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.”

Before the start of the game it was great to see the Pepsi Center so alive. I also loved the introduction where long-tenured season ticket holders got to run out of the tunnel with the players. For whatever reason, this year feels like one dedicated to the fans and season ticket holders in general. After the tumultuous Carmelo Anthony saga last year — which no dedicated fan should ever have to endure — you just get the sense that this team, full of unselfish, non ego-driven guys is one you’d be very comfortable paying to see. To make sure the fans knew the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets were appreciative of their presence, rookies Jordan Hamilton and Julyan Stone — who were still rocking the business suites, to my surprise — addressed the crowd before tip-off, essentially saying “thank you” in the least amount of words possible.

The start of the game was sloppy. Afflalo seemed to be the only one showing intense aggression, which was nice to see from the $43 million dollar man. Still, the Nuggets struggled to score, going 0-5 to open up the contest. Eventually however, the game birthed a steady back-and-fourth flow with the Nuggets forcefully pushing the pace while the Jazz managed only to keep up by way of 3-pointers. The game remained relatively close until Denver’s second unit of Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Al Harrington and Chris Anderson entered the game, upon which an immediate lead was established. From the time this bench unit hit the floor it was clear that Utah simply could not match the pace or talent that Denver was putting forth. At the end of the quarter Denver led 28-23.

Going into the second period the game again became somewhat sloppy. George Karl was intent on playing his patented “small ball” lineup with Birdman at center and Al Harrington at power forward which clearly worked out in Utah’s favor as the Jazz hauled in one rebound after another. During this stretch Andre Miller shot two 3-pointers, Birdman continuously fumbled routine passes and Al Harrington got leaped over by much taller players like Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. The Nuggets also half-heartedly doubled Al Jefferson in the post which he had no problems maneuvering around. All in all, this was the Nuggets worst quarter of the night in terms of perimeter defense. Though Denver continued to expand on its lead thanks to an explosive second unit, the defense was lackluster and unorganized.

When the third quarter rolled around the Nuggets tightened up its defense, and in turn, created a myriad of turnovers which the offense feasted off. To say the Nuggets came out “on fire” would be an understatement. It was almost as if every time you looked up someone was getting a steal with two or three guys leaking out ahead for a “Showtime Lakers” type of finish. This was probably the most active I’ve ever seen Denver’s defense in terms of forcing turnovers in my entire career as a fan. It was truly a sight to behold and naturally led to the game being blown open for good.

By the time the fourth quarter began the game was already over. Karl trotted out Corey Brewer to start the final countdown with fan-favorite rookie, Kenneth Faried (aka, the Manimal) making his long-anticipated debut at roughly the nine minute mark. Kosta Koufos and DeMarre Carroll then entered the contest at about midway through the quarter and remained in until the final whistle. During “trash time” former University of Colorado standout and 12th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Alec Burks, put on a clinic scoring 15 points on 6-9 shooting in only 10 minutes of playing time. Aside from Burks impressive outing, no player for the Nuggets really stood out, although it’s worth mentioning Koufos had as many points and rebounds as Mozgov did in 10 fewer minutes.

Stud of the night: Nene, with 25 points (10-13 from the field, 5-5 from the line), seven rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks in only 24 minutes of action

Dud of the night: Earl Watson, who managed to score a whopping zero points in 17 minutes of action.

Next victim: Dec. 29, at the Portland Trailblazers, 10 p.m. EST

Candid notes:

— Let’s start off with the Mozgov vs. Koufos debate that I so unnecessarily galvanized with this article yesterday. Look, I know this argument is virtually pointless as neither of these guys are going to become some kind of savior throughout the year, but as mentioned above, Koufos put up the same numbers as Mozgov did in 10 fewer minutes of court time. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was against Utah’s third-string unit, but still, he was down in the post demanding the ball, clearing out his opponent then making some real polished offensive moves towards the basket — which he scored on. Mozgov meanwhile, played OK. His defense was solid, I’ll give him that, but I’m just not exactly sure how much he’s contributing to the Nuggets’ success in other areas of the game. In 18 minutes of action four points and two rebounds is pedestrian at best, especially when you glance across the box score and see Paul Milsap pulling down eight boards to go with 13 points, two steals and an assists in only four more minutes of action. I understand that Mozgov will continue to develop and have no problem with this as long as he continues to play solid defense, but I’m still going to wonder what in the hell Karl sees in him during practice that allows him to log 18 minutes of action and the starting center position come game time.

