|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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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) .
- 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