Tag:Danilo Gallinari
Posted on: October 27, 2011 1:49 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Kim Kardashian wanted Danilo Gallinari first?

Posted by Royce Young

Brace yourself, for I bring very important NBA news.

Before Kim Kardashian hooked up with Kris Humphries, she actually was interested in another basketball player. The Italian Stallion, Danilo Gallinari. According to the celebrity gossip site Wetpaint.com, Kardashian just wanted a basketball player, no matter how she could get it.
A source tells Wetpaint Entertainment that last fall, a representative of E!, the network that airs the many Kardashian reality shows, approached the New York Knicks to find out if Danilo Gallinari, the studly Italian who was then a forward on the team, would be interested in dating Kim. According to our source, both E! and Kim were interested in having her date a big New York athlete for the debut season of Kourtney & Kim Take New York, and the Knicks were their first choice.

(The show, which first aired in January 2011, begins its second season next month.) Gallinari — then 22 to Kim’s 30 — was told that such a move would be good for his career and that he would garner lots of media exposure. Gallinari declined, saying he would be happy to meet Kim but wasn't interested in dating or being a reality-show star
An arranged romance? Just like reality TV! How fitting!

Gallinari of course was traded away to Denver at mid-season in the Carmelo Anthony trade, so the producers wouldn't have gotten their New York romance after all. But since Gallinari didn't work out, it was on to Humphries. Was that set up? Yes, but by Jordan Farmar, supposedly.

"I introduced them in New York and they have come a long way since," Farmar told Us Weekly. "They both fit each other. He is a good kid. He is from the country ... So he kind of slows it down, and she is fast paced and has a lot of stuff going on, so they kind of balance each other out."

So there you go. And this concludes your Very Important NBA News Post.
Posted on: September 15, 2011 3:44 pm
 

Gallinari in serious talks with Italian club?

Posted by Royce Young

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport as well as Sportando via HoopsHype, Danilo Gallinari is in "serious talks" with Italian club Olimpia Milano. The hangup? Getting Gallinari's Denver contract insured.

As of a few weeks ago, Gallinari and his family refuted reports that he was in negotiations with the team.

He said, "I am not having any (contract) talk with them. I want to think just to the National Team without any distraction. I will think about my future after Eurobasket in Lithuania."

Well, Italy has been eliminated and so I guess he can start thinking about it. Or he is. Whatever.

Unlike the other two Nuggets that signed to play in China -- Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith -- Gallinari isn't a free agent. He's under contract with the team through this season and is a restricted free agent in 2012. So any deal he might sign would require an NBA opt-out clause, which I'm sure wouldn't be a problem.

The insurance is though. Much like it was with Andrew Bogut, to insure an NBA contract a team needs something like $500,000 which would most likely require a sponsor or donor to step up and provide it.
Posted on: August 5, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2011 1:14 am
 

The EOB Elite 100, 71-80: Young and old alike

Posted by Ben Golliver

grant-hill-old

This is the third segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81

If you can play the game of basketball, the NBA will find a place for you, and this segment of CBSSports.com’s Elite 100 underscores that point in fine fashion.

This might blow your mind: Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, ranked No. 77, was born in 1990, just weeks before Phoenix Suns wing Grant Hill showed up on campus for fall semester as a freshman at Duke University. By the time Cousins was in kindergarten, Hill had won two titles as a Blue Devil and was a highly-touted pro prospect, drafted No. 3 overall in 1994. As Cousins finished up elementary school and entered junior high, Hill looked like another talented NBA player robbed of reaching his potential due to injuries. By the time Cousins emerged on the national scene as a highly-ranked high school prospect, Hill was finding rejuvenation in the desert, extending his career and re-inventing his game as a member of the Phoenix Suns. A month or so before Cousins was drafted with the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Hill was a key piece on a Suns team that made the Western Conference Finals.

As of last season, Cousins was the sixth-youngest player in the NBA at 20 years of age; Hill became the second oldest, one day younger than Chicago Bulls forward Kurt Thomas, after Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal retired earlier this summer.  

