Defense the top priority for Nuggets

Denver has given up more than 110 points per game since Jan. 10
by Aaron Lopez

Throughout the season, the Denver Nuggets have employed various defensive strategies.

They’ve "blitzed" the pick-and-roll. They’ve “wolf-ed” the pick-and-roll. They've had big men "hedge." They've had big men "drop."

They’ve had guards chase over the top of the screen and slide underneath the screen. They've switched everything 1-through-4 and everything 1-through-5.

Sound complicated? It has been at times.

"In all fairness to them, it can get very confusing," coach Brian Shaw said after practice Tuesday. "The last few games we’ve witnessed how confusing it can be, especially with a couple new guys who are trying to figure things out.”

The Nuggets surrendered a season-high 132 points in Monday night's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Over the past 23 games, they have allowed at least 100 points 21 times, with opponents averaging 110.8 points during that span.

The players welcomed the idea of simplifying the process; they spent Tuesday reviewing film and working primarily on defense during practice.

“Every time you come to the huddle, it’s a different defensive scheme,” point guard Ty Lawson said. “One (person)’s showing, one’s dropping. It’s tough. There are a lot of defensive concepts. To simplify it would make it a lot better.”

The Nuggets will put their adjustments to the test Wednesday when they face the Dallas Mavericks at Pepsi Center. Dallas is eighth in the league in scoring, averaging 104.4 points per game.

The Mavs are also the third-best free-throw shooting team in the league, which will increase the importance of Denver defending without fouling.

The Timberwolves set franchise records Monday night by converting 52 of 64 free throws. The 64 attempts fell two short of the 66 that the Utah Jazz shot against Denver on Dec. 23, 1983.

"I expect to see significant progress because we’ve eliminated a lot of the doubt," Shaw said. "Today was a really really good practice. It was intense. They really got after each other. There was a focus there that hadn’t been there in a while."