96-97 Nuggets Season record: 21-61
|??||Atlanta at Denver||Win: 115-105|
|??||Sacramento at Denver||Loss: 107-113|
|36||Charlotte at Denver||Loss: 100-102|
|27||Denver at Phoenix||Win: 112-109|
|26||Vancouver at Denver||Win: 108-93|
|24||Denver at New York||Loss: 97-101|
|22||Denver at Charlotte||Loss: 97-101|
|18||Denver at Golden State||Loss: 99-114|
|12||Chicago at Denver||Loss: 92-110|
|10||Denver at New Jersey||Loss: 99-106|
|7||Denver at Toronto Raptors||Win: 104-93|
Dikembe Mutombo came calling today for his first visit back to his former team, and the Nuggets responded. Ervin Johnson stepped up big to render Mutombo relatively ineffective, and earned some respect in doing so. Mutombo on the other hand, was sent to the bench late in the 4th after scoring 3 points and grabbing 10 boards. On his way to the bench he displayed his displeasure at being called for a foul on Antonio McDyess and received a technical as his final act. Very fitting.
LaPhonso Ellis continues to play some of the best basketball of his career since coming back 19 games ago from yet another knee injury. He is averaging 23.9 points in those 19 games. Against Atlanta he continued to shoot the 3 very well, a new and potent offensive weapon for the Phonz. He scored all 15 of his points in the first half, but continued to help the team by grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds.
With the game on the line in the 4th quarter, and the Nuggets once 11 point lead dwindling with each possession, Dale Ellis stepped up big with 4 consecutive baskets to shift the momentum back in the Nuggets favor. The Nuggets were able to hold off a hot Atlanta team by finding ways to score, and making good offensive plays. The Nuggets biggest tendency this year, late in a close game is to completely lose their ability to run offensive plays. The Nuggets did a great job of finding easy transition baskets against Atlanta, finding the sprinting McDyess for easy jams and Dale Ellis on many backdoor cuts to the basket.
This was the first game I had been to personally in awhile. Let me just say that the latest statistic that Denver is second to last in the league for attendance is true. The Nuggets got robbed in my opinion in this game by the officials. With the Nuggets down by 3 with around a minute to play, Mark Jackson guarded Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf closely on the sideline. It looked like Mahmoud stepped backwards out of bounds, but instead Jackson was called for the foul. Mahmoud made both free-throws and the Nuggets couldn't score again. The Nuggets played well enough to win on the offensive end, but gave up too many easy baskets and could find no way to contain All-Star Mitch Richmond.
The Nuggets are now 5-16 in games deciding by 6 points or less.
Argh. The Nuggets had just 11 turnovers in this game, but it seemed like 10 of them came in crunch-time.They had the ball with less than 24 seconds on the clock, and they punched it in to Bryant Stith for him to drive and shoot the game-winner. Instead, he dribbled it one too many times and the ball was punched away. On the defensive end with 7 seconds left in regulation they let the red-hot Del Curry shoot a wide-open 3 pointer, but hey missed.
In overtime, LaPhonso Ellis fouled out while going for a rebound on the offensive end. That spelled doom for the not-so-deep Nuggets as their leading scorer and only go-to guy that is currently playing, sat down. They turned to Stith and Dale Ellis, who, among with teammates combined to go 0-10 in the overtime period, producing one of the most futile overtime periods in league history. Charlotte made 1-9 shots, enough for the win.
"We had some good shots and executed well, but our shots just didn't fall in overtime," said Mark Jackson
I strongly disagree with Marks statement after the game. They did NOT execute in overtime, or they would have won this game. With 17 seconds left and the ball in Mark's hands he looked at Motta to call a timeout. Suprisingly he did not. Mark dribbled it around in an attempt to setup a play. He got trapped and threw the ball way out to Stith standing near half-court. By the time Mark got the ball back, there were 5 seconds left and he got it to Hammonds for a turn-around 17 foot jumper at the buzzer. No offense to Tommy, but that just isn't his shot.
Check out these facts:
The Nuggets found yet another way to lose a close game at home. Don't worry about the fact that it was the second consecutive loss to a fellow bottom dweller that was missing 4 out of 5 regular starters in their lineups. Yes, we are really that bad.
LaPhonso Ellis was fouled with 1.2 seconds left while he was shooting with the Nuggets down by 2 points. Seconds before, the unlikely hero Carl Herrera nailed a jumper to put San Antonio up. LaPhonso, shooting 78% this year calmly went to the line after hearing an earful from trash talking Vernon Maxwell. He missed the needed first shot. You guessed it, the intentional miss for the second shot did not find Nuggets hands.
Antonio McDyess missed the second half after respraining his ankle. LaPhonso had an all-around great game with a career high 30 points and 4 blocks.
Final thoughts: Can this team figure out how to win a close game?