The two players contrast in so many ways. Hill graduated from Duke; Cousins went one-and-done at Kentucky. Hill has won sportsmanship awards; Cousins required a babysitter with the Kings and was suspended for fighting with a teammate. Hill hangs with United States President Barack Obama; Cousins has palled around with rapper Drake. Hill no longer has the explosive athleticism that was his calling card but has mastered every last veteran trick; Cousins possesses an incredibly rare combination of size, strength and quickness but has yet to harness his full potential.

Despite those differences both players have found their way to the NBA and to this list. Let’s take a look at who accompanies them here.

80. Grant Hill, F, age 38, Phoenix Suns

2011 Stats: 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, .8 steals, 48.4 FG%, 14.8 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 78, 73, 87 

The only modern equivalent for Grant Hill’s agelessness is Halle Berry. About to turn 39, Hill has missed just three regular season games in the last three seasons, a remarkable achievement considering he played just 47 combined games from 2000-2002. Hill never achieved his full potential as a player because of injuries, but his legacy won’t be stained because of that. His resolve, resourcefulness and consistency have made him a model teammate and league ambassador for as long as anyone can remember.

Hill still contributes in a variety of ways: scoring fairly efficiently, defending multiple positions and chipping in on the glass. His game is mostly floor-bound these days but that fact makes him potentially productive into his 40s.

79. Tyrus Thomas, F, age 24, Charlotte Bobcats

2011 Stats: 10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 47.1 FG%, 18.25 PER

Composite rankings (random order):  95, 82, 61

Thomas is a bit of a forgotten man. That can be said for anyone that plays for the Bobcats but is doubly true in his case because he missed a fairly long stretch of last season with a knee injury.

A one-time high lottery pick, Thomas is a guy who is perpetually trying to figure it out. That fact didn’t stop the Bobcats from committing big dollars after acquiring him in a trade from Chicago and it hasn’t stopped him from being an excellent contributor on defense, where he blocks shots with abandon and uses his length to its full advantage. The Bobcats have cleared the decks for next season so Thomas should have every possibility to earn minutes and touches. Remarkably, he’s still just 24 and his best days are certainly ahead of him.  

78. Roy Hibbert, C, age 24, Indiana Pacers

2011 Stats: 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 46.1 FG%, 15.96 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 92, 91, 52

Hibbert is one of the last of a dying breed: A true back-to-the-basket center whose hulking frame and stiff game would probably have been a better fit in the 1990s. As is, he’s a solid, productive player who does what’s expected for a guy his size: rebounds, blocks shots and finishes plays around the rim.

Last season, Hibbert’s third, wasn’t all smooth sailing. He struggled with his shooting and confidence, and performed much better after Jim O’Brien was replaced as head coach by Frank Vogel. His lack of lateral quickness will likely remain an issue for the rest of his career. It’s unlikely Hibbert will ever develop into a star but he’s an excellent cog for a young, developing team like Indiana.

77. DeMarcus Cousins, F, age 20, Sacramento Kings

2011 Stats: 14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, .8 blocks, 43.0 FG%, 14.62 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 84, 76, 72

Cousins was a top-10 knucklehead last year. He was benched for making a choke sign at an opponent during a free throw attempt. He was thrown off the team plane for fighting with a teammate. He was kicked out of practice. He was fined for undisclosed reasons. He was ejected from a game for shoving Martell Webster during a fracas. The list goes on and on.

There were two bigger concerns than all of that immaturity: turnovers and efficiency. Cousins committed 3.3 turnovers in just 28.5 minutes per game and shot just 43% from the field. It’s not unusual for young big men to deal with those issues, though, and improvement in both categories going forward is a virtual certainty, as Cousins learns how to adjust to the NBA game, NBA officials and figures out how to best use his huge frame and excellent instincts around the basket. Despite his many flaws, Cousins’ size and skill give him a chance to be a top-25 NBA player far more quickly than you might expect. The talent and potential are there, lurking beneath the surface.

