4-7 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -1
It was a little funny seeing him stare down his teammates and almost scream out for help whenever Bynum or Pau made a move on him. Nene was solid but not much of a factor in the win to be honest. The Lakers bigs easily pushed him around down low while he continues to put up poor rebounding performances. As I said before, the move to power forward is not paying off for Nene and I am confused why he had to throw such a fit about playing center – where he is better.
|Danilo Gallinari, F
7-16 FG | 5-7 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +11
The Rooster still can’t find his touch from distance, but he did shoot 6-9 on non 3-point attempts. Gallo also recorded five steals and was a key factor in the fourth quarter run that sealed the victory. It wasn’t a perfect game from Gallinari, but he played his best when it mattered.
|Timofey Mozgov, C
0-0 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -14
Mozgov racked up five fouls in 13 minutes and clearly let the officiating get into his head. He spent most of the night trying to get a call and once again struggled denying Bynum position. Timo showed a few flashes defensively but he needs to learn to fight for position and contribute on the glass like a starting center should.
|Arron Afflalo, SG
2-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -10
He’s contributing defensively like you’d expect, but it’s been a rough road getting Afflalo involved on the offensive end. He looks tentative, dribbles too much and jumps away from contact rather than finishing through it. The Nuggets need to get him some shots and work him into the offense more.
|Ty Lawson, PG
5-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 17 PTS | +18
Everything was there for Lawson tonight. The Nuggets came alive with him on the floor and were consistently able to speed up the game and run on the tired Lakers. He scored, he got 10 assists despite poor shooting from teammates and his defense was the key to the fourth quarter run that sealed the win. His presence makes Andre Miller extraneous late in games and the Nuggets need the ball in their best player’s hands every big possession.
|Al Harrington, PF
3-7 FG | 6-6 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | +15
Once again, Harrington was all the Nuggets had going the first half of this game. As I tweeted earlier things could be looking grim if Al were to cool off before the offense got itself sorted. Luckily, Ty Lawson stepped up in the second half and Al Buckets wasn’t asked to carry the Nuggets again. Harrington continues to contribute in all areas of the game and grabbed a team-high 11 boards. I would have liked to see more Afflalo in the fourth quarter but you can’t deny Harrington is playing well right now.
|Chris Andersen, C
5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +17
After playing a combined 12 minutes in the past two contests, Birdman bounced back with his best game of the season. His conditioning and leaping ability still aren’t there, but he continues to give a better effort on the floor and finally saw some results. His defense remains wildly inconsistent, but Bird was solid tonight. He scored with efficiency, rebounded well and recorded his first blocked shot of the season.
Five Things We Saw
- Rebounding matters. For the first time in two games the Nuggets hold up their end on the boards and match their opponent’s total. They continue to struggle on the offensive glass, grabbing only five despite missing 38 shots.
- Pace is the key to victory. The Nuggets were only able to pull away thanks to Ty Lawson pushing the tempo. The half-court offense remains a mess and unless they want to play Lawson 40-plus minutes a night, the Nuggets must get better in the half-court game.
- Getting to the line equals wins. It’s as simple as that. The shooting struggles continue yet Denver stayed alive by attacking the Lakers big men and forcing the issue at the rim. Thirty seven free throw attempts is a season high and the Nuggets made a respectable 31 of them.
- The bench is missing something. As much as I hate the constant dwelling on the departure of JR Smith, the Nuggets are missing his explosiveness and energy off the bench. The offense is bogged down and slow with Andre Miller. Rudy Fernandez is little more than a passer and spot up shooter. The Nuggets couldn’t take advantage of Kobe resting and part of what kept them in the game is the fact the Lakers lack bench scoring as well.
- The defense is promising. Kobe had an off night shooting the ball, but the Lakers as a team shot less than 40 percent. This was a rare feat for past Nuggets teams and they have shown an ability to compete in low scoring affairs. The Nuggets continue to communicate and improve their team defense despite foul trouble. Strangely, their offense is letting them down in their 2 losses.
Game 5 Advanced Stats
Pace Factor: 99.4 – Similar to last night’s game which favors the Nuggets much more than L.A.