Three in a row! Oh man, does that feel great. I watched the entire second half and jumped off my couch at least a half dozen times with the Nuggets hit clutch shots. They made a big run towards the end of the third quarter, played neck-and-neck in the third, and then they did something they hadn't done all season. They didn't fold under pressure in the final 2 minutes of the game.
Bryant Stith had the ball high on the wing with only seconds left on the shot clock with his team down by 3 after a Michael Finley jam on the other end of the court. Bryant was on his way to a career night for him, having already hit 7 three pointers. Michael Finley jumped out to guard Bryant. The seconds continued to tick. Bryant dragged his foot forward, then backwards, keeping his pivot foot still. As he pulled back, over 3 feet behind the three-point arc, Finley backed off just a hair, looking for the drive. Bryant suddenly squared up, launched himself into the air and shot a long range three pointer. It kissed a little rim and dropped straight thru, tying the game with only 15 seconds left on the game clock. Kevin Johnson quickly brought the ball up the court, but Danny Manning bounced a long range shot off the front of the rim as time expired shortly thereafter.
In the overtime session, Dale Ellis, Bryant Stith, and Antonio McDyess all hit shots to propel the Nuggets ahead by 8. They held on during a 3-point barrage by Phoenix by hitting 5 of 6 of their final free throws.
One more note of worth. I had noticed that McDyess hadn't been dunking very much during the losing streak. Tonight he had several, and one incredible rebound and power dunk off of a Dale Ellis missed shot had the entire Nuggets bench on the feet in the enemy arena. As the Fox Sports News commercials say:
"One dunk, one powerful dunk can change the game. It can take the other team, the other team's bench, the fat guys in the luxury box, and the wives of those fat guys in the luxury box out of the game."
When McDyess was interviewed after the game, he spoke about the big win in his normal quiet demeanor, and when the reporter asked him if he had bought the reporter a Christmas gift he replid, "Yeah, I got your lingerie," and laughed until the camera cut away.
Check out some of these lines:
Player Min FGM-FGA FTM-FTA OFF DEF TOT AST ST TO PTS B Stith 48 12-21 4-4 0 4 4 4 2 3 36 McDyess 40 10-20 2-4 1 5 6 0 0 2 22 Jackson 48 6-15 2-2 1 7 8 17 3 5 14
Two wins in a row for the Nuggets. I said, TWO WINS IN A ROW FOR THE NUGGETS!
That's the first time that has happened in over 30 games dating back to last season, and I'm pretty psyched about it. We even did it without much help of our two young forwards, Antonio McDyess and LaPhonso Ellis. Antonio only played 22 minutes scoring 10 points, and LaPhonso did not suit up. Anyone know why? I didn't catch the game live. I listened to the radio during the win over Sacramento and the announcers talked about LaPhonso hoping to be back for this game. Back to the game. Stith stepped up big time, scoring 29. Jackson had another huge dishing game, handing out 17 assists. Johnson had two monster games in a row, following up a career night against Sacramento with 19 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks in this one. Mutombo who? :)
It was the final game of a 4 game road trip. It had a very familiar end result. Close game in final minutes - Nuggets loss. The Nuggets didn't exactly throw this one away with turnovers as in other close losses. They did make the critical error of letting John Starks get wide open in the final minutes for a back-breaking 3 pointer.
What can we do? Here's a couple of ideas:
The Nuggets continue their losing ways, dropping their 8th straight game in losing yet another close one to Charlotte in the final two minutes. The Nuggets took a brief lead with two Tommy Hammonds free throws with just under two minutes left. Then they traded baskets until under 45 seconds left. The Nuggets would go ahead, the Hornets would tie it up. Then Dale Ellis missed a shot that bounded up over the basket and harmlessly out of bounds. Charlotte's next trip down the floor after a timeout resulted in a Dell Curry 3-pointer. Then the Nuggets lost their composure as they often do late in a close game - missing shots, making turnovers, even failing to get the ball safely inbounds.
Another game, another loss. Hard to put a finger on what went wrong in this one. The Nuggets defense continues to get worse as they let the 9th consecutive team score more than a 100 points against them. McDyess had yet another good game on a very sore ankle from a sprain he received in the Lakers game. Brooks Thompson continues to play with the most emotion (and consistent shooting) on the court, keeping the Nuggets in the game all by himself at times. The Nuggets need to play with some emotion - the entire team and they will begin to win games again. The best solution to this problem is to get their healthy, emotional leader - LaPhonso Ellis back on the court again.
After a long agonizing season and a half with Bernie at the helm, he has finally decided to re-take his General Managing duties for the Nuggets again. This is a job that he really can be quite good at, when it is his only responsibility. His experimentations in holding the President, GM, and coaching responsibilities at the same time or in some combination have been quite deadly to this teams win-loss column. Are you jumping up and down with joy yet?
