Rapid Reaction: San Antonio Spurs 121 Denver Nuggets 117

Denver Nuggets 117 Final
Recap | Box Score
121 San Antonio Spurs
Kosta Koufos, C 7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -6
One night after playing the role of a major impact player off the bench, perhaps even altering the outcome of the contest altogether, Koufos was granted only seven minutes of playing time in the first quarter of Saturday’s game. With such a limited amount of time on the floor it’s tough to analyze the type of impact Koufos made, if any.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 40 MIN | 10-16 FG | 8-10 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 31 PTS | -3
This was arguably Galinari’s best game in a Nuggets uniform. Not only did he net the most points in a single game during his tenure in Denver thus far, but he did so on an extremely efficient shooting performance that included a variety of different attacking methods. His 3-point shooting has now drastically improved since he started driving to the hoop, as I suggested he do several games ago.
Timofey Mozgov, C 18 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -10
Mozgov had a typicaly Mozgov performance this evening; in other words, he wasn’t very good. Scoring four points and hauling in a horrendous two rebounds in 18 minutes of action is just not acceptable for a starting center in the NBA, and looks especially bad when contrasted with Koufos’ stat line from the previous night when he received the exact same amount of minutes. At this point, it’s truly a mystery as to why Mozgov is receiving as much playing time as he is.
Arron Afflalo, SG 41 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | +5
Afflalo has steadily progressed throughout the season and is now fitting nicely into the Nuggets offense. He’s mostly relegated himself to shooting spot-up threes, but as long as he keeps making them, his lack of off-season development can slide until he further advances both his skill set and physical conditioning. Still, at some point in time Afflalo is going to need to back up the hefty contract he received in the offseason.
Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 9-18 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 20 PTS | +6
Similar to Gallinari, Lawson stepped up big time in a game in which the Nuggets desperately needed him to. His penetration into the heart of the Spurs defense was truly remarkable given how disciplined Popovich’s defenses usually are. His 10 assists tie a season high and when combined with his point total, form Lawson’s first double-double of the season. Overall this was an extremely effective performance from a player who’s on the verge of taking the “next step” in his career.
Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 7-10 FG | 4-7 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | -9
Big Al was once again wildly impressive in a game where the Nuggets needed hit attributes to shine. This is now the fourth game in a row, and sixth all season, in which Al has shot better than .500 from the floor. His defense alone has been admirable, but considering most of it has come against much taller players due to Karl’s intrigue with “small ball,” it’s even that much more impressive. His 7.5 rebounds per game leads the team despite the fact he comes off the bench and is more of a three than a four, or five for that matter.
Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 8 PTS | -11
Numerically speaking Miller had another solid night, however he was extremely lethargic the entire first half and was a primary contributor to the slow start that ultimately cost the Nuggets the game. On multiple possessions Miller refused to ignite the fast-break offense and when paired with Ty Lawson, couldn’t keep up with the pace Denver is accustomed to running. His negative 11 on the plus-minus scale was the worst on the team. Its fair to say fatigue ran its course with the 35-year-old point guard on Saturday; let’s just hope this doesn’t become a trend.
Chris Andersen, C 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -5
Andersen went for the first pump fake that came his way and didn’t see another minute of action thereafter. This is the type of coaching that you have to love from Karl. At some point Andersen needs to refine his fundamentals if he wants to continue receiving playing time especially now that Koufos has emerged as quite possibly the best backup big man outside of Al Harrington on the team. Hopefully this was a wakeup call for the Birdman.
Corey Brewer, SF 12 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +12
Brewer single handedly brought the Nuggets back into the game during the last half of the second quarter thanks to his unrivaled energy and defensive domination. He continued to inject life into both the Nuggets’ offense and defense throughout the game and was undoubtedly the MVP of the contest. His impact on Saturday’s game cannot be overstated.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | +1
Though Fernandez committed no glaring mistakes and put up very respectable numbers across the board, his defense was still suspect and all too often led to easy baskets for his counterpart. In addition, Fernandez’ shot selection was sprinkled with J.R. Smith-like unconscious attempts that in no way should have been allowed by George Karl. Though Fernandez remains an above average role player coming off the bench, he still has yet to find his place in the Nuggets offense and can be somewhat of a liability on defense.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Sluggish start: If you were to point towards one thing that absolutely killed the Nuggets, it would have to be the 37-point quarter San Antonio whipped out to start the game. Though the Spurs came into Saturday’s matchup as the seventh highest scoring team in the league, by no means are they considered offensively elite. Against a coach as great as Popovich you simply cannot afford to make mistakes and though the Nuggets vastly improved on defense each quarter following the first, in the end, they could never quite catch up with the Spurs no matter how hard they tried.
  2. Confusing combinations: With the game increasingly looking as if it would come down to the final few minutes — which it did — Karl rolled out Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller to close the game as the shooting guards, despite the fact both had major weaknesses in their game up to that point. While Miller was suffering from fatigue and Rudy was giving up countless baskets on defense, Karl apparently didn’t take their struggles into account which in turn led to more struggles in the end. Why Corey Brewer — who had by far the best plus-minus of any Nugget and was the only player actually stopping the Spurs from scoring — didn’t get look to close out the game is somewhat perplexing.
  3. Star alignment: If the Nuggets wish to be serious contenders in the Western Conference this year, it’s imperative Gallinari and Lawson step up in games like this — which they did. In such a heated battle was extremely encouraging watching Lawson put up his first double-double of the season while simultaneously witnessing Gallinari score the most points yet in his Nuggets’ career. If these two continue to progress like they did on Saturday, the Nuggets might very well be looking at its own, home-bred set of stars.
  4. Difficult defense: Even after improving on the atrocious first-quarter defensive effort, the Nuggets still couldn’t find a way to stop the Spurs from scoring in the final three quarters. Giving up 120-plus points is a rare feat for a George Karl coached squad, however after watching the poor rotations and mass confusion that occurred against the intelligent Spur’s offense, it was easy to see how the Nuggets relinquished so many points. Saturday’s performance is just another reminder of how unorganized the Nuggets is in a half-court set. Again, this MUST be addressed sometime soon.
  5. Green machine: Top flight scrub, Danny Green, who has bounced around several different NBA, D-League and overseas teams after being drafted only three years ago, had the game of his life against the Nuggets. His stat line, headlined by a team high 24 points, was the dagger that iced the victory for the Spurs. Unfortunately, this is just another performance in a long line of scrubs that have had career outings against the Nuggets.

