2011-12 Game 4: Lakers 92, Denver 89

Obviously there’s a lot to be said about this game, but first and foremost: Gallo. Come on man!!! As I recently texted someone, if you’re a 6-10 athletic deer in the open court and the only thing stopping you from making a game-tying layup with a few seconds left in the fourth quarter is a 6-foot Steve Blake, how do you not drop a thunderous dunk over the guy?!? I know it’s easy to sit back from our couches and criticize professional athletes who do things on a daily basis we could only dream about, but a layup!?! I’m pretty sure most people could manage that. Bottom line is in the NBA you simply have to make your dunks, layups and whatever other “gimmes” are offered up by the opposing team. If you can’t, then you should probably kiss your title-contending hopes goodbye.

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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets at Lakers

Denver Nuggets 89 Final

Box Score | Recap

92 Los Angles Lakers
Ty Lawson 3-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | -13
After a torrid start to the season, Lawson cooled off and struggled to find his rhythm offensively. He made a concerted effort to get others involved finishing with a season high 8 assists. Unfortunately Lawson had four turnovers, missed 2 big free-throws and failed to get anything going in the half-court. It behooves him to be a little more selfish and stay aggressive as that often creates better openings for his teammates than simply passing to them.
Arron Afflalo 26 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-5 3PT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -9
Afflalo has not been a key factor in any of Denver’s games and continues to struggle finding a role. Despite that, this is the best he has played all season and we finally saw his familiar defensive presence show up in a meaningful way. The Nuggets defended much better than they have in their first 3 games and Afflalo’s solid effort on Kobe helped set the tone. Offensively, Arron still looks hesitant and isn’t shooting the ball with confidence.
Danilo Gallinari 3-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -5
Is this guy having a bad week or what? Considered by many to be Denver’s best offensive talent primed for a breakout season, Gallinari has flopped. He continues to shoot horrible jumpers and refuses to get to the free throw line. The Nuggets need Gallinari to play better to have any hope of contending, and there is no choice but to let him keep shooting. The shooting slump is not what bothers me though – it’s his timid attitude and awful decision making down the stretch. Gallo only avoids a grade of ‘F’ for some solid pick and roll defense on Kobe Bryant. There simply was no excuse to miss that layup.
Nene Hilario 5-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 8 REB | 0 BLK | 13 PTS | -11
Is playing at Power Forward finally unleashing the full power of Nene’s game? In a word – no. From what I’ve seen in four games, the Nuggets are worse with Nene at Power Forward. Mainly because he hasn’t had success scoring outside of a small lineup where he plays Center. Nene finished with his career averages, about 13 and 8. He also missed a dunk that would have extended the Nuggets lead late and wasn’t a factor down the stretch.
Timofey Mozgov 26 MIN | 4-7 FG | 10 REB | 4 BLK | 8 PTS | +3
Mozgov is agile for a big man, moves his feet well has decent enough hands to handle precision passes under the rim. Him and Al Harrington were the most reliable Nuggets bigs in terms of hedging on pick and rolls and keeping L.A. out of the middle. Mozgov also grabbed a team high 10 boards and was the only starter to finish with a positive plus/minus. Although he couldn’t keep Bynum from getting good position down low, Timo is developing just fine in the starting lineup.
Al Harrington 8-17 FG | 3-8 3PT | 3 REB | 21 PTS | +5
Can we just admit it now – Al Harrington is the second best player on the Nuggets roster through 4 games. He made big shots when Denver needed it and is consistently giving all-out effort on defense. Harrington has a lot of shortcomings as a defender and rebounder, and grabbing only 3 boards while playing at Power Forward all game is a little disappointing. That’s not really what Harrington does though, and there’s no denying his offense carried the Nuggets in a game they were in a fantastic position to win

