Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 96 Hornets 88

Denver Nuggets 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
88 New Orleans Hornets
Nene, C 24 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -4
Nene played a few possessions where he looked dominant, but once again was passive during any key stretch where it looked like Denver could seize momentum. He played Birdman-like defense meaning one out of 3 or so possessions was fantastic and the rest was cringe-worthy.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 39 MIN | 9-17 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 23 PTS | +12
Gallo did more off-ball work than we’ve seen all season. Despite still missing a ton of shots from distance, he was aggressive and confident throughout the game. Gallo also recorded six assists on a night where the guards had a tough time creating shots for the team. Gallo played a very well rounded game tonight.
Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -3
Look, Mozgov just wasn’t in the game much. I was baffled as to why he or Koufos weren’t allowed to play in the first half despite New Orleans’ size causing so many problems. Timo missed a dunk and he misses a ton of tip-ins which is likely keeping him off the court. Although he wasn’t the worst defender on the floor, he was part of a dysfunctional unit that didn’t communicate on defense and couldn’t get out in transition.
Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +8
He still isn’t taking the greatest shots and for whatever reason, missing open threes causes him to keep shooting contested ones. There’s nothing to do but wait out Afflalo’s long range slump, and at least on defense its business as usual. His third quarter defense was fantastic and played a major part in the Nuggets’ second half surge.
Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 3-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 12 PTS | -7
For once, Lawson had to rely on his teammates to push the pace in Denver’s favor. He should have gotten a few more calls at the rim, but Lawson didn’t show a lot of patience running the offense instead opting to wildly drive the ball into traffic where the size and length of New Orleans bothered him.
Al Harrington, PF 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +9
Al Harrington has somehow made himself a solid defensive player. He played perhaps the most efficient minutes out of any Nugget and once again stepped up big when no one else was willing. He is the only one shooting with any confidence and he’s been a major factor in gutting out every tough win of the season.
Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 4-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 13 PTS | +13
Miller gets his first ‘A’ of the season as he seemed to really settle the Nuggets down at the moment they were able to seize the game. I still don’t like his shot selection and some of the passes he’ll attempt in a half-court set, but Miller’s steady floor presence was great on a night Lawson struggled a lot.
Chris Andersen, C 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -7
Birdman’s act is tired. I’m shocked the numbers make him look like a competent player. He looks great one game and then is consistently the worst guy on the court in the next. He’s completely awful on the road and the Nuggets won this game because Koufos finally cut into his playing time in the second half. Birdman’s energy just isn’t something to rely on – it’s a gimmick more than anything else.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | 0
Fernandez did exactly what he needed to do when called on. With Afflalo having one of his better games of the year, the minutes weren’t there but he gave maximum effort on both ends during his time. Fernandez isn’t taking unnecessary threes anymore and his play is steadily improving after an up and down start in Denver.
Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +19
Koufos wasn’t really allowed in the game till the second half when the Nuggets looked morbidly bad on both ends. He proceeded to play like the best big on the floor and almost singlehandedly sparked Denver to the pivotal run that sealed it. His pick and roll defense was awesome and the Nuggets rotated much better with him anchoring the middle. I’m not sure why the coaches are so hesitant to trust him but he clearly deserves more time on the floor. Give Koufos credit for MVP in this difficult road win.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Speed Kills. The Hornets played a little too fast after making so many shots early in the game. Despite the Nuggets playing pretty bad basketball for over half of the game they were able to speed things up considerably at the end. It’s clear the Hornets lost confidence in their ability to control a slow-down game and buckled late. All Denver needs is a small opening to get their running attack going and there aren’t many teams who can keep up
  2. Interior defense. The Nuggets were tougher inside tonight and played exceptional man defense on Kaman and Okafor. At times they were over-aggressive and left too many shooters wide open on the perimeter. The overall team defense was poor until Koufos’ arrival late in the game, when he also proceeded to get three huge blocks on crucial possessions.
  3. Half court woes continue. There are still some worries about this team going stagnant for as long as they do. Teams that are able to stay in front of Lawson or pre-rotate help take away Denver’s main options and they need to improve in this area soon.
  4. YGTMYFTs. Gallo, Lawson, and Andre Miller made every free throw they attempted. As a team the Nuggets weren’t great, but it’s a very good sign when the team struggles offensively yet the best players get to the line and convert. A key factor to closing out games is making free throws count and the Nuggets are improving (Lawson’s been pretty bad here in previous games) .
  5. Finish Strong. Ultimately it was depth that won this game. New Orleans executed better for longer periods, but Karl’s willingness to go to a bench overflowing with talent eventually broke the injured Hornets down. If the Nuggets are going to win in San Antonio tomorrow, they’ll need more of the same. Lawson needs to bounce back with a much better game and the bench must continue to be their reliable selves. Also of note: Afflalo finished the game with a bench-heavy unit and that’s a trend that needs to become a staple going forward.

