Nuggets Jazz

JR Smith, giving the people their money's worth

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When Denver is eliminated after game six, I am really going to miss JR Smith’s monster dunks.

(What, you think Denver will pull it together on the road and force a game seven? Okay. Sure. Do you still believe in the tooth fairy, too?)

NBA Playoffs: Carmelo Anthony's success puts him in a strangely familiar place

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Anthony_game.jpgIn four games against the Utah Jazz in this year’s playoffs, Carmelo Anthony is averaging 34.5 points per game while shooting 52.6% from the field and grabbing seven rebounds a night. Yet his Denver Nuggets trail the Jazz 1-3 in the series after another loss last night, and Anthony’s 39-point, 11-rebound performance (though with nine turnovers, mind you) in a losing effort is an interesting indication of the path Carmelo’s career has taken. 

There was a point where Anthony himself was emblematic of all the Nuggets’ problems. They had talent — Andre Miller (and later Allen Iverson), Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, Nene, and of course Anthony himself — but even in the rare instances when each member of Denver’s core was healthy at the same time, there were some serious question marks. Offensively, how could the team depend on a jumpshooter who had fallen in love with 20-footers? And on defense, why couldn’t a team of talented individual defenders establish themselves as an effective defensive unit?

Those types of questions seemed perpetual, and kept the Nuggets grounded. Anthony was a good player but hardly a great one, and his team was apparently ready to follow suit. In a lot of ways, Carmelo had no one to blame but himself. If he were only a more efficient scorer, a more focused defender, and a better leader, maybe the Denver Nuggets would have been a different team.

Then, in spite of worries that Anthony’s development may have stagnated, he’s done all of those things. He’s refined his offensive game and learned to exploit his incredible first step. He’s shown a willingness to defend the league’s elite scoring wings, and actually succeeded in doing so. He’s benefited from Chauncey Billups’ leadership, sure, but is also a huge part of why the Denver locker room is so confident — or laced with hubris, take your pick — at all times.

The only problem is that now, Anthony is so productive offensively that he’s not exactly the problem. His turnovers over the course of this series (he didn’t turn the ball over at all in Game 1, but has averaged six per game in the three subsequent losses) are absolutely painful, but they seem a bit more manageable given Carmelo’s touches and production. After all, Game 3 aside, the problem has not been the Nuggets lack of offense (Denver has averaged 111.95 points per 100 possessions for the series). Rather, it’s the team’s painfully ineffective defense (115.23 points per 100 possessions allowed) that could make Anthony’s volume scoring not long for this playoff world.

Anthony adapted, and he’s twice the individual player that he was earlier in his career. Okay, maybe more like 1.5 times the player he was. Yet the Nuggets again find themselves in more or less the same place; they’re talent-laden, but unable to work things out on the defensive end despite the number of talented individual defenders (Billups, Afflalo, Nene, Martin) on the team.

Should Denver drop Game 5 to Utah, it will be the fifth time in seven years that Carmelo and the Nuggets have lost the first round 1-4, with the only exceptions being last year’s run to the Conference Finals and their failure to win a single playoff game against the Lakers in 2008. Anthony has come so far in terms of his individual game, and on paper, the Nuggets have made serious strides in terms of their talent. Without any hope for a successful team defense, though, Denver is right back where they started in 2003.

  

 

J.R. Smith understands the lost art of irony

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Thanks to Internet snark (guilty, as charged), irony is dead. Or at least on life support in an Alanis Morissette world.

But J.R. Smith gets it, the Denver sixth man is a master of irony. What else are we to take away from this post-game tweet by him yesterday?

You play selfish you lose selfish that’s all I’m saying about the game!

He’s not wrong, selfish play is not helping the Nuggets out (not as big a problem as their defense right now, but it is a problem).

But when J.R. Smith is calling you out for being selfish, you have a problem.

Even against the Jazz Sunday he was 3 of 11 with some questionable decisions as he kept shooting. And this is not getting into his history, where he has been regarded as one of the more selfish players in the league.