— Obviously this has been re-hashed to death by now, but Lawson is crazy fast… like… reallycrazyfast!!! I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone as quick as he is off the dribble. If he can continue to master his ability to finish around the basket in traffic, I have no doubts this kid will soon be an All Star.

— “Birdman,” the persona, has officially ruined Chris Andersen, the player. Ever since his admirable comeback in 2009 when he absolutely destroyed the league with his blocked shots, Birdman just hasn’t been the same. Although he still brings an unrivaled amount of energy to the floor every time he steps on the court, his fundamentals have unfortunately been replaced by the constant desire to make “the big play.” Prime example: With only seconds left on the clock in the first quarter “Birdman” followed up a missed Al Harrington jump shot which resulted in a pretty spectacular put-back dunk. Of course, immediately following this impressive second effort, Birdman then turned to the crowd, started flapping his arms and dancing while the Jazz in-bounded the ball right over his head, dribbled down and scored a 3-pointer as time expired, which not only nullified the Birdman’s put-pack but also gave the Jazz a point in the process. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say we all kind of miss the humble, out-to-prove-something Chris Andersen at this juncture.

— Rudy Fernandez is the J.R. Smith Karl always wanted J.R. Smith to be. Both players are excellent athletes and superior outside shooters, but Fernandez might just have the edge when it comes to making the right basketball play. I cannot tell you know impressed I was with him tonight. Though I’m a huge J.R. fan and always will be, there’s no denying that Fernandez probably is J.R. Smith without the… baggage. His court vision is phenomenal and his decision-making outstanding (outside of a few errant lob attempts). If he continues to play as cerebral as he did tonight, I could easily see Fernandez becoming one of Karl’s favorite go-to guys in crunch time.

— Random thought during the game (best read with an Allen Iverson “practice” rant in mind): “Are we really doubling Al Jefferson? I mean, Al Jefferson? Not, Kevin Durant, not Lebron James — Al Jefferson? Wow. Not exactly sure what this means, but it’s interesting either way.”

— After scoring 19 points in the first half and being as aggressive as we’ve ever seen, Nene once again fell short of reaching the 30-point mark. Obviously if he had played all game, things probably would have been different, but still, I’m starting to wonder if he’ll ever drop 30 in an NBA game! Nevertheless, Nene looked straight up nasty and assertive to the fullest, which kind of makes you wonder if moving to power forward really is an important part of his success.

— Forcing turnovers and getting out on the break is already this team’s identity and I have no doubt that as the season progresses, this will remain a constant. The only thing that worries me is complacency. At some point, this Nuggets team will get tired of running teams out of the building and will in turn fall back on ill-advised fundamentals. Let’s just hope Karl has what it takes to keep them focused, as landing a high seed for the playoffs has GOT to be priority numero uno.

— Al “Hamburgler” Harrington is now officially Al “Buckets.” Dude looks like an entirely new person and is playing like the man who used to drop 40 on Melo instead of the one who dropped Big Macs in his stomach before games last year. I was fully on board with signing him before the start of last season and after a brief hiatus, I think I’m back on the Al bandwaggon. In two games this season, he’s been the best small forward on the Nuggets roster.