Game 8 Advanced Stats

Pace Factor:  91.5 – Really slow and ugly until the 34-point fourth quarter explosion
Offensive Efficiency: 104.9 – Against NOLA at this pace it’s a very solid rating
Defensive Effiiciency:   96.1 – Terrible start, wildly up and down but good enough against a Hornets team who came to play

  • steve

    I love this team. I’ve said this a couple of times already this year but, i had to say it again. They were patient in this game and never lacked confidence even being down by 10 on the road a couple of times. They willed their way back with Defense and finally hit a couple 3s. Eventually the 3s will fall and honestly, they will be very scary. SA will be tough on the road tomorrow night but we usually play them well. GO NUGS!

  • evan

    You guys added the min =D

    Anyway I didnt get to watch this game, was driving from fl to sc to go back to college, but it seems like galo finally had a really good game.

    Tough game in sanantonio tomorrow. Worried about that one. Though they say they have trouble guarding the powerfrward positi9on(the reason they loat to memphis in the 1st round) so it’s up to nene. He can do it. But we’ll see.

    Go Nuggets!

    Go Nuggets!

  • Ernie

    That was a really fast rapid reaction Charlie!

    Koufos was fantastic. He plays like we all believe we would if we were 7 feet tall, hustling constantly for rebounds, setting picks, playing defense, running the floor and making buckets when the ball finds him. Moz seemed like he played this way last year but just hasn’t gotten it so far At least AAA was playing better, though I remember him having a left hand before and now he only dribbles right.

    I thought the officiating was reasonably bad as well. Just so inconsistent from play to play that it was hard for players on both teams to figure out what to do.

  • Dubz

    Nice win for the Nuggets. This game really showed me a lot about this team and really validates all of our opinions about the importance of depth. I knew Gallo would improve even if it’s not from 3. He’s provided a lot for this team and having such an athletic big who can shoot can’t be over valued. I really have to say though, Al Buckets is really starting to earn my respect. This guy had zero incentive to show up to camp in shape and motivated this year (He’s made tons of money and probably signed his last big contract in this league) but he’s done it anyway. Whenever he comes in off the bench he inserts a ton of energy and brings an intensity to the defense that I haven’t seen from this team in a while. Not to mention he’s the only guy shooting from long range with confidence. Ty is going to have games like this throughout the season. He’s the man, but this league is too good for him not to have growing pains. I really have to say though, this is the classic game the Nuggets would have lost in recent years. Start off with no energy and Melo’s disinterested: Game Over. Not this year though, we just bring in Big Al, Fernandez, and Koufos and we’re all set. It’s a thing a beauty to watch and when guys like Afflalo and Gallo start making their shots (which they will) this team is going to be scary. Just think of Gallo’s ceiling if he’s hitting those 3′s, it’s 20+ pts a night. This team is fun to watch, hopefully Faried and Koufos get some more time just because I like the energy they provide if nothing else. Go Nuggets.

  • bayesk

    i gotta say, i love this team. i’m all in.
    another thanks for adding minutes!
    crazy +/- for Koufos; great game from him.
    it’s kind of fun to watch a team where many different guys contribute, where you kind of trust they’ll never fall out of a game. In fact, they’ve been mostly winning, and the losses were both close late. Winning tough games even when we shoot so poorly from deep – steve said it above, we’ll be scary when we have those 11-20 kind of nights from deep. Great stuff, keep it up.

  • Andrew

    I agree with everyone regarding Koufos and loving this team.
    Followed the game cast on ESPN tonight while I did some work. It looks like Koufos is getting better and better. It made me think back to the beginning of the season when a lot of people thought that, in order for the Nuggets to get to the next level, they needed three things:
    1) Somebody to develop into a reliably productive and go to scorer. (Gallo tonight had 23 and looks to be on his way to being that guy, and several other players, including Harrington, seem to be capable of clutch points)
    2) Better D. (Nuggets are near the top ten in points allowed, even though they are still #2 in points scored).
    3) Either Moz or K2 to develop into a legit center (nickname courtesy of another poster). Koufos had 8 and 5 with 3 blocks in 17 minutes tonight and Moz is playing fairly well, also.

  • bayesk

    hey, since we’re on a roll with this adding minutes thing, can you guys add a parenthetical league rank for the sidebar stats up top? eg. “Defensive Efficiency 94.6 (1)”. Top defensive efficiency in the league?!

    • Charlie

      Those stats are for quick reference and aren’t updated frequently enough for the rankings to be useful. However, I highly reccommend bookmarking this page for the info – I look at every day:

      http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/teamstats

      • bayesk

        Heard. I hit basketball-reference.com usually for stuff like that. Great site by the way. Cheers from Kentucky!

      • snafu

        Pretty interesting that the Nugs are near the very bottom of the league in Offensive Rebound Rate but #1 in Defensive Rebound Rate. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but I wonder if it’s something the team discusses in practice (getting back after shots on O and a huge focus on securing D rebounds)

        • Ernie

          It’s because Moz and K2 are the only ones who try to offensive rebound. Nene never seems to want to fight there

  • Jim

    That is exactly the kind of game melo nuggets would have lost ugly.

