s offensive game but frankly, that’s not why the Nuggets traded for him; they have more than enough scoring. They needed a guy who could shut down the opponent’s best player at crunch time and they needed a defensive leader, that’s what they got in Iguodala.
The Nuggets are always going to be able to score points but if they want to be a threat in the playoffs, then they are going to have to play defense. It’s true that the Nuggets gave up 110 points versus the Rockets but they won their fifth straight because of a great defensive effort in the fourth quarter. If the Nuggets continue to play that kind of defense, then it could be a fun ride.
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