Another fantastic day full of important games in the NBA today with major playoff implications. The Lakers moved one step closer to clinching the top seed in the west, but the most intriguing game was between the Rockets and the Nuggets. The Rockets looked to try to stay with the Lakers for top spot while the Nuggets try to secure the 8th and final playoff spot.

The Nuggets win over the Rockets was really a great game. In my opinion, the Nuggets are a nightmare matchup for any team to face in the playoffs due to their active hands. Did you know that the Nuggets rank as the top team in the NBA for steals at just over 9.2 per game? They had 10 tonight and they were a major reason why the Nuggets won the game. Here are 3 sequences from the first half showing their active hands,

I've watched a few Nuggets games over the season and I was surprised that they didn't play much of their matchup zone at all today. I think the zone suits them really well because Carmelo Anthony ran it while at Syracuse where they won the National Championship.

In any case, not only do they have active hands getting into those passing lanes, they do a great job rotating as witnessed in that last sequence from the clip. In the NBA, defensive rotation is so critical. Not so much in high school or even college because at the lower levels, there are usually only a few bonafide shooters that you must closeout, in the NBA, everyone can shoot.

Defensive Rotations:

As I mentioned, doesn't matter what kind of defense you run, in the NBA, you must rotate. What happens is Iverson helps on the dribble penetration by McGrady off the PNR,

The help defense on the penetration causes a ripple effect where the rest of the Nuggets have to rotate to the ball as it gets reversed,

Eventually, they are able to recover fully 1v1 and block the Rockets shot leading to the fast break score. As you can tell, tough defense is a lot of hard work. That's why sometimes it's easy to get lazy, as the Nuggets tend to do on occasion.

Their ability to force turnovers is what creates so many easy offensive opportunities. The Nuggets are just like the Memphis Tigers of the NCAA, their defense is their best offense. When the Nuggets are getting steals, they're scoring a bunch of points. Good defense leading to great offense, I love it.


The win by the Nuggets all but seals the fate for the Warriors. Unfortunately for them, they will become the first 50-win team in NBA history to not make the playoffs (at least that's what I read). If the Nuggets play defense like this every game, I can see them beating all the top teams.

This video just hit the shelves. It's from one of the top defensive minds in division 1 basketball. Check out Chris Lowery's brand new DVD on transition and halfcourt defense. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.