Five Things We Saw

  1. This is by far the most complete defensive performance of the young season. The Nuggets have had trouble rotating to shooters off double teams and fortunately no team except the Blazers made them pay. The Nuggets locked down on perimeter defense today and in the second half, played better Pick and Roll defense than we’ve seen in years. The bigs did a great job hedging, making Kobe pick up his dribble and denying him the middle of the floor. The Lakers were forced to go through Bynum and Pau for offense and unfortunately for Denver, both of them were on and they delivered.
  2. Andrew Bynum is a force down low. His return changes the whole complexion of the L.A. Lakers from a purely perimeter team to an inside-out contender. Bynum did a solid job running the floor and getting deep post position where the Lakers guards consistently got him the ball.
  3. On offense, the Nuggets didn’t attack Bynum on the pick and roll outside of a single possession where Lawson fed Nene for a thunderous dunk ending with an and-one (Nene predictably missed the free throw, then fouled Bynum on the other end). I am not sure why they didn’t do this more or attack the Laker’s point guards one-on-one in order to draw Bynum out of the paint. Bynum was free to roam the middle on defense and he finished with only 2 fouls and 2 emphatic blocks.
  4. To expand on the last bullet, the Nuggets’ half court execution is deplorable. They simply don’t create good looks a half court offense, and I’m not sure it would have mattered because nobody wanted to shoot. Watching a top flight playoff outfit like the Lakers run set plays, there’s no comparison to the Nuggets fumbling and bumbling their way into long jumpers. They aren’t built to win games in a slow, deliberate style and as I pointed out earlier it is a huge red flag. Making their shots would help, but it doesn’t change the fact Denver has extremely limited options for constructing shot opportunities late in games.
  5. Birdman played 5 minutes and committed three personal fouls. Personally, I thought Bird looked a little better than he has in the past and seemed to making an effort to stay on his feet and hold his ground down low. I said in the Blazers recap I did not think Bird was paying attention and fully engaged on defense. He seemed to be giving better effort but it didn’t result in the coaches showing anymore confidence in his game. Birdman can’t really jump anymore and isn’t a reliable source of blocks and weak side help. I do believe the coaching staff is evaluating bringing him in as the first big off the bench and my guess is rotation changes are definitely in play.

Lakers preview with ESPNLA’s Brian Kamenetzky

Sitting at a comfortable 2-1 record coming out of the gate, the Denver Nuggets is about to face its toughest test of the season with back-to-back bouts against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday and Sunday. To better prepare for this all-too familiar foe, ESPNLA’s Brian Kamenetzky graciously offered up his insight on this year’s Lakers team in exchange for Roundball’s take on the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets. Be sure and check in with ESPNLA’s Land O’ Lakers blog tomorrow for our analysis on the Nuggets upcoming back-to-back series against the Lakers, but before you do, first read world-class journalist, Brian Kamenetzky’s exclusive interview with Roundball Mining Company regarding his thoughts on the current Lakers squad and its chances of contending for a title this season.
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2011-12 Game 3: Denver Nuggets 102 Portland Trailblazers 111

Box Score | Highlights

The Nuggets played the first of what will undoubtedly be many ugly games in Portland tonight. It was a messy affair from the start, dominated by fouls, turnovers and questionable shot selection. Ultimately the game came down to a 2-minute stretch in which the tougher, more composed Blazers held it together and came out on top.

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2011-12 Game 2: Denver Nuggets 117, Utah 100

For the second straight game the Denver Nuggets handily defeated its opponent by at least 17 points. Spearheaded by stingy defense and a flurry of steals, the Nuggets continuously got out on the break and never let up. One wave after another eventually collapsed the opposing players and ultimately left the Jazz feeling “kind of blue.” (more…)

Nuggets vs. Jazz

After trouncing the defending world champion Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the 2011-12 campaign, the Nuggets will look to capitalize on a young Utah team coming off a late-night loss against the Lakers on Tuesday. Though both teams have an above average amount of depth that will be on clear display throughout the evening, the Nuggets simply have more talent intertwined within its roster than the Jazz. Being that tonight is the home opener for the Nuggets, look for the boys in blue and yella to come out firing on all cylinders. Also, be sure and keep an eye on the front-court battle between Nene, Mozgov and Birdman versus Favors, Kanter, Jefferson and Milsap. Last night against the Lakers all four of the Jazz’s big men received ample playing time with the rookie and No. 3 overall pick, Enes Kanter, logging over 20 minutes of action. Should the young, 6-11 Turk receive roughly that same amount of playing time tonight, it would be wise for our bigs to exploit this opportunity and take advantage of Kanter’s inexperience. Please post your in-game comments, thoughts, observations and whatever else is on your mind here.