76. DeMar DeRozan, F, age 21, Toronto Raptors

2011 Stats: 17.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 46.7 FG%, 14.52 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 80, 49, unranked

We’re supposed to keep the rankings anonymous but in this case I feel compelled to confess: I did not rank DeRozan in the top-100 nor do I think he belongs here. He was an inefficient scorer with no range playing on a terrible team last season, one of the least valuable things you can be.

Still, his presence on this list speaks to his upward career trajectory. DeRozan used his ridiculous leaping and finishing abilities to double his scoring average from his rookie year last season, putting up 17.2 points per game. He also boasts the physical tools – size, length, quickness – to be a plus-defender. He’s really held back by his lack of three-point range, though, and he will continue to be an incomplete offensive player until his spot-up shooting is at least passable. His highlight reel capability, solid personality and pure marketability make him a bright spot on a roster that needs them. His hard-working, positive approach on a day-in and day-out basis make him especially intriguing to watch develop over the next 3-5 years.

75. Shawn Marion, F, age 33, Dallas Mavericks

2011 Stats: 12.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, .9 steals, 52.0 FG%, 17.09 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 67, unranked, 58

2011 was such a dream season for Marion that he will forgive us for vastly underrating him on this list. A do-everything forward long known best for his unorthodox and downright hideous jumper, Marion was a crucial piece to the Mavericks championship puzzle.

Marion was big on both ends, using excellent shot selection and an underrated post game to get his points, while rebounding at a solid clip for his position. He shined brightest defensively as he was part of a corps of Mavericks defenders that limited some of the league’s elite scorers during the posteason: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, to name a few. His unwavering confidence was crucial, too, especially when the Mavericks fell behind the Heat in the Finals. He never gave up and neither did Dallas.

74. Anderson Varejao, F, Age 28, Cleveland Cavaliers

2011 Stats: 9.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 52.8 FG%, 15.21 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 76, 56, 92

Varejao became a permanent starting player for the first time in his career after LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal departed during the summer of 2010. He rose to the challenge nicely, posting career highs in points, rebounds and blocks until a foot injury prematurely ended his season.

Best known as an energy guy, Varejao has double-double potential now that he’s in his prime age years and playing on a roster that needs every ounce of production that he can provide. Just about everyone would like to see him traded to a contender so his hustle, defense and heady play can impact postseason games. The Cavaliers, to their credit, realize the asset they have and seem to be hoping he can help lead their rebuild.

73. Danilo Gallinari, F, Age 22, Denver Nuggets

2011 Stats: 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, .8 steals, 41.4 FG%, 15.71 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 99, 37, 86

The young Italian was a key piece in the package that landed All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony in New York. He’s a long, silky perimeter player with shot-making ability and a desire to deliver in the clutch. Given his height, 6-foot-10, his rebounding contributions are not overwhelming and he’ll need to continue improving to approach his ceiling as a player.

Gallinari is tantalizing, more than anything, given the fluidity of his play at his size. There are plenty of questions to be answered in Denver – especially concerning the future of Nene and J.R. Smith – but Gallinari’s youth provides hope should there be widespread defections in free agency. He won’t ever replace Anthony but he won’t cost nearly as much, won’t demand as many shots and he is unlikely to hijack the franchise for the foreseeable future. That package is worth something, for sure.

72. Devin Harris, G, Age 28, Utah Jazz

2011 Stats: 15.2 points, 7.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 42.2 FG%, 17.22 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 66, 69, 86

A big guard with a solid skillset, Harris needs to shake the “loser” label and questions about his durability that developed during his time in New Jersey. He was perceived as the best player on a 12-win team and that’s never, ever a good thing for a player’s legacy and reputation.