— Faried didn’t look too good towards the end of the game, which was kind of weird because he looked fantastic in the scrimmage I went to a few weeks back. For whatever reason he was almost lollygagging around the court, seeming a bit lackadaisical, which again is not the Faried I know. Granted, this was his first NBA game ever so I’m not going to look into it too much, but I’d really like to see him be more active when given time even if he’s still struggling to understand the professional game. Karl said during the post-game speech that he thought Faried looked really nervous, which Faried latter admitted via Twitter. But even with the nerves attached he seemed to be moving and playing at NCAA speed. Rookies always say the hardest aspect of the NBA game to adjust to is the speed, and judging by Faried’s performance, this certainly rings true.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

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  • evan

    Good recap, as usual.

    A few points of my own:

    -It seems when Mozgov goes out we go on a run.

    -Fernandez is nothing compared to J.R. Smith. His reputation is way worse then reality. He can create his own shot, quite easily(widely considered the most talented shooting guard outside of D-Wade). Fernandez can’t.

    -Nene is a baddass. I hate our centers, but I’m willing to go go 4 1/2 on 5 if Nene is at PF, that’s how good he is.

    -Bird sucks, I also noticed him flapping around instead of getting back on defense before the 3pter.

    -Farried is 100% opportunist. I think he will actually do a lot better in real minutes opposed to garbage minutes. He can’t create his own offence anyway, so whoever he’s going against doesn’t matter.

    -Contrary to popular belief, we’re a great half court team. We were working the half court very efficiently in both games before it got out of hand.

    -Immagine if we hit our open 3s.

    Again good recap, Nuggets look great this year.
    Good luck portland, you’ll need it.

    Go Nuggets!

    • Brad H.

      Evan: JR/Fernandez comparisons are irrelevant in any Nuggets discussion ’cause JR will never again cast his schizo shadow at the Pepsi Center except in a visitors uniform. GK really likes Rudy and couldn’t care less if he can’t create a jumper as well as JR could. And George has made the best comparison of the two guards so far, when he said, “Rudy is JR without the insanity.” Classic.

      • Lil Rik

        J.R. Smith – OVERRATED. the guy was good for nothing except the occasional offensive outburst, then followed by a half-dozen ill advised “I’m on fire” shots. He had a constant me-first attitude and was a headache for the coaching staff – which those who can look past STATS will realize what a poison that is to a TEAM. I’m excited to have Fernandez – he will bring a lot more to this team than JR did, and I’m sure a lot of you blind JR lovers will disagree, but so be it.

        Birdman needs to get with the program and rediscover fundamentals.

        All Harrington may very well end up being a very important X-Factor for this team. He is a veteran presence that we need, and I think he is more comforatble with his role on this team – glad to see him FOCUSED.

        Bring it!

  • dynamo.joe

    Al early candidate for comeback player of the year. Honestly, if Al continues to play like this, I don’t mind Faried being limited to garbage time and back2back2back nights.

    Andre 6th man award? Looks good so far! Scratch that, looks GREAT so far.

    • Brad H.

      Nice having a “backup” PG who can go out and give you 12 dimes in a game.

      • Lil Rik

        F*ing stud – that’s all I have to say about Andre Miller – guy knows how to win. So excited to have him back.

  • Erlingur Gretar

    Great game, and boy, did Nene enjoy not having to play C (mostly) today! The only comment I have on your otherwise solid (as usual) writeup, Kalen, is the 30-point criticism of Nene. He scored 25 points today, true. That’s not 30 points. But he scored those 25 points in less than 24 minutes. I’d take that over 30 points in 42 minutes any day.

    And as for the season outlook for these first two games: While Kobe is already saying he’s “a little bit tired” after 3 games, Rudy Fernandez is the Nuggets’ current leader in minutes played, at 59 minutes and 56 seconds. Yes, two games is a small sample size, but there is -no- Nuggets player averaging over 30 minutes pr. game as of today.

    • Brad H.

      GK even played Rudy at the Point last night in garbage time, during which he turned the ball over three or four times. Otherwise, RF had a great game. Gimme Rudy over JR any day. Not as athletic, rarely a highlight film player, but just as deadly from behind the arc and light years more intelligent and less schizophrenic.