The Mozgov mirage

Although only one game has been played so far this season and no conclusions of any kind have been drawn, it’s hard not to be skeptical about the legitimacy of Timofey Mozgov’s starting position with the Denver Nuggets. In 14 minutes of action on Monday, Mozgov finished with an abysmal one point on 0-1 shooting from the field to go with three rebounds and the lowest plus-minus of any starter. While he’ll obviously continue to develop as the season progresses, the fact that he’s still largely alienated from playing savvy, veteran basketball seems to go against coach George Karl’s philosophy of refusing to play rookies, or those who virtually are rookies, like Mozgov. Naturally, one can’t help but wonder, “Should Kosta Koufos be starting instead of Mozgov?” (more…)

2011-12 Game 1: Denver Nuggets 115 Dallas Mavericks 93

Box Score | Highlights

The Nuggets crushed the Mavs in Dallas for their third straight blowout victory in a season opener. Just like the last few years they showcased a high powered offense with plenty of depth and cruised to a big lead they never surrendered. Ty Lawson was the star in this one, scoring 27 points with incredible efficiency and generally picking apart the slow, flat-footed Mavericks defense.

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Nuggets vs. Mavericks

It’s tough to quantify how exactly Nuggets fans must feel right now. After the tumultuous lockout-ridden off-season, watching NBA basketball at all yesterday felt like a revelation. But watching the Nuggets — that’s a whole different experience altogether. For most of the people who follow this website, the Nuggets are life, or at least a very important part of life. Each year thousands of fans across the globe dedicate and invest a countless amount of hours into this beloved franchise with the hopes of one day achieving the infamous goal of winning a championship. Though we’ve rigorously debated recently whether this Nuggets squad has the tools necessary to accomplish this feat, there’s no denying that they will at least be as competitive as they have in recent years. Facing the defending champion Dallas Mavericks will be a tall order, especially considering how motivated Dirk and company will be after receiving a beat down from the Miami Heat yesterday, but the Nuggets no doubt have the pieces needed to score a win tonight. If anyone has comments they’d like to post during this long-anticipated season opener, please feel free to post them here and as always, follow Jeremy, Charlie and I on Twitter as we’ll be posting our thoughts there throughout the night. Thanks again, and GO NUGGETS!!!

George Karl talks about defending the Pick And Roll

Benjamin Hochman’s Christmas special is up at the Denver Post, and it’s an absolute must read for Nuggets Nation. Hochman breaks down the opening day roster and George Karl shares some candid thoughts on his offensive philosophy and the challenges of winning without superstars. The most interesting bit comes at the end when Karl admits the Nuggets are likely to move away from the most maddening aspect of Denver’s pick and roll defense – switching screens.

Having Kenyon with Nene was huge, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it with team concepts and philosophies and giving guys pride and responsibility to do it on their own. … He was a veteran, defensive-minded guy who was a big part of our toughness. Filling Kenyon’s minutes is probably the most difficult to do, but in the same sense, I think it can be done. Nene was basically always the B defender. Now he has to be the A defender. Nene can be in a similar category. The only problem is when you had two of them, you didn’t worry about foul trouble. Now can we get a team concept to camouflage that (by rotating in other big men for short snippets)? We also might jump in the pick-and-roll rather than switching all the time

Karl says a lot of interesting things with this statement and makes it well known that replacing Kenyon’s presence on defense is no easy task. Kenyon was a quick, physical defender whom the Nuggets could trust to guard one through five and either force a tough shot or funnel the ball into help. There is no player on the roster who can replace what he brings to the table defensively and it’s a very good sign the coaching staff realizes that.

Instead of switching, Karl suggests the Nuggets are going to use more traps and hedges against pick-and-rolls. Jeremy Wagner and I have been clamoring for the Nuggets to stop switching and adopt such a scheme since before this blog even existed.