Still, Harris gets a fresh start in Utah, as he was traded to the Jazz in the deal that sent All-Star guard Deron Williams to the Nets. Utah is clearly in a rebuilding, find-itself phase now that Williams is gone and it’s no guarantee that Harris, who is theoretically entering his prime, is necessarily their point guard of the future. We will learn a lot about Harris in 2011-2012.

71. Jameer Nelson, G, Age 29, Orlando Magic

2011 Stats: 13.1 points, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 44.6%, 15.47 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 72, 82, 66

Nelson has a lot going for himself. He’s tough, scrappy, productive, has three-point range and is on a reasonable contract. Nelson can beat his man off the dribble for the drive-and-kick or stretch the defense as a knock-down shooter. He isn’t a star, though, and that’s what Orlando needed last year. Indeed, a second star is what they need next year too if center Dwight Howard is to remain in town.

Nelson's turnovers and his lack of size and elite athleticism prevent him from really serving as a game-changer offensively and occasionally make him a liability defensively. Right now, Nelson falls into the fairly wide category of “too talented to dump, not good enough to get real value in return.”

Posted on: July 6, 2011 11:46 am
Edited on: July 6, 2011 5:00 pm
 

Gallinari might look at Europe?

Posted by Royce Young

Another day, another NBA player maybe, sort of, kind of thinking about playing in Europe. Danilo Gallinari told Sportando that he "couldn't rule out" at least a short run in Europe.

Of course Gallinari is from Italy and spent the early part of his professional career playing in Europe.

But like any other NBA player currently under contract, Gallinari can't just pack up and sign with a European club. FIBA has yet to clear anyone under contract in the NBA and would be risking his contract with the Nuggets if he were injured.

He's just saying he has it on his mind, especially if games are going to be lost.

Gallinari though is a bigger name that's mentioned possibly playing in Europe. And really, it's one of the best bargaining chips the players have. They'd have to first get clearance to play, but I'm sure NBA owners aren't excited about watching players hustle overseas to get paid and also risk injury. Something to maybe rush along the proceedings?

One can only hope.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 3:11 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 1:55 pm
 

So, what got into Russell Westbrook?

Posted by Royce Young



There were a lot of stories to come out of Monday night's 104-101 Denver win over Oklahoma City. The fact the Thunder didn't close the series. The fact the Nuggets snapped a five-game losing streak to OKC. The fact Denver finally found some of that scary scoring balance again.

But the angle that has a lot of people talking? Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder's All-Star point guard scored 30 points, had five assists and six rebounds against Denver Monday. If you changed his name to Derrick Rose, everyone would promptly freak out. The catch here is two-fold: Westbrook took 30 shots and he also has this dude named Kevin Durant on his team.

Two plays stick out to a lot of people from Monday's game. With 30 seconds left and OKC trailing 98-96, Westbrook wasn't able to get the ball to Durant on the wing so with the shot clock winding down, Westbrook fired a 3. It rimmed out. Then with the Thunder down 101-98 and needing a 3 to tie with 10 seconds left, Westbrook took the ball on his own and airballed a 3-pointer with six seconds left as Durant stood waiting by the arc.

Curious, indeed.

Westbrook was 12-30 from the field while Durant was 8-18. Russell Westbrook took 12 more shots than the two-time scoring champion.

Curious, indeed.

However, having watched Westbrook a lot of this season, I can't bag on him too much for it. That's the player he is. If you want the All-Star Good Russell Westbrook, sometimes you have to live with the do-it-myself Bad Russell Westbrook.

I think a big reason behind Westbrook's ball-hogging was he sensed what I was seeing. The Thunder didn’t look comfortable in their own offensive skin. They were throwing the ball away, taking dumb shots, forcing things and not moving off the ball. So he tried to take over a bit. A lot of the stagnant offense is probably the fault of the point guard, but Westbrook is the new hybrid point like Derrick Rose and Deron Williams. He looks for his own as much as he looks for others.