  • coxy

    loved every second of this game besides the fact that manimal didnt score.

    ty lawson looked unguardable, when he was aggressive and getting into the paint either on the break or of the dribble. he had his way. the 15 points that the box score shows doesnt represent his impact on the game and if he made 1 or 2 of his triples it woulda really capped of his night.

    nene was just a beast. dunking everything and a few athletic swats. justified his contract but needs to stay aggressive. this is the way we need him to play each night. he is known too well for being so unselfish but when he plays aggressively like he did tonight he can put up 20 a night, and even thiough he was more aggressive his passing was still on display, he passed up a few opportunities that i thought he shoulda taken and his bounce pass to dre was owe so sweet

    gallo was really good i think. only 11 points on 7 shots, but he was scoring efficiently with nice moves for dunks and recognized that he was option 3 tonight so his lack of aggression showed understanding. more athletic then i thought too. he didnt throw up any poor shots or heat checks that ive seen and heard alot of and his handles were smooth

    afflalo was quiet, would be raving about him if he made 2 or 3 of his 3 balls, made some nice plays and was solid defensively but just needs to get back to being a nock down 3 ball shooter.

    mozgov looked active, but gaurding jefferson i was feeling uncomfortable everytime big al cought the ball. jumpshot was looking smooth though and he had a real nice dish inside to nene that surprised me with his quick hands. some positives and negatives but the poor D outweighs the odd nice offensive trip

    dre is just a freak of nature. i love him, sees the floor so well and when he has the ball looking for his own offense im so confident that he will make something happen. great post offense

    loved big al tonight, even before he poured on the bulk of his points in junk time he was very effective. always seemed to be in the action on defense and was making noise on offense loved it and last season he was my most hated player. big al for sixth man!

    also loved rudy tonight. the bulk of his 4 or so to’s game in junk time where they looked like they were forcing everything, but 8 assists and a barage of 3′s were nice on the stat sheet but he is so creative on offense and looked solid on defense. really like this pick up and he always shitted me off when we versed portland so i like having him on board.

    lastly bird was bird, big put back was cool but didnt really offer much else.

    i like this squad. ALOT. and think we can make some noise in the west esspecially with this shortened season. but my concern is at the centre spot, moz and bird isnt gonna do it for us, at this point in his career moz is not a starter and at this point in birds career he may need to retire or be playing garbage time. so i think bringing a solid defensive anchor is the key. but with a full roster and we cant sign anyone like a pryzbilla and i dont want to trade away literally anyone on our roster except bird… if only okafor had 1 or 2 years on his big contract and not 3 then he could be a good target. or maybe with his contract te way it is we could get his with a few picks and bird?

    portland tomorrow will be tough but the rest that our starters were able to get could be huge on the back to back

    this is the first time ive ever made a post or a review like this so share your thoughts

    love this blog. go nugs

    • Brad H.

      Nice comments, Coxy. I started posting her last yr, and this truly is a great Nugs blog. lots of rabid Nuggies fans and some pretty informed bloggers. K, C and J have developed a great forum here. hope u keep with the discussion.

  • FinazzAus

    The thing I like about this nuggets team is we don’t have one guy putting up 30 shoots a night. I know everyone (outside roundball) talks about us not having a superstar. But I like the fact that if one of our players has an off night we have another step up. I’d much rather 20 points on 10 of 15 shooting from a different guy every night, then 10/30 from the same person (ie: James, durant and melo)

  • steve

    Love this nugs team. They came out flat and responded in the 2nd quarter and beyond which is great to see. I love the fact that our 2nd unit could be just as good as our 1st unit. Al and dre are just beasts. I think Rudy is gettin to much love right now. I know he had a good game but hes hot or cold. I wanna see more games to truly realize how good he is. I love faried just like the rest of you but you saw wh tonight he is riding the bench some. He looked awful out there. Slow, bad decision, missed dunks (even though the lobs werent the best). He’ll be fine but i dont mind him seeing only garbage time for about 20 games to learn the game until birdman messes up his knee again like he does every year.