This strategy itself won’t be a cure-all for Denver’s defense without Kenyon. The Nuggets bigs have the added responsibility of jumping out to stop the ball while being able to quickly recover to their man. Nene will have to do a better job as he’ll often show a very soft hedge and sag back allowing the ballhandler plenty of room to drive towards the basket and make a play.

When defending the pick and roll in any situation, the team has to make the right reads and rotations together as a cohesive unit. Instead of relying on Kenyon’s versatility to dictate  the scheme, I feel that hedging more will encourage a more aggressive team defense and create accountability for everyone on the floor to be active on the defensive end.

By using these team concepts and a “camouflage” approach, Karl also suggests he’ll use a deep frontcourt rotation and Kenyon’s minutes could be divided among three or four players given the situation. This is good news for those hoping to see the Manimal crack the rotation sooner rather than later. The Nuggets need to evaluate not only Faried but the rest of the young big men on the roster. Which one of these athletic young guys can hedge and recover on picks, while also being able to get back and compete for the rebound? That’s the one who deserves minutes and the Nuggets won’t know without letting all of them compete for the job.

The problem isn’t the concept of switching itself, but the extent to which the Nuggets used it as a primary method of defending pick and rolls. After playing great team defense and reaching the conference finals in 2009, the Nuggets kept reverting to switches like a bad habit. They would do it impulsively on every screen regardless of who was being switched onto who. Anytime you voluntarily enter into any mismatch on the floor, a good offense is going to be patient and find the weakness. That happened far too often in past years and I think we are finally seeing the coaches realize the time for change is long overdue.

It sounds small, but it’s tiny fundamental changes like these that are going to dictate whether or not the Nuggets can build a contender this season.

For what it’s worth, a preview of the Denver Nuggets’ upcoming season

With the 2011-12 season right around the corner, Charlie and I decided to delve into some of the topics that most interested us regarding this year’s Denver Nuggets team. However, when all was said and done, we ended up with more of a season preview than anything. So, whether you’re a seasoned Nuggets aficionado or simply just a casual fan, we hope you enjoy our take on the most pressing storylines heading into the upcoming Denver Nuggets campaign. (more…)

Fan reaction

For the second time in three days the Denver Nuggets have had a preseason game that both Altitude and NBA TV have neglected to air. This inexcusable programing has prevented me from analyzing the team in depth before the start of the regular season although this may not be the case for many of you. Whether the loyal readers of Roundball Mining Company have streamed Thursday’s night game against the Phoenix Suns online or actually attended the game in Arizona I encourage everyone who managed to watch the contest to leave your notes and observation in the comments section for your fellow fans to enjoy.

Nuggets News [UPDATED with Kenyon Martin Flying Tigers release ]

On Tuesday, the Denver Nuggets played its first preseason game (that wasn’t a “scrimmage”) of the 2011-12 NBA season against the Phoenix Suns. The Nuggets came out on top 127-110 behind Ty Lawson’s game-high 21 points and Andre Miller’s game-high 12 assists. Though the game inexplicably wasn’t aired on Altitude, there was still enough online reaction from those who made it Pepsi Center to form a solid consensus of what occurred. (more…)

3-on-3: Arron Afflalo’s Shiny New Contract

Nuggets fans the world over are rejoicing in the new 5 year, $43 million contract Arron Afflalo has agreed to with the Nuggets.  Now that Afflalo has been retained the Nuggets have fulfilled their vision of re-siging Nene and Afflalo and once again have a tremendously deep team to put on the floor.  With the team now in place and Afflalo’s contract ready to go let’s do a little 3-on-3 to see if Denver has spent wisely, or if they will end up back in the financial doghouse.

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According to Marc Stein, Nuggets agree to five-year deal with Afflalo

The deal is reportedly worth close to $43 million over five years. Though the previous link says the Nuggets are close to a deal, Marc Stein recently tweeted that his sources tell him a deal has been finalized. More news will continue to proliferate, but until then feel free to relieve yourselves thorough screaming and shouting in the comments section.

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