Denver Nuggets: Recent lack of defense hurting playoff chances

Denver Nuggets defense nonexistent of late

The Denver Nuggets don’t have too much trouble scoring.  The problem this team faces, especially of late, is their opponents aren’t having much troubling scoring either. One game  from reaching the halfway point in the season the Nuggets are ranked 24th in the NBA with 102.8 points allowed per game.  On their current 1-3 slide with losses to Utah, Cleveland, and Phoenix (following a five-game win streak), the Nuggets are averaging an alarming 117 points allowed per game. A gutsy win against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland is the only solace in what has been a defensive collapse by the Nuggets.

So what’s the deal?

Ty Lawson blamed it on pride, according to the Denver Post. Head coach Brian Shaw said the Nuggets are “giving teams whatever they want.” 


Former University of Colorado star Alec Burks went off for a career-high 34 points against the Nuggets in a 118-103 victory on Jan. 13. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

The Denver Post further reported that in the slide opponents have shot 49.1 percent (average 44.5 percent)  from the field and 37 percent (average 33.7 percent) from beyond the arc. Additionally, the Nuggets have ramped up the other team’s free throw attempts to 31 (average 25.1).  Basically, the Nuggets can’t guard the paint nor the perimeter and are fouling way too much. These numbers may be serve as an outlier as the season progresses, but this slump is steering the Nuggets in a direction towards mediocrity and back at 20-20 record, which ties the Nuggets in ninth place in the Western Conference and three games behind Phoenix for the last playoff seed.

All this comes after a three game stretch where the Nuggets allowed only 93.3 points per game.

Granted, the average points against statistic is not indicative of a successful team. The 31-11 Portland Trail Blazers, for example, have a tendency let teams score pile on points with an average of 103.5 points against, which ranks 27th in the NBA.   Take a look back to the 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns team that had the NBA best 62-20 record, you’ll find that the Suns allowed 103.3 points per game. Point being, the Nuggets are clearly not a strong defensive team but can score enough points (103.3 average points per game, 11th in the NBA) to accomplish the ultimate goal of sliding into the postseason. But consistently averaging 117 points per game won’t win you many game, and certainly doesn’t give you a shot at the playoffs.

Big test awaits

Next up on the schedule for the defensively challenged Nuggets? The Portland Trail Blazers, the best offensive team in the NBA with an average of 109.3 points per game. The Nuggets are headed to Portland Thursday, and a win would be a huge lift coming off a lopsided 117-103 loss to the Suns.  If Portland plays a preferred pace, the game will be high scoring with limited defense.  After three days off to talk things over, Shaw hopes to see a stingy defensive effort from his team.

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