    Tonite is a big test. on the road and back end of a back to back against a rested GOOD young portland team. I have a feeling we will lose just because we always have in the past when facing a quality opponent in that situation. I wouldnt be shocked if we won just by watching these guys smoke utah and dallas but itll be a tough one for sure. GO NUGS!

  • steve

    one thing that im still worried about is a closer. I wanna see how nugs respond in a tight game down 2 or 3 with a minute left. We’ll see who they go to and who can make the clutch shot. This is what gave us issues against OKC in the playoffs. They tied up ty lawson so he couldnt drive and we were never able to get off a good shot. Will it be Gallo that hits the big shot, or afflalo? Do you go inside to Nene and probably take on a dbl team? Or will lawson find a way to the bucket or find the open man? That’s my biggest concern and we’ll see what happens as the season goes on.

    • Aurress20

      Yea, good point. Its like, the blow-outs are nice & fun & full of highlights, but this team is going to need a real test soon or the playoffs will be a Sneaky Jesus slap to the… well.. u know… just like last year.

      But its fun watching 2 straight blow-outs to open the season, right!?

      • Peter

        In that type of situation you have to put the ball in your best players hands. In this case for us it would have to be Ty Lawson. This is really good because Ty can easily get a shot off against an inferior opponent, but he is also a good passer and can get it to either Gallo or AAA for the open look.

    • Brad H.

      Look no further than Gallo when we need a closer. I’ve seen few in the league who are as gifted at either hitting the long jumper OR driving with the intent of getting the foul– then hits the FTs at a 90% clip. Seriously, he’s very much like Ginobili in that respect. And, like Manu, Gallo WANTS the ball in when the game’s on the line.

    • evan

      You go to:

      A. Whoever is hot that night.

      B. Whoever has a match up advantage (often times will be the guy is hot.)

      C. You go to Nene. (Most cases he’ll have a good match up at PF.) And if that fails, aka double team, then he kicks it out to whoever is open. Lawson, Galo, AAA, etc.

      • Lil Rik

        What a terrbile headache this must be for George Karl! (note sarcasm) What a nice job by Kroenke and Ujiri being patient and assembling this team – they really have the opportunity to make a nice run this year – a lot of guys that can make plays. This is the type of team that Karl could really orchestrate…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405432009 Jenifer

      xTimeCheer65 on November 7, 2011 My fotarive food has to be crab and lobster! i love it! Haha.Thanks for this giveawayy!!good luck everyone!

  • Aurress20

    Caught the 2nd half streaming online.

    Brewer looked much better than I recall with any of his previous NBA Teams. Maybe he’s finally hitting his stride. I expected a lot more from him coming out of Florida; he was the best player on those Gator teams, but Noah & Horford have had much better NBA careers than him. Glad to see him starting to get some solid PT & produce when given the opportunity. Also, is he balding?

    Poor Faried. I love the guy to death but he looked quite lost out there. I think nervous is the best descriptor, as mentioned by Karl & The Manimal himself after the game. He needs to work on his pick & roll skills if he’s going to see court time. I was so excited when he checked in, but quickly disappointed as I watched him wiff on every screen he tried to set. He needs to get wider, put his body on the defender, and free up the ball-handler better before releasing to the rim. I think this will come in time with more coaching. This is probably the biggest disadvantage he has from coming from a smaller school. Or at least that was my first thought, “Oh, he probably only had to play at the rim in college & he’s not used to setting screens at the 3pt line & being involved in the full flow of the offense.” I think his rebounding, energy, & defensive prowess will become more evident in time, but for now he has got to focus on making some sort of impact on offense beyond just rebounding. I will give him this though, when that shot goes up, you better believe the Manimal is putting a body on someone & boxing out like his life depended on it.

    I struggled to watch this game because the feed I had was the Jazz home announcers. So there was no Nuggets love coming from them. They acted as though they didn’t know who half the players were for Denver & gave no commentary when the crowd would go nuts over something (like Faried checking in).

