Playing back-to-back nights is always a tough thing, and the Los Angeles Clippers simply fell apart in one of the toughest venues in the NBA, as the Denver Nuggets, led by Ty Lawson on the offensive end and Andre Iguodala on the defensive one, were too much to handle in the second half.
Ty Lawson had only 2 points and 6 assists in the first half, but carried the Nuggets to a 36-26 third quarter as the team made 6-7 from beyond the arc, and Lawson himself added 10 points and four assists, finishing with 21 on the night.
On the other end of the floor, it was Chris Paul who struggled coping with Andre Iguodala, as the trend of putting the team’s best defender, regardless of his position, on Paul in an attempt to slow down the Clippers most important player. Paul’s box score (16 points, 10 assists) doesn’t tell how difficult it was for him to make things happen, especially in the open court. The Clippers were limited to only 8 points on the fast break, compared with the 19 the Nuggets scored.
I told my players ‘This is the first team in a while that’s kind of slowed us down and confused us. You’re not as bad as you think. And fortunately, the 3-ball bailed us out. I know the film will show us some things that we’re probably going to have to work on, but in the same sense, we still get 107 points and I think by creating a lot of our offense off good defensive plays.
George Karl has made the postseason every time since becoming the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, but made it past the first round only once in eight attempts, which is kind of a sour spot on his impressive record with the team, shifting the team’s offense into an even more fast-paced one once Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks. This season, with Iguodala, he’s hoping he has the right ingredient (41-22, 5th in the West) to make it further than usual.
The Nuggets fast game allows teams to score quite a lot, but the assumption is that especially at home, no one can run with them. Add that to the fact that they’re an excellent rebounding team led by Kenneth Faried (9.6 per game) on both sides of the floor; Andre Iguodala giving the team a quality wing defender and one who fits the team’s style on offense perfectly; and the presence in the paint of JaVale McGee and Faried, which allows his players to take more gambles in their defending makes for a team not too many want to meet with in the postseason.
We’re extremely dangerous, especially if we get home-court advantage. We’re a great team. We work hard, we play hard. And the way we’re playing right now, when we get to the playoffs, it’s going to be amazing.
Game with 33 assists (like the Nuggets had in the 107-92 win) are a rarity, but it shows just how good this team is when the open court is given to them. If the Nuggets get home advantage, at least for one series, it’s hard not to see them advancing into the Western semifinals for only the second time in nine seasons.