Now the bad news. It looks like from current reports that Dick Motta, currently an assistant coach and most recently a rather unsuccessful coach of the Dallas Mavericks will step in and sign a 2-year contract to be the new head coach of the Nuggets. What??!?!??! The guy has a rather inflated, but unimpressive total win-loss record of 918-965. What do you Nuggets fans out there think? I personally don't see how this will help much, even though I've been silently hoping Bernie would do this since early last season. More later...
"Michael, Scottie, and Dennis are the rock stars. The rest of us are just roadies up there on stage with them," Bulls guard Steve Kerr, after the game.
The Nuggets lose yet another game at home this season. Of course, this was against the NBA World Champs, but after beating them last season and having a knack for rising up to meet big games and big teams... I had higher expectations.
The Nuggets game can be described with 3 words - flat, flat, flat! Dale Ellis, the recently voted NBA player of the Week shot an icy cold 5 for 18 when they really needed his shot to fall. Antonio McDyess started hot in the first half, but fell to foul trouble and missed several dunks and layups in the second half. Darvin Ham, the undrafted rookie had a spectacular alley-oop play thrown by Jackson, but fouled out in the 3rd quarter with out putting any more in.
The first half overall was decent for the Nuggets as they stayed within 7 points. The second half saw the Bulls go on an 18-6 run with sloppy play and poor shooting by the Nuggets. Jordan led the Bulls with 31 points on 12-23 shooting. He kept the crowd into the game through the third quarter with his pantented fade-away jumper and an assortment of dunks and plain ol' hustle plays. He even hit the deck hard on a full-out dive fighting for a loose ball in the backcourt with Eric Murdock of the Nuggets. Jordan definitely wants another championship. The crowd became quiet and restless early in the 4th as the game was in control by the Bulls and play became sloppy and lifeless. This was the quietest crowd I had ever experienced at a Nuggets/Bulls game after seeing them here the last 5 years.
I didn't get to see this game, thanks to no local TV coverage, but the Nuggets had a disappointing loss in New Jersey after a very exciting, promising even victory in Boston the night before. From the Box Score, the game was similar to the last few - Dale Ellis shot lights out, and McDyess helped share the offensive responsibilities, but they couldn't overcome a halftime deficit to bring their record up to .500 in this early season.
Dale Ellis continued to play like a youngster in his supposedly older frame. He had a season 37 points in leading the Nuggets to their 3rd victory. The Nuggets jumped out early on this decent expansion team, and as always let the team back into it in the second half. However, they did hold on to win one on the road.
Its finally time for a new NBA season! Despite my fears for this new mix of old and young players, getting over the loss of Mutombo, and still having Bernie as our coach - I've very excited about the new season. How can you not be? I hope we are competitive and improve upon last year's win-loss column, but half the fun is just watching these amazing athletes run up and down the floor and soar through the air.
Easy for me to say this now... with the win loss column sitting at 0-0, right? :)
An excellent article about LaPhonso Ellis was recently written in the Denver Post. With Mutombo and Mahmoud playing in other cities in November, the Nuggets look to LaPhonso to reemerge as The Phonz of the 1994 miracle playoff run. He has worked hard, very hard, as he always does this summer to improve his endurance, strength, and game to get back what two freak knee conditions took away from him the last two seasons.
LaPhonso is about to enter camp at a slim 237 pounds, ready to play the 3 position, because a young future all-star named Antonio McDyess has taken away his natural power forward position away from him. If LaPhonso can learn to play defense at that position, he will reap the benefits on the other end of the court with his powerful post-up game.
So, what can the Nuggets do without the two M's? If its up to LaPhonso, plenty. If there is anyone on this Nuggets squad that can lead this squad back to the playoffs promised land... its the broad shoulders of LaPhonso Ellis.
Dikembe Mutombo has now left
He signed with the Atlanta Hawks for a five-year deal worth $56 to $57 million. The Nuggets get nothing in return other than some more salary cap room. Bummer. We really cleaned house this year, and it definitely feels like we have gotten little back for all the tough years, and resulting high draft picks. The 3-way Phoenix/Houston deal supposedly broke down because the NBA was claiming tampering and would have fined the teams involved.
Good news. We resigned Bryant Stith. Now here's a class act of a guy... he actually turned down larger offers from other teams like Atlanta and Miami to continue his career with the Nuggets for another 5 years. He said that he wanted to play in Denver more than he wanted the money, and he hadn't forgotten what Atlanta and Miami did in overlooking him when he was drafted.
We also signed Ervin Johnson from the Seattle Sonics as a Center to a 7-year contract. Hmmm. I don't get this one. Yes, we needed somebody big for next year, but for 7 years?. This guy, from what I've seen so far, has way less defensive talent than Dikembe did, and he even has less offensive skills as well. I'm going to miss Dikembe, as well alot of his complainers from last year... I bet.