But if the Clippers think they're going to beat teams from twenty feet, then they've been hotboxing with Zach Randolph. For the second straight night, the Clipper shot chart was a mess.
Points in the paint: Denver 42, Clippers 28.
Rebounds: Denver 56, Clippers 38
Offensive Rebounds: Denver 13, Clippers 5
I'm not sure the Clippers ran more than three coherent sets all night. The fact that they couldn't close out the game after 'Melo was ejected at 8:22 in the third quarter was an embarrassment.
The Good News: Tim Thomas was lethal down the stretch, finding open shots on the wing when the Nuggets overloaded the strong side. I get the feeling that 41 nights this season, we're going to worship TT; the other 41 games, we're going to despise the dude. But for all the crap I spewed last night about his doing nothing else on the floor, his screen on Miller on the perimeter at 2:10 was the most fundamentally sound battery 'n' assault we've seen since Andre the Giant slammed Big John Studd in that crazy cage match back in the day. With Miller down, Thomas set up shop at his favorite spot and cut a four-point Denver lead down to one.
Thomas is extremely effective when he does one of two things: that PHX-style high drag screen, and setting up at that wing spot on the perimeter when the offense in spread. At times in the first three quarters, TT was too involved in the offense. He's a role player, not the focal point, and certainly not a penetrator - something he went to twice unsuccessfully.
And Sam Cassell was Sam Cassell: (13-24) FG, (2-4) 3PFG, (7-7) FT, 35 Points, a line that was almost spoiled by the turnover at (0:19, 4th) with the Clippers up one. Sam's craftiness is one of his great assets, but on a final possession when Denver was going to foul anyway, why be cute?
At times, George Karl doubled Elton off the ball when EB dropped down to the low post. In one-on-one coverage, Camby absolutely smothered Elton. Killed him with his length. There isn't a better defensive center in basketball than a healthy Camby (yes, this includes Ben Wallace), and when K-Mart is healthy, Karl has the flexibility to use either guy against the 4 or 5 respectively. With the exception of Chicago and perhaps San Antonio or Utah, the Nugs have the best interior defense in the league. Elton ended the night 4-9 and Kaman 3-8. Neither got to the free throw line. When Camby wasn't blanketing the Clips' bigs, he was smooching the glass - 18 rebounds in 37+ minutes. On the offensive end, Camby and his set shot were unstoppable: 6-10, 4-4 for 18 points, four of the six from 18 feet and beyond.
He doesn't have many options when Kaman is not on the floor, but Dunleavy's decision to put Elton and Tim Thomas at C and PF once again backfired. At 2:48 in the 2nd quarter, Dunleavy fielded a unit of Brand-TT-Maggette-Mobley-Cassell. Denver proceeded to run off a streak where they went 3-5 from the field (and got unlucky with a Linas Kleiza missed chippy), along with two easy trips to the line after driving into the lane at will. The Nugs were able to cut a seven-point lead down to one. To close the third, Dunleavy again went to the small lineup, and again the Nugs tallied a +6 over the 4:09, not to mention that the Clips chalked up three turnovers. Where's Zeke Rebraca when you need him?
The best we can say about Shaun's game is that he recorded three blocks and two steals in fourteen minutes. On the other end, his offensive game was a disaster: 0-3, 0-2, with four turnovers. Let's take a look at each of the TOs:
- [5:45, 1st] After picking J.R. Smith's pocket on the other end, Shaun got out on the break, weaving his way down the middle of the court. He had Thomas and Mobley situated perfectly on either wing. Shaun tried to deliver a no-look past to Thomas, but skipped it behind TT. An easy break unconverted.
- [4:26, 1st] Not three possessions later, Shaun dished it off EB up top and around to Mobley. Mobley threw an errant entry pass to TT who cut behind a nice Kaman screen. Fortunately, the Clips got the ball back and reset, but before he can move the ball ahead, Shaun had the ball stolen away from Andre Miller. An easy two for the Nugs.
- [3:41, 1st] Two possessions later, coming out of a timeout, set a moving screen on Camby in the key.
- [2:55, 1st] Another two possessions later, Livingston posted up Earl Boykins, but hung out in the lane too long awaiting the entry pass.
Shaun managed to offer some help on D, but for the second straight night he looked disoriented on the offensive end. This has to be a cause for concern. The days of offering on-the-job training to an emerging player are over. When you're trying to win 50 games, you don't have that luxury...