Denver Nuggets Display Weaknesses in Loss to New Orleans Hornets

S. DixonContributor IIIMarch 26, 2013

Denver Nuggets Display Weaknesses in Loss to New Orleans Hornets

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    The Denver Nuggets were on a 15-game winning streak headed into Monday night’s contest in New Orleans. Most expected Denver to make that streak another game larger against a team that still sits more than 20 games below .500. It was more likely for Denver to lose their first game in over a month to a playoff contender like San Antonio or Houston.

    However, the Hornets surprisingly beat down the Nuggets in the first half, which allowed them to secure a 110-86 win, New Orleans’ 25th win of the season.

    The Nuggets lost to an inferior team Monday night because they were not able to overcome their main flaws. These flaws could potentially cause bigger problems during the postseason. Poor defense and an opponent that dictates pace could be the downfall of one of the league’s most fun and under-the-radar squads.

    However, Monday nights’ performance could simply be a wake-up call for a team that plans to contend for a Western Conference title.

Inconsistency on Defense

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    The Nuggets tend to lack consistency on defense. So far this season, they have given up 101 points per game. That ranks 24th in the NBA. During their 15-game winning streak, they gave up 98.9 points per game.

    That is not a drastic improvement, but two or three points frequently decide close games in the NBA.

    Tonight’s game in New Orleans featured a subpar effort from Denver’s defense. The Nuggets allowed the Hornets to drop 110 points. Fifty-nine of those points came in the first half.

    It would be a different story if a team like the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder put up that amount of scoring. Those teams rank among the top scoring teams in the league, along with Denver. However, the Nuggets allowed the Hornets, one of the league’s worst offensive attacks, to put up 110 on Monday.

    With or without Ty Lawson, the inconsistency on the defensive side of the ball could be an Achilles’ heel when Denver gets to the postseason. Especially in a Western Conference that features some of the league's most potent attacks.

Slowing Down the Pace

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    Denver wins when it is able to run the floor and come away with efficient trips on the offensive end. One way to stop that is slowing down the pace of the game. Tonight, the Nuggets only came away with 12 fast break points. That is nearly eight points off their usual pace of 19.6, per Team Rankings. 

    The slowed-down pace the Hornets utilized tonight also forced the Nuggets into fewer shot attempts and more half-court situations. More half-court situations led to a 38 percent field-goal percentage, which is well under their average of 48 percent.

    Denver had an off night from the field, and that is understandable with the third straight absence of their offensive facilitator, Ty Lawson. However, this team is built on their ability to run the floor and consistently find good shots. When the Nuggets were forced out of their offensive comfort zone, the result was not pretty.

    If a Western Conference team can execute an efficient half-court attack, that could spell trouble for the Nuggets. Luckily, every playoff team in the Western Conference outside of the Memphis Grizzlies likes to play up-tempo basketball.

Heading Towards the Playoffs

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    Fans and media should not panic over the Nuggets' abysmal performance Monday in New Orleans. Every NBA team has an off night where an opponent had everything going for them. The Nuggets could beat the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday evening and tonight’s loss would seem like a blip on the radar.

    However, the Nuggets’ flaws displayed tonight cannot be ignored. They are way too inconsistent on defense and rely too heavily on their offensive firepower. If games do not go according to plan this postseason, a Finals run seems unlikely.