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UPDATE and extras by Charlie

Game 9 Advanced Stats

Pace Factor: 96.7 – Slower than normal, but we’ll see games like this on the end of road back-to-backs
Offensive Efficiency: 121.0 – Finally shots start falling and Denver’s firepower was on display
Defensive Efficiency: 125.2 – Well, that’s just plain bad. The Nuggets had to play from behind all game and they had spurts of good defensive play, especially in the fourth quarter.

Additional Game 9 Nuggets

  • Gallo was at the foul line with 3 seconds left in the game and the Nuggets down five. After making the first to bring it within four, he intentionally missed the second despite the fact it was still a two possession game.  It probably wouldn’t have mattered, but I would have preferred Gallo make that free throw to make it a one possession game. Anything can happen on the inbounds and you put the onus on San Antonio to make free throws at the very least. This is debatable and I’m not saying it was a glaringly awful mistake. I just don’t get the upside of intentionally missing that free throw in a four-point game with a mere 3 seconds left on the clock. I mean realistically what are you hoping for beyond a miracle four point play?
  • Readers are going to rip me for this – but I really enjoy watching this Spurs team play. Their offense is incredibly fluid and the ball movement, sublime. I wrote in the preview about the Spurs’ mastery of spot-up shooting and their ability to push a defense to the limit. Despite the Nuggets’ best efforts to prod the Spurs into a frenzy of quick shooting and turnovers, they just couldn’t be coaxed into forced shots and bad execution. It was a great game to watch between two great offensive teams with contrasting styles.
  • I was very surprised Nene played 24 minutes yesterday despite missing two previous games with a bad foot. It didn’t make sense especially with a tough back-to-back looming where the Nuggets could use a fresh body. Nene’s foot pain kept him out of the game and his presence was sorely missed. The Nuggets have a history of rushing injured players back for no good reason and the result is another setback and likely more missed games for Nene.
  • Looking at the Spurs’ whopping 125.2 offensive rating, it’s fair to question if the Nuggets just played totally awful defense. I have mixed feelings. For one, there was a fatigue factor and what hurt the Nuggets early were turnovers and the Spurs’ offensive rebounding. Denver played from behind all night and without Nene it’s not realistic to expect great defense from a team playing small-ball lineups exclusively. Still, there’s just no excuse to give up 37 points and over 60% shooting in the first quarter on the road against anyone.
  • Lawson is getting stiffed on contact at the rim. Officiating didn’t decide tonight’s outcome, there were bad calls on both ends as usual. However I challenge anyone to watch Lawson’s performance and maintain that a measly three free throws was fair. Those who read me know I don’t make a habit of complaining about whistles but this issue goes well beyond the Spurs game – Ty Lawson does not get the requisite respect from officials for a point guard of his caliber.
  • Nuggets guards didn’t do a good enough job fighting through screens and almost exclusively went under. The result was a combined 4-6 3-point shooting from the relatively unknown bench duo of James Anderson and Danny Green. Rudy Fernandez was particularly guilty of pulling an Anthony Carter and aimlessly wandering off his man for no reason.
  • As Kalen mentioned, Corey Brewer gave the Nuggets fantastic minutes to help cut a 20-point deficit down to seven by halftime.  Karl elected to start Miller, Lawson, and Mozgov in the third quarter and Denver immediately lost its mojo. Why Brewer could not get more playing time is beyond me, he certainly did everything possible to earn it.
  • Andre Miller shoots a lot, and I’m getting scared. Does anyone else remember 2003-2007 with the shot clock running down and the ball in Andre Miller’s hands?
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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.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • kitkat

    when gallo scored 12 points in less than 6 minutes, they should have given the ball more to him to shoot. i thought that point guards shoot know who’s hot. i see that lawson either doesn’t have a good court vision or is a shoot first point guard. also, same with miller (4-11). if he had given it to gallo some of those attempts could have been points.