    Birdman played maybe some of the worst d I’ve seen in a long time tonight. Karl should only play him at home. Every away game is a nightmare. Seriously, I get the thinking that the rookies don’t know what they are doing at this stage of the season with no camp but how can faried be a worse option than bird out there? At least we maybe have turned a corner with k2 playing time.

    I think big al gets his nickname back. Sixth man of the year so far.

    • Jeff

      I was thinking the exact same thing about birdman, just play him at home. You know the concept of player/coach? Birdman is a player/mascot.

  • ryan

    a little disappointing to hear karl after the game saying he wasn’t even planning on playing koufous at all tonight…

  • Aaron

    Is It Just Me Or Does Denver Play Better WITHOUT Nene?!?!?! They Seem Soooo Much More In Rythem And They Seem To Run Faster Also, Kind Of Annoying To Watch A 13 Million A Year Player Put Your Team Out Of Rythem. Just Something I’ve Kind Of Noticed A Bit.

    • Ryan

      he’s probably not 100% with the ankle yet, so maybe playing a little slower than usual. could be why…

  • dynamo.joe

    Lets not dump on Nene too quickly, maybe he’s still not back to 100%.

    Any info on that?

    Anyway, the reason I ask is I was stunned he didn’t come back in to finish the game. I kept asking myself “is he injured or is Karl actually staying with the squad that’s playing effectively over his starters?”

    Since I haven’t mentioned Faried, he has a PER of 21 for the season in his whopping 9 minutes.

    • Charlie

      I didn’t think I was dumping on Nene. His presence alone made a big difference. I thought he was bothering Okafor and could have been a lot more aggressive trying to exploit that matchup.

      He had a couple of nice steals and made some nice defensive plays. Unfortunately he wasn’t part of the lineups that really won the game. Also I though the shots he was taking were really awful, but that’s to be expected for a guy who’s missed time and hasn’t been practicing. I don’t think ‘C’ is a bad grade for this game, if he just helped out a little more offensively it would have been a very good game from him

      • dynamo.joe

        I was actually referring to Aarons post above, Charlie. Just hit the wrong button.

        Nene had enough minutes to make an impact and didn’t. I’d probably agree with the C grade. If he had just scored at his normal rate on the shots he did take it would probably be a ‘B’.

        Anyway, someone was asking where will Faried or even K2′s minutes come from? How about a second unit of
        1: Andre
        2: Rudy
        3: Big Al
        4: Bounce (might as well get used to throwing that nickname around)
        5: K2

        I know I read the other day that Lawson get the most minutes, but it seems like its Gallo thats always out there when I’m watching the games. No reason Al can’t play the 3.

        Besides, before the season started I wanted to see how Koufus and Faried played together. Before the season I liked K2′s offensive game, but didn’t think much of his rebounding. I guess someone told him rebounds=minutes if you are a big playing for GK.

  • FinazzAus

    I couldn’t watch the game. But it seems as if we played better without nene. Is this a fair call or not. I’m hoping to be wrong.

    • FinazzAus

      Sorry didn’t read the above post first.

  • Diehardnr1

    I agree totally on Koufos…by far the best big on the court and unanimous game MVP. I’ve been sold on the big Greek since the 2007 FIBA U18 tournament…where he led the Greeks to a gold medal game, while winning tourney MVP.

    I think Kosta will give Moz a run for the starting position before the season is over…or at least cut into the Russians minutes…nice problem to have, deciding which 7′ C is better…an alien concept in Denver until recently.

    GO NUGGETS!!!

    • magster

      I think Koufos is giving Moz a run now, and that both are going to put Bird on the end of the bench.

  • aussienuggzfan

    We are looking like legit top 3 or so contenders in the west right now. I think we need Wilson Chandler though to take out Portland and OKC.

    Also Koufos to take some of mozgov and all of birds minutes. I would really like to see Faried for at least 10 minutes a night also but hard to see with Big Al playing like he is in his prime and GK the way he is

  • http://www.chazkemp.com Chaz

    I’m kind of hoping that K2 will start soon as well, although that might hurt Moz’s confidence. I truly believe that Moz will develop into a good player by the end of the season. Imagine us with 2 good 7 footers!!

    I love K2′s game and he exemplifies what our team is all about: Hustle, Loyalty, Determination and Teamwork.

    So – a question for everyone here… if/when Chandler comes back, where does he fit in and who’s minutes does he take? I think the trip to China really boosted his confidence and he might be a much better player than he was last year. Do you guys believe that he’ll be a good TEAM player or will he want to start somewhere else?

    • Jeff

      If he came back I would like to see him get most of Rudy’s minutes, but we know that wouldn’t happen because Karl loves Fernandez. He could also swap in for Gallinari at times.

  • magster

    Is there a place other than Koz’ podcast where players and coach’s post game reactions are posted or transcribed? MavsMoneyball always seems to find loads of quotes from somewhere for the Dallas team. I always feel cheated that our blogs don’t have a similar resource to share with us.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

      Hey Magster, Denver has been one of the less receptive teams in the league as far as granting access to bloggers, but we are making some good progress in that department. Hopefully both RMC and DS will be able to provide more of that kind of content in the future.