    The Jazz seemed to give up in the 4th qtr. And the Jazz-homer announcers seemed to recognize & criticize the team too, saying something along the lines of “You don’t want to be scouted and seen as that team that lays down when they get down by 10 or 15 pts.” Which rings true, teams will just try to jump out on you early & then cruise. They also criticized Coach Corbin slightly, saying “This team (the Jazz) needs to figure out what it wants to be, its identity. Does Corbin want them to be a running team, or a half court set offense team, or hustle & discipline team?” But I think a lot of that had to do with how well the Nuggets were playing. The Jazz were trying a myriad of things but nothing seemed to go in their favor. Everything was all Nuggets all the time. And by the 4th qtr I think they just gave up.

    Great home opener for the Nuggets. Nice to hear that the fans showed up in full. I believe they said it was a sell-out. Nice that the players & the organization are “taking care of the fans” if you will. With J-Ham & Stone’s pregame PA announcement. With the long time season ticket holders running out of the tunnel (a little corny to me, but thats what the people like).

    Great write up. Followed all your tweets during the game. Glad you expanded on some of them here, like the Chris Andersen vs Birdman stuff.

    Thanks again! Go Nuggets!

  • CCH

    Mozgov is fine. He’s not going to e a stat stuffer. He did exactly what we needed him to do last night, BOX OUT, rebound, defend (played good help and individual defense, arms straight up), and hit the occasional open shot. He’s a dirty work player and he’s going to continue to get better. Bird was getting abused by Kanter last night and GK brought moz back in and he neutralized him.

  • CCH

    Even though he only had two rebounds, I’m willing to bet you cannot find 1 play he didnt box his man out and neutralize whoever the big man he was guarding may have been. I think we’d be pleasantly suprised by how many boards (especially offensive) he created for team mates.

  • Jim

    Interesting game. I really liked faried getting minutes and Karl being patient with his shaky performance. And that Fernandez got more minutes than any player which has been his beef in this league. Seems like they took care of business but had an eye on Portland tonight. Good stuff.

  • @iramey

    Hey Nugs fans!
    Greetings once again, Kalen, et al!

    Listened to Koz on the entertaining sports people network’s ‘listen’ feed via their website…enjoyed the call! (I really do dig Koz’s game calls – who needs a ‘colour’ guy, eh?!)
    Like so many times before, appreciate the recap here, Kalen. It helps round out the game (forgive the pun).

    I was a bit put off with the ‘labour dispute’ but I’m excited for this team. I LOVE team ball and if the pieces of this crew can play their game, … well, this could be an exciting season!

    Just wanted to chime in and greet everyone.
    Looking forward to it!

    Skyline jerseys comin’ soon, yea? Far-Funking-Out! Love it.

    Oh yeah,…Coxy…thanks for your player breakdown. Enjoyed that.

  • Aaron

    My question is. . . can Gallo, Fernandez, Al, Andre, etc. . . knock down open jumpers when great teams like SA or OKC sag on Ty Lawson, and double team Nene? If we can do that, than I think we’re headed for great things. If those guys shoot like last night, or get lazy watching, better teams will have success against us, because basically Dallas and Utah did not want to guard Lawson. They almost didn’t try. The Lakers, OKC, etc, won’t make that mistake and other guys are going to have to break down the defense and make open shots.

    • CCH

      I’m not sure ANYBODY can actually guard Ty when he’s aggressive.

      • steve

        LA has noone that can guard Ty. Fisher certainly cant do it. Westy is another breed though and he can just like he did in playoffs last year. He’s fast and long and those are the guys that give ty issues.

        Like i said before. we need to find a closer or at least a scheme that is successful down the stretch in close games. Obviously it wont work 100% of the time but 50% or more would be beneficial. We just put up goose eggs down the stretch in playoffs last year. Im just excited to see this group perform and hope they can put it all together. GO NUGS!

        • CCH

          Ty went off in multiple games vs OKC last season (regular and playoffs).
          Lets not forget TY sprained his ankle on the last game of the regular season against Utah, it definitely showed in the playoffs.