And it’s difficult for Westbrook to turn it on in spurts. That’s would be the ideal Westbrook. The guy that can sense that moment where his team needs his offensive spark and give it for a few minutes and then turn the game back over to the natural rhythm and flow. But he’s not there yet. He’s just 22 and he’s still figuring all that out.

Thing is, to get Good Russ, sometimes you live with Bad Russ. He’s not a perfect player. He’s still developing. This wasn’t his finest hour but he was trying to win the game. That’s what he had on his mind. Did Durant need a few more touches? Absolutely. Does Westbrook deserve a bit of guff for what went down in Game 4? Definitely. But this isn't something to really get too worked over about. Yeah he took some questionable shots but that's Westbrook. He desperately wants to be the guy taking those shots. He's hit a bunch of big ones for the Thunder this season and I can promise you, every Thunder fan thought his 3 with 30 seconds left was about to drop through the bottom of the net.

In the same ways you can say Westbrook lost Game 4 for the Thunder, he almost won it for them as well. That's life in the Russell Lane. There are things he definitely should've done different. If Scott Brooks could transfer five of those bad Westbrook shots to Durant, the Thunder probably win the game. Can't deny that.

Westbrook is the ultimate "No No No Yes Yes Yes!" player. He takes a bunch of shots that while in flight you're saying are horrible but then you're clapping as it swishes through. And in those big moments, he lives to take big shots. The problem with that is, he has Kevin Durant standing on the wing waiting for the ball as well.

With Westbrook, it's all about accepting what he is. It's like the scene in Band of Brothers when Speirs tells that one guy crying in the foxhole, "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function." Westbrook isn't a "true" point guard. He never will be. The sooner you accept that fact, the sooner you'll be able to appreciate what he is. A darn good basketball player that still has some room to grow.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 2:44 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:00 am
 

Denver steps up and holds OKC off for a night

Posted by Royce Young



Closing, it's hard to do.

That's the lesson for the young Thunder. A lesson they get a day to think about while they get ready for Game 5 in Oklahoma City Wednesday.

Oklahoma City saved its most erratic, incomplete game for Monday night, which of course was the first opportunity to finish off the Nuggets and move on to the next challenge. That sounds like I'm taking something away from the Nuggets, which I don't intend to. But I think we've gotten to the point where it's understood that the Thunder are the better team. On Monday, Denver finally found a bit of a groove and the Thunder lost theirs.

The Nuggets got a bunch of big contributions from Danilo Gallinari, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Ty Lawson -- you know, that formula that worked so well after the Melo trade -- to take down OKC 104-101 and force a Game 5. They talked about not wanting to let OKC dance on their home court Monday night. And they played like it. 

The game was close throughout, and while the Thunder piled up stops, they never took advantage and stretched out to a lead of much more than four or five points. OKC played with fire the entire night, eventually letting the Nuggets turn on the propane with an 11-0 run to end the third and start the fourth quarter. Denver led through the fourth, with the difference swelling to as much as 10 with two minutes left. The Thunder wouldn’t die easily, though, with Kevin Durant dropping a couple 3s, Russell Westbrook scoring on a drive and Serge Ibaka hitting a late jumper. But the hole was too big for the Thunder to climb out of.

Westbrook had a chance to tie with 3.5 seconds left, but his desperation heave didn't fall. And finally, after five tries, the Nuggets beat the Thunder. Once again OKC's defense held Denver in check (the Nuggets shot just 38.6 percent) and the Nuggets struggled at the line. But between taking care of the ball and a couple big shots from Smith and Gallinari, Denver built up a lead in the fourth quarter for the first time in the series.

OKC almost looked like it was taking a win for granted early on. The intensity and razor sharp focus was missing in the first half, and the Thunder missed about 15 opportunities to stretch the game out to double-digits. They were getting the stops they needed, but just couldn't convert. Fifteen turnovers, bad shots and forced offense really ended up doing OKC in.

But again, this was new territory for them. That decisive closing game is the toughest to win because you're playing a desperate opponent. And OKC couldn't make enough plays to get it done. 