Offensive Efficiency: 99.6 – A very solid improvement over last night’s 92, but low for a home game
Defensive Efficiency: 93.5 – Since the Carmelo trade, the Nuggets are a a completely new team when it comes to defense
[UPDATE by Kalen]
— Before and after the game George Karl talked about how fans shouldn’t overreact to anything in the beginning of the season. He talked about the difficult stretches of schedules and how a team can only ultimately be judged at the end of the year. Of course, he laced these speeches with his usual acceptance of mediocrity stating how the team would likely go .500 for the entire month of January, but other than that Karl made great points. On Saturday most Nuggets fans thought, for whatever reason, that losing to the Lakers on the road was the end of the world. One day later, the Nuggets are sitting at 3-2 after executing properly down the stretch of another close game, unlike the previous night. The Nuggets have now played five games of the 2011-12 season, three of which have come on the road against the last two teams to win the NBA title. After facing a difficult stretch of the schedule the Nuggets will now go on to play four of the next five games at home against the Bucks, Kings, Hornets and Nets, all of whom either had a losing record last season or likely will this season. Credit Karl for this refreshing dose of perspective, which isn’t administered as often as it should be.
— Funny how the whole “superstar” thing works. After losing to the Lakers it’s all anybody can focus on, yet one night later Kobe Bryant essentially handed the victory to the Nuggets on a silver platter by shooting 28 times and only making six of those shots. Kobe also accounted for nearly half of L.A.’s turnovers alone and notched double what his closest teammate managed. It’s fair to say Kobe pretty much lost the Lakers the game tonight with his selfishness, which unfortunately happens from time to time with these types of guys (see: Westbrook, Russell).
— It’s interesting watching the contrasting styles between the Nuggets and Lakers. While L.A. focuses more on the half-court set and working the ball down low into the key for Bynum and Pau to operate with, Denver generally remains a team that revolves around the curve of the 3-point line, seldom making it a top priority to get its bigs the ball down low. Sure, we can always blame Nene for not being more aggressive, but something has to be said about how he fits into the fast-paced run-and-gun style of the Nuggets offense that takes its fair share of 3-pointers.
— The ref’s willingness to blow the whistle when Kobe Bryant has the ball in his hands is close to disgusting. At one point in Sunday’s game the Black Mamba received a call where I couldn’t even pinpoint the reason a whistle might be blown for. This aspect of the NBA flat out sucks — I have no other way to put it.
— Even though the Nuggets won, it should be noted that it happened on the Lakers’ terms yet again. Credit L.A. for playing disciplined, defensive-minded basketball which slowed Denver down to a crawl at times, but its the Nuggets responsibility to prevent this. The Nuggets must do whatever it possibly can to ensure the speed of the game remains almost frenetic, as that alone is Denver’s best offensive weapon. So while the Lakers have Kobe; the Nuggets have youth, speed and altitude (aka, the Holy Trinity of Nuggets basketball).
— There must be a correlation between Birdman’s hairdo and his level of play. After virtually resurrecting the mohawk the first year and a half of returning to the NBA, Andersen has questionably switched over to a greased-back mop top complete with a handle-bar mustache and has since seen his on-court production decline just about as much as his style. But against the Lakers on Sunday, Birdman played superb. In only 20 minutes of action he posted 12 points, nine rebounds, a block and a steal which accounted for his near team-best plus-17 on the plus-minus scale. This was by far Birdman’s best game of the season and one that brought back memories of frequent outbursts Nuggets fans saw back when Birdman’s hair gel was actually put to good use.
— Denver, in general, has taken entirely way too many 3-point shots to start off the season. It’s one thing if they’re falling, but the way the Nuggets have been shooting from outside lately should warrant launching one from behind the 3-point line taboo unless someone is almost wide open. Perhaps this is most evident in the fact that Andre Miller has already made more 3-pointers through five games this year than he did all last season with the Blazers. Bottom line: When you drive good things happen. You get the opposing team’s big men in foul trouble, you get to the line and you make easy buckets that build your confidence and open up the court for other teammates to then operate through. Let’s hope George Karl makes this a priority here soon.
— The Nuggets closed on a 11-0 run to seal the victory. Gallinari had a game-high 20 points, which was the most he’s scored so far this season, and finally looked like the player most Nuggets fans expected since coming from New York. Gallinari still has an enormous amount of untapped potential and absolutely must assert himself as a cornerstone of Denver’s offense in order for the Nuggets to perpetuate its success. The other young up-and-comer, Ty Lawson, is doing his job; now it’s up to Gallo to fulfill his duty as one of Denver’s key cogs moving forward.