    • Coxy

      Gallo scored all those points on the slower Dejuan Blair. And it was awesome. He stopped getting the ball when kawhi Leonard was subbed in and put on gallo. That’s why We stopped going to him as it was no longer a mismatch. Although I still think we should have given him the ball a few more times or run him off some screens coz he was stroking it.

  • kitkat

    correction on i thought that point guards should know who’s hot.

  • TroyF

    The PG play was fine. I don’t disagree with anything Kalen wrote above, but lets face facts:

    The Spurs hit a ton of shots that they aren’t usually going to hit. The refs refused to give Lawson a call all night and the blown call at the two minute mark (Jefferson clearly hit Ty’s elbow) ended up being the decisive moment in the game.

    When you add in 9 missed FT, the fact we were on a road b2b and the Spurs had a night of rest, and we were missing one of our best players. . . I can live with this loss.

    Back to your original point though, if Ty Lawson doesn’t have the game he had, Denver never gets back in the game.

  • Jeff

    I agree with all the ratings. The Nuggets played very well after the first quarter but it’s hard to come back from behind 20. Pretty good loss, all things considered.

  • FinazzAus

    Even know Denver are now 6-3 I almost consider that as good as 8-1. Remember when the schedule came out we all said what a tough start we have to a shorten season. I looked at the standing and teams up the top of both east and west. We by far have had the better teams so far.

    • Charlie

      I agree the Nuggets don’t have any really bad losses yet. The schedule has not been easy and they have won the games we expect them to win, while not getting blown out or trampled over in the really difficult wins.

      There’s a couple worries, like the complete lack of a post presence without Nene on the floor. Or the sheer pain of watching the Nuggets try to play in a half court game. One thing i fear is that the Nuggets defense is vastly overrated by playing tired teams and poor shooting around the league.

      This loss, really not a bad game with Nene out. The Spurs are a very good team, they were rested and at home against a Nuggets team on a road back to back. It’s a very tough game, and they were within a few plays of winning. Without Nene, the Nuggets needed a very big night out of Koufos, Mozgov, or Birdman and all three of them flopped bad.

      These games happen, Denver’s an offensive team and when they shoot like this, defend a little bit better and play with some competent big men – the Nuggets will be okay. As you can see most of the team gets pretty good grades in a game that would have been very tough to win, but wasn’t easy for San Antonio.

      • Bryan

        I don’t think the bigs really flopped, since they didn’t get much of a chance since Karl went to his small ball lineup, so much.

  • http://www.chazkemp.com Chaz

    I didn’t watch the game but from reading the articles and this really awesome breakdown on RMC (great job Charlie!) I must say:

    1) It looks like the Nuggets stepped up their play considerably after a horrid first quarter. This is awesome because it means that the Nuggets have a winner’s mentality – they expected to win and went about doing it.

    2) I won’t blame GK for the loss because he’s going up against the best coach in the nba. Pop is going to outcoach everyone.

    3) K2 was maybe a bit intimidated – can’t say since I didn’t see the game. I’ll bet that as the season goes on and he continues to get consistent playing time, great teams will no longer phase him.

    4) I’m losing my faith in Moz. Bird getting limited minutes is completely justifiable.

    5) Afflalo is steadily improving every single game. So far, no one has commented on the fact that his shooting has been awesome for several games now. A3 will not disappoint this year – he works WAY too hard to be anything but a superstar for us.

    6) Once again – we went down fighting hard. The Spurs had to play their best to beat us and that’s pretty encouraging. I love that about our team. The Spurs aren’t as decrepid as the nba writers seem to think they are, lol. They don’t seem to be ready to give up their dominance just yet – but they’ll pass the torch soon – and it’ll be to us.

  • steve

    i agree with what most ppl have said above. One thing i want to point out is we didnt show up on D. Alot of these shots green and rjeff made were WIDE OPEN jumpers. Yes Green put up 24 pts but at least half of them werent contested.

    Karl stunk it up tonight honestly. his rotations were terrible. I liked the birdman benching because that one play where he bit on the fake made me laugh pretty hard. Other than that, GK sucked it up. Miller was not having an effective game at all. Rudy was so-so. Not sure why you went small again at the end of games. I know this worked the last couple but if you watched the same game i did, you knew it wasnt going to work at end. KK should have played more. He really wasnt given a chance. I just cant stand playing small ball every game at end. It will kill us vs good teams like SA, LA, OKC and Portland in my opinion. It works in stretches but wont work to close out every game.

    • FinazzAus

      I tend to think we can’t only be effective in the small rotations if we are at home playing a team which can’t handle the altitude and we can force the pace a lot more. Away we need to go back to some what of a normal style.

  • Ernie

    The problem with this schedule is that you get a much worse product and everyone but the owners loses. Nuggets looked