The Nuggets did just enough to hang on and get a little of their mojo back. Is it enough to bring the series back to the Rockies? Eh, probably not. But it's at least a start. You can't be the first team to ever come back from 3-0 if you don't win Game 4. That would be step one. And the Nuggets took it Monday.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 4:10 pm
 

Series Reset: A first chance to close for OKC

Posted by Royce Young



The Narrative: Most would agree, the series is over. Now it's just about how it will wrap up. Teams leading 3-0 in a playoff series are 57-37 all-time. Meaning that most end in sweeps, but a decent amount do go 5. After that, the percentages really dip.

So that's where this series stands. Most didn't see it being in this place when it started, or especially after a hotly-contested Game 1 in Oklahoma City. But the Thunder have displayed almost an air of dominance the last two games, completely stifling the Nuggets' high powered offensive attack. Game 3 was close by the end, but if Kendrick Perkins doesn't make a bonehead pass, OKC wins by a comfortable margin.

It's just obvious that this is a horrendous matchup for the Nuggets. Not only do they struggle guarding the Thunder, but offensively, they can't find an edge. Two of their best scorers in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have gone missing in action as OKC's defensive scheme has limited their open looks and chances to drive to the rim.

A series is never over until its over -- the Boston Red Sox taught us that -- but it's a long, long shot for the Nuggets. They're playing for pride tonight. But it's a big moment for the young Thunder. This is their first chance to close a series. That's always a tough game to win. And sometimes that pressure can affect things.

The Hook: Nobody likes to concede a series on their home floor. Nobody likes to get swept. If you don't think there's still a good amount of motivation there for the Nuggets, well, you're wrong. This team already came back with its back to the wall after the Carmelo Anthony deal and proved there's not any quit in them. They're going to come out and fight.

Again, it comes back to if the Thunder can seize the opportunity and close out an opponent in their first crack at it. Winning the decisive game is the toughest one. You're playing a desperate team that's going to pull out every stop to stay alive. And this Thunder group is young and hasn't ever presented itself with this opportunity. The Thunder took control of Game 3 which was the one that swung the series entirely in their favor which was a big step. Closing out is the next, and much more difficult one.

The Adjustment:
The Nuggets just have to figure out a way to score against the Thunder. Thus far, it's been a struggle. OKC has bottled up everything the Nuggets prefer to do offensively and held their head under water. There aren't any open jumpers. No open looks from 3. Nothing easy in the paint. Not a lot of opportunity to run.

Somehow Denver has to find chances for easy points. It's been well documented that the Nuggets don't have a closing, go-to scorer to rely upon. Well, they aren't getting one in the next 10 hours, so they've got to figure something out. It's time to get Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler involved in the offense. It's time to figure out a way to score in the second half. That's on George Karl more than anyone else.

The X-Factor: How about an easy, obvious one? Free throw shooting. You could make a case the Nuggets gave away Games 1 and 3 at the free throw line (15 misses in Game 3). There's really no reason to miss out on those opportunities. As difficult as it is to score on the Thunder, giving away open 15-foot looks with no one guarding you is really inexcusable.

The Sticking Point: I don't get the sense the Nuggets are ready to quit. There are a lot of prideful veterans on that team that are more than ready to put up a fight and make it hard on OKC. But at the same time, it just seems that Denver is entirely overmatched. Not only are the Thunder better, but almost every matchup leans their way. It's been proven over and over again the last five meetings between these teams stretching back into the regular season.

Denver can win this one but it'll happen for two reasons: Either the Nuggets play a perfect game and get big contributions from Gallinari, Chandler and J.R. Smith or the Thunder wilt a bit under the pressure of closing out a series. Otherwise, if everything holds form, the Thunder's walking out of Denver with the series.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 2:18 pm
 

OKC is suffocating the league's top offense

Posted by Royce Young


In just about every way you could measure it, the Nuggets had the league’s best offense this season. They led the league in points per game (107.5) and offensive efficiency (109.5). In terms of eFG% they were second at 52.56 percent. They topped the league also in free throw rate (36.7).

