After surprising San Antonio in game 1, the Denver Nuggets fell back to earth in game 2, and watched as the Spurs wrested control of the series. The Nugz battled evenly on most front but--surprise--were held to 38% shooting. I wonder why?
Denver acquired Allen Iverson thinking that pairing him with a rising Carmelo Anthony would make them one of the league's most dangerous teams. On paper, this would seem to be true: 2 of the league's top 5 scorers; 2 guys who can get their shot at any time; 2 all-world competitors.
What did Denver forget? How about that neither of these guys plays defense. What about shot selection? Iverson is a career 40% shooter while Melo shoots a ho-hum 45%. What about character? Both of these guys have each had one year of team success in their careers: Melo's came when he was still living the life at 'Cuse, and Iverson's Sixers took the East in one of its worst years in history.
I cringe when people say that either of these guys is a winner. Yes the have won, but winner implies consistent winning. Even on a team with dominant defensive center Marcus Camby, and a host of big and athletic bodies to throw around, Denver doesn't get it done. Will they in the future?
I remain skeptical. An AI/JR Smith backcourt scares me, and not in a scary-good way. Melo has all the tools to be one of the best in the game, but where's the leadership, the desire, and the defensive close-outs that get your team past the 1st round of the playoffs? And what is George Karl thinking telling him to jack it up as much as he does? Is he trying to catch lightning in a bottle? Against this year's West, that's laughable.
If the Nugs are going to ever win with this bunch, they are going to have to convince AI to become a pass-first point guard, which he has struggled with in the past. The team proffesses a love of the running game, but lacks the engine a la Steve Nash or Chris Paul. Did the AI trade really make them any better? Maybe more of a threat, yes, but a really better team--no. They didn't address any of their weaknesses.
The Nuggets would have been better off missing the playoffs and getting Mike Conley in the draft. He's almost as quick as AI, and is a true PG.
The Nuggets' problems run deeper: a bloated payroll, injury-prone talent, and a coach who for all he's done, has never won the big one, and has left a mess in the wake of every team he's coached.