  • Evan

    Ty Lawson is unstopable. He is the fastest player I have ever seen with a basketball, he is unreal. Nene was great. Gallo wasn’t aggresive but he didn’t have to be. We only have 1 ball stopper on this team and that’s Al Harrington, although he played efficient and well tonight he doesn’t pass much.

  • doktarr

    Mozgov did look a little lost out there. He takes up a lot of space and plays the right position on defense, and he has a nice mid-range jumper, but… that’s pretty much all. He is a bit out of place on a team that loves to run.

    The most frustrating thing for me is watching him play the pick and roll. The Nuggets guards seemed (understandably) reluctant to give him the ball even when he had a path to the basket. If he’s not going to get the ball, then we need to put Nene in those plays instead, or the play needs to be changed to a Lambeer-style pick-and-pop (which I think Mozgov could do very well).

    That said, comparing his stats to Koufos’s is basically meaningless. They are very different players, Koufos has two more years of NBA experience (which is more important than the age difference, I think), and the game conditions when they are in the game could hardly be more different. As a qualitative matter, I don’t think Koufos would be any better in those pick and roll plays, and we’re not going to clear out for him to post up with Nene on the floor.

    I disagree with you that it’s a bad idea to double Al Jefferson. The issue isn’t the double, it’s that our rotations to the weak side were slow. There were two plays where Galinari doubled, the ball swung around the arc, and we were slow to get to the man in the corner for an open three. If the Nuggets tighten up the rotations (Galinari takes the weak side man on the block, and that guy goes to the corner), then the double team can work fine.

    Lawson is insane. I thought the best play of the game was a layup he had in the halfcourt in a third quarter. He got the ball on a swing pass and had what looked like an open three, but he saw a lane that DID NOT EXIST and got a layup. I repeat, this lane did not exist, but somehow Lawson got in it anyway. It didn’t look as spectacular as many, many other plays from the game, but it’s the sort of play that will make other Western conference coaches sleep with the lights on.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

      I completely agree with your assessment of the Nuggets’ rotations. They have been very slow and are not covering the dreaded corner three. I expect them to shore things up as the rotation you described is as basic as it gets in the NBA, but if they do not, they will struggle to be an elite defensive team as they were down the stretch last season.

  • Dubz

    Definitely a nice write up and a fun game to watch. I agree with a lot of what’s been mentioned above but what really caught my attention was the mood on the bench late in the game. George Karl looked very calm and you could see the guys on the bench discussing the game and joking around with each other. You can tell the comradery within this team is genuine, even a vet like Nene seemed very pleased with his teammates during his post game interview. It was also funny listening to Hastings and Marlowe attempt to mitigate their feelings towards this team. They didn’t want to fully commit and say this team is great but definitely made it clear that if this team continues to play like this, they will be incredibly difficult to beat. This is a GK team at it’s best.

  • ravenwells

    Hey Kalen,
    Thanks for the efforts to put this blog together! I just stumbled across is about a week ago and am happy to find a regular source of Nuggs news. Love the intelligent commentary by not only yourself but the guests who comment as well. Relieving not to be reading poor quality comments with frequent expletives, proving only that the guests are immature. This site is now a staple diet for me.

    Excited to see the Nuggets playing better post Melo and totally agree with prior comments about skipping a painful rebuilding process. My favorite NBA championship team of the last decade was the Detroit Pistons and I love seeing us play unselfish team ball in a similar style (though I don’t think Detroit played as fast as these Nuggets do). That’s not to say that I think we are headed for the finals, it’s just a comment on what type of ball I like to see. Feels like we’re already rockin it and still have a lot of upside.

    Look forward to reading (and occasionally commenting) my way through this season with this blog. Let me/us know if there is anything we can do to get you out in the spotlight more. I’m guessing the vast bulk of Nuggs fans don’t yet know this exists – and that is just wrong.