But in the three games versus the Thunder? That offense hasn’t been anything close to what it was.

In the three games thus far, the Nuggets are averaging just 95.3 points per game. Their overall field goal percentage is down almost six percent, their offensive efficiency is just 98.76 and while their free throw attempts have held firm, they’re making way less.

Stop and think about that. The top offense in the entire league is scoring more than 10 points fewer per 100 possessions. In a game where things are getting slowed down to around 90 possessions a game, that means the Nuggets offense is simply being suffocated.

The Thunder reestablished themselves as a good defensive team after the Kendrick Perkins trade but this is just ridiculous. The Nuggets were universally praised for their ball movement and team play after the Carmelo Anthony trade but against OKC in these three games, they just haven’t found any sort of rhythm. Really the best they looked was the opening minutes of Game 1 where they started 7-7 from the field. After that, they’re shooting close to under 40 percent.

What’s been the big deal? Why have the Thunder stifled Denver’s high-powered, balanced attack? I think it’s pretty simple. OKC has done two things: slowed the Nuggets down and let them run their offense.

What do I mean by the second one? I think it’s been a subtle plan by the Thunder to allow the Nuggets to try and run their usual stuff. The Nuggets love to work inside-out and run weakside screens to free up shooters, while also using penetration to score at the rim. The Thunder haven’t necessarily tried to shut that down. The reason being because Oklahoma City knows it can stop what the Nuggets are good at.

Look at the numbers. Denver has attempted 80 shots at the rim in these three games (26.6 per game). By comparison, OKC has taken only 56. Denver has taken 25 shots in the paint (OKC 26). Where Denver isn’t getting shots is in the mid-range where its only taken 64.

So OKC is letting Denver get shots inside, but here’s the interesting part: the Nuggets are shooting just 58 percent at the rim and only 28 percent inside the paint. Absolutely nothing is easy for them right now. Between Serge Ibaka’s giant paw swinging at everything tossed up inside and Kendrick Perkins’ pushing people down everywhere, scoring in the paint is not easy versus the Thunder.

Perkins' foul on Wilson Chandler to start Game 2 said it all. You won’t walk to the rim against us. During the regular season, Denver shot 60 percent at the rim and 38 percent inside the paint. In terms of mid-range, the Nuggets haven’t been that much off their normal numbers. The 3-point line though, is another story. During the series so far, the Nuggets are shooting just 30.9 percent from 3. From the non-corner spots, just 29 percent. And like I said, this is a team that loves its 3-point shot.

What’s been so impressive is how the Thunder have been able to plug the paint and contest everything inside, while also recovering on shooters. That’s the gift of Perk, really. He handles Nene one-on-one and everyone else stays home on their shooter. Look at Ty Lawson. He hit 10-11 from deep in a game the last week of the season. So far this series, he’s only taken four 3-pointers. Danilo Gallinari is just 3-9. Raymond Felton, 2-10. Even with his little streak to end Game 3, J.R. Smith is only 4-13.

Like I said, the Thunder have sort of embraced what the Nuggets do well and just stopped them from doing it well. Scott Brooks saw that the matchups favored his team and instead of trying to outsmart George Karl with some genius adjustment, he just put his guys out there to stop Denver from what it does.

The Thunder’s defense is the reason this series is 3-0. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won Game 1. The defense took 2 and 3 pretty much entirely. I re-watched the fourth quarter from Game 3 and it’s just unbelievable how confused the Nuggets look in trying to run their offense. There is just no open man to be found anywhere. Everything is contested. Everything comes after three or four perimeter passes that lead no where.

OKC held Denver without a point for almost five minutes in Game 3. And quietly on the other end scored a basket here and made a free throw there. The lead suddenly was eight with four minutes to go. That’s what good defense does and that’s the reason people talk about it winning things. And right now, the Thunder’s playing the kind of defense that can win things.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com