Irony. It’s not dead in America. You just have to know where to look.

NBA Playoffs: Mehmet Okur leaves game with injury

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The Utah Jazz need another injury like the world needs another Starbucks.

But it happened anyway. Starting Utah center Mehmet Okur re-injured the left Achilles tendon that has bothered him coming into the playoffs. He left in the second quarter, unable to put weight on his leg and being helped to the locker room, and will not play again in this game and his status for the rest of the series is in question.

He will undergo an MRI on Sunday.

The front line of the Jazz is already banged up, with Andrei Kirilenko out for the entire series and Carlos Boozer trying to play through pain. In a very close series with the Nuggets, this injury is going to mean a lot more Paul Milsap and Kyrylo Fesenko is going to have to step up in the playoffs,

Despite it all, the Jazz are hanging tough with the Nuggets in Denver.

Your 2010 NBA Playoff Schedule

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Here is the schedule to set your life — or at least your DVR — by for the next couple of weeks. Note that all times listed are Eastern. If you don’t live out East (and I don’t) then do the math in your head. It keeps you sharp.

Eastern Conference

Cleveland vs. Chicago
Game 1 – Sat April 17 at Cleveland 3:00PM ABC
Game 2 – Mon April 19 at Cleveland 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu April 22 at Chicago 7:00PM TNT
Game 4 – Sun April 25 at Chicago 3:30PM ABC
Game 5 * Tue April 27 at Cleveland TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 29 at Chicago TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 1 at Cleveland TBD

Orlando vs. Charlotte
Game 1 – Sun April 18 at Orlando 5:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 21 at Orlando 7:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Sat April 24 at Charlotte 2:00PM TNT
Game 4 – Mon April 26 at Charlotte TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 28 at Orlando TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 30 at Charlotte TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 2 at Orlando TBD

Atlanta vs. Milwaukee
Game 1 – Sat April 17 at Atlanta 5:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – Tue April 20 at Atlanta 7:00PM NBATV
Game 3 – Sat April 24 Milwaukee 7:00PM ESPN
Game 4 – Mon April 26 at Milwaukee TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 28 at Atlanta TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 30 at Milwaukee TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 2 at Atlanta TBD

Boston vs. Miami
Game 1 – Sat April 17 at Boston ESPN
Game 2 – Tue April 20 at Boston 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 23 at Miami 7:00PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun April 25 at Miami 1:00PM ABC
Game 5 * Tue April 27 at Boston TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 29 at Miami TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 1 at Boston TNT

Western Conference

L.A. Lakers vs. Oklahoma City
Game 1 – Sun April 18 at L.A. Lakers 3:00PM ABC
Game 2 – Tue April 20 at L.A. Lakers 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu April 22 at Oklahoma City 9:30PM TNT
Game 4 – Sat April 24 at Oklahoma City 9:30PM ESPN
Game 5 * Tue April 27 at L.A. Lakers TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 30 at Oklahoma City TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 2 at L.A. Lakers TBD

Dallas vs. San Antonio
Game 1 – Sun April 18 at Dallas 8:00PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 21 at Dallas 9:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 23 San Antonio 9:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun April 25 San Antonio 7:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 27 at Dallas TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 29 at San Antonio TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 1 at Dallas TNT

Phoenix vs. Portland
Game 1 – Sun April 18 at Phoenix 10:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Tue April 20 at Phoenix 10:00PM NBATV
Game 3 – Thu April 22 at Portland 10:00PM NBATV
Game 4 – Sat April 24 at Portland 4:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Mon April 26 at Phoenix TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 29 at Portland TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 1 at Phoenix TBD TNT

Denver vs. Utah
Game 1 – Sat April 17 at Denver 10:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – Mon April 19 at Denver 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 23 at Utah 10:30PM ESPN2
Game 4 – Sun April 25 at Utah 9:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Wed April 28 at Denver TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 30 at Utah TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 2 at Denver TBD