Western road trip stop: Denver


  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (0-3) at Denver Nuggets (0-3)
  • Date: November 6, 2012
  • Time: 9:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSDP

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons will play the third game of a six-game western road trip tonight when they take on a Denver Nuggets team that much like them is desperate for a victory.

The Nuggets will be playing their first home game of the season and will probably benefit from finally being at home after struggling a little on the road this season. Indeed, George Karl’s group had the best offense in the league last season but are only sporting an offensive efficiency of 95 (24th in the NBA) after three games.

This is particularly odd considering that the Nuggets are scoring a staggering 52 points in the paint on average per game, which is the second best mark in the NBA.

Denver gets so many looks at the basket thanks in large part to the combination of Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller and to some extent Danilo Gallinari. Karl likes to have the Nuggets run multiple pick-and-rolls in the same possession to force defenses to open up the lane because of their rotations. For instance, they might start with some screen roll action at the top of the key with Ty Lawson and then give the ball to Andre Iguodala on the wing and ask him to do the exact same thing; at this point because defenses are already caught in rotations, they might want to trap him hard to nullify whatever advantage he has (Iggy and Lawson are good at splitting the trap), but because the former Wildcat is good at reading defenses and delivering the ball, he will usually make a quick decision to feed the open man rolling at the basket.

More often than not, the players that end up with the ball around the rim are the likes of Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee who do a good job of finishing but also clean up their own misses quite well for second chance opportunities (Denver is second in the league in offensive rebounding per game).

In addition, Karl likes to post up Andre Miller against smaller guards for easy scores and he also likes to occasionally run a pick-and-roll with his point guard (Lawson or Miller) and Gallinari late in the shot clock to force the switch — most teams switch the pick-and-roll with under 10 seconds left on the shot clock — and quickly post up the former Knick.

All of this offensive action helps the Nuggets get a multitude of looks directly in the paint where they abuse opponents. And yet, their offense is nowhere near its level of efficiency from last season.

The Nuggets are only converting 42.7 percent of their field goals this season because they tend to have issues with running their half-court offense (more on this later) and thus end up with the ball in their hands late in the shot clock having to force a low percentage shot. Couple that with the fact that they have been shooting an abysmal 24.6 percent from 3-point range so far this season (dead last in the league), and it’s understandable that the opposition has tried as best they can to pack the paint and force shots from the outside, even though they are not always successful. Heck, with that kind of shooting, it’s incredibly impressive that they have still been able to get a multitude of shots at the rim.

The crux of the problem for George Karl’s unit has been the team’s defense in their first three games. They currently have a defensive efficiency of 105 (25th in association) and it has hindered their ability on offense.

Simply put, Denver has struggled to close out possessions defensively so far this year, despite having reputed stopper Andre Iguodala on the team this season. Their issues mostly come in the form of their inability to defend pick-and-pops as well as side pick-and-rolls.

In the pick-and-pop scenario, they simply concede the jumper to the big man and retreat to the paint, which is tricky if the opposing team has a good shooting big man (think Jerebko or Monroe from mid-range).

In side pick-and-roll situations, the Nuggets will have their most athletic big people (Faried and McGee) hedge hard on the screens to contain the dribblers, but they aren’t the quickest defenders, which means that ball-handlers can in fact turn the corner on them and get into the paint to create damage.

Add it all up and Denver surrenders 45.3 percent field goal shooting because they allow teams to score on the interior to the clip of 42 points in the paint per game (15th in the league) and also surrender a fair amount of uncontested mid-range shots.

 This poses a huge problem for a Nuggets team that houses the athleticism and quickness of Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee. They are all meant to get out in transition and get easy scores as well as wear down their opponents with the fast break and secondary break. However, so far this season, they just haven’t been able to capitalize on their strengths because their defense hasn’t been getting done.

One would assume that the Pistons would be getting the Nuggets at the perfect time, but with Denver playing their first home game and Detroit being unable to stop teams from scoring on the interior — dead last in opposition paint scoring in the NBA — it might in fact be the worse time for Lawrence Frank and company to stroll into the Pepsi Arena.

Read about the Nuggets

Roundball Mining Company.

Tags: Andre Iguodala Ty Lawson

comments powered by Disqus