That’s not the way the Denver Nuggets wanted to head into the All-Star break, losing three in a row after winning nine straight. For the moment, let’s forgive the three losses. They lost to a very good team in the Boston Celtics and were really shorthanded in losses to the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. The Nuggets are still playing well overall and will be a factor in the second-half of the season, but there are a couple of major concerns.
The first of those concerns is rebounding. The Nuggets lost to the Raptors mainly because they could not get a defensive rebound to save their lives in the fourth quarter. The Raptors, who won by one point, only shot 10 for 24 in the final frame but got a ton of offensive rebounds. If the Nuggets secure even one of those, they probably win the basketball game. Even with the terrible rebounding, the Nuggets were in position to win the game. They were up one with under 30 seconds to go, but then the Raptors missed a jumper and the Nuggets could not grab the board. If they get that one rebound, the Raptors are forced to foul and the Nuggets probably hold on.
As good as Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee are on the offensive boards, they are that bad on the defensive end. They don’t block out and they rely too much on their pure athletic ability to bail them out. Kosta Koufus is a finesse player and is unwilling or unable to grab a big rebound when the game is on the line. The guards and the other forwards do what they can, but overall if the Nuggets don’t start rebounding, then it will be another short stay in the playoffs. Everyone talks about the Nuggets needing that player who can hit the big shot at the end of the game, but what they need even more is a guy who can grab the rebound that will secure a win.
The Nuggets are not a great defensive team to begin with, but their inability to defend the three-pointer is atrocious. Sometimes teams just get hot from beyond the arc, but everyone gets hot versus the Nuggets. In Wednesday’s loss to the Nets, it was a close game at the half and the Nets had made nine three pointers. That’s 27 points in a five point game–it doesn’t take a math genius to figure that out. It’s one thing if teams are hitting contested three-pointers, but the Nets looked like they were at a morning shoot around. For the game, the Nets hit 16 three-pointers. You are not going to win very many games when you give up 48 points on three-pointers. The Nets loss was an extreme example, but the three-point defense has been a problem all season.
The Nuggets are never going to remind anyone of the San Antonio Spurs on defense, but they have to be better rebounding and defending the three. The Nuggets have a shot to do some good things, but they have to clean up these two areas.
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