    • http://roundballminingcompany.com Kalen

      Thanks for the kind words ravenwells. It’s greatly appreciated. As far as spreading the word about this blog goes, if you can just let your friends and whoever else loves the Nuggets know, then you’re more than doing your part! I do have a Google + page dedicated to the blog if anyone is interested in becoming “part of my circle”: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101843107329431562518/posts

  • steve

    btw, some ammunition for tonights game…raymond felton quote…”it’s best for (the Nuggets) not to call the plays out tonight. Because if they do, I’ll know what they’re running. No hard feelings. That (Denver) was a situation I wanted to get out of,” said Felton. Felton has been off to a slow start, maybe a game against his former team will get him back on track. per Rotoworld. I hope lawson runs circles around him tonight. GO NUGS!

    • http://roundballminingcompany.com Kalen

      Wow, nice find Steve. Jeez, Felton, what a piece of work. I can’t believe you would openly admit not wanting to be in a winning situation just because you were a backup. Whatever. I hope Ty leaves him in the dust.

  • Dribble Drive motion

    Mozgov reminds me of Tskita. he’s a big body and has a good jumper, but that’s about it. he looks lost out there.

    • Bryan

      LOL. Did you seriously just compare Moz to the biggest bust in Nuggets (and maybe NBA) history? For the most part, Moz is in the right positions on defense, boxes his man out (more than you can say for Birdman). The Jazz rookie Kanter was bullying Birdman, Moz didn’t get bullied, for instance. Also, he has a nice little jump shot and works well in the pick and roll (though as someone noted, it’s not used) He’ll get better as he gets more confidence and his teamates get more confidence in him. At this point I think Birdman actually looks like the weakest big (excluding Faried since he’s obviously not ready).

      • Lil Rik

        Tskitishvili was HORRIBLE but at worst will always be #2 behind Sam Bowie

  • Evan

    I also noticed when Moz rolled to basket our wings almost pretended like he wasn’t there. They at least have to give it to him once or nothing will open up.

  • http://espn.com Chris

    Just waiting for the Nuggets to Make the Trade Before Chandler gets back and so they can resign Kenyon.

  • AussieNuggsFan2

    Dear Kalen, Jeremy, Charlie and whoever else…

    WOW. What a surprise the 3 players I have repeatedly said should be traded/amnestied killed us tonight against Portland.

    Combined for 1/14 3 point shooting.
    All of them kept taking bad shots despite having bad nights.

    Fernandez showed his true colours. how people can claim he is better than JR Smith is beyond belief. He is just as bad at taking bad shots on bad shooting nights and was also killed defensively, sitting back on Crawford like he was Rajon Rondo.

    Gallo is not going to be a go to guy and must be traded before the deadline to avoid overpaying him this summer.

    I know this might be a slight overreaction from one bad game !BUT! we showed why we were eliminated in the playoffs last year and why we won’t go far with this team. When is comes down to the end of close games our half court offense is non existent.

    I wish Afflalo would be as selfish as Gallo and Rudy because he could be a 15-18+ a night a guy.

    George Karl refuses to play the rookies even in blowouts, about 6/7 minutes total for Faried. The two point guard thing looks alright on offense sometimes but terrible on defense and as much as i admire Andre Miller’s skills he is prone to holding the ball for two long. We should explore trade options for him as well. Perhaps using the Laker’s trade exception for Dallas’ first rounder or something.

    I have been pleading for the trade of Gallo and Al Harrington as well as the replacement of GK all offseason and I cant see me changing my mind.

  • AussieNuggsFan2

    I have to say that JR Smith is a victim of perception and an ego clash with George Karl.

    JR Smith in a starting role could be a top 30 NBA player. He is as talented as nearly anyone in the league and deserves more consistent minutes.

    Rudy Fernandez takes plenty of bad shots as well and doesn’t have bursts like JR.

    JR is exactly the type of player Denver lacks.

    His shooting percentages last year were better than Gallo for example, including from downtown. He is also much better off the dribble. JR Smith should be resigned and should be starting at SF.