As expected, the Denver Nuggets scored quite a lot of points in the paint against the Chicago Bulls in their 119-118 win, 68 for a matter of fact. Scoring from close range is going hand in hand with their 12 game winning streak, which is going slightly unnoticed because of what LeBron James and the Miami Heat are doing.
Playing fast basketball doesn’t always correlate with being strong in the paint, but the Nuggets aren’t a streaky shooting team like you sometimes expect from a team like Denver, ranked third in the NBA with 106 points per game this season. They’re only 25th in the NBA in three point shooting accuracy, making 34% of their shots, also ranked in the bottom half when it comes to attempts, taking 18.8 shots per game. The best scoring team in the NBA, the Houston Rockets, attempt just under 30 three pointers per game.
The Nuggets’ brand of basketball leads persistent paint penetration. They’re averaging 57.8 points per game this season in the paint following their win over the Chicago Bulls, scoring 60 or more 28 times. The seven highest paint-point totals all came from the Nuggets, with 78 as their season-high. Right now, they’re on track to set a new NBA record, with the current one being 54.1 points per game by the Lakers from the 1997-1998 season, although the NBA has been keeping track of these numbers only from a season earlier.
This isn’t only about their inside players, like Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Kostas Koufos. Both their centers are more about rebounding, defense and serving as big bodies in the paint than industrial point producers. It’s about their style of basketball, and the way Ty Lawsom and Andre Miller are leading this team – keep pushing forward, no matter what. Obviously, their defense suffers from their style (101.1 points per game allowed), but they make up for it with better talent on that end of the floor this season, both on the perimeter and in the paint.
The Nuggets lead the NBA with 19.7 fast break point per game, and also scoring 19.7 points off turnovers each game, second only to the Clippers. The fast pace they play in means they force more turnovers than almost the entire league (except for the Clippers and Bucks). It might not be the perfect formula to go far in the playoffs, especially without a clear superstar/go to guy type player which is always preferable when the pace slows down, for some reason, in the postseason. Still, it’s better than in the past, when George Karl teams always seem to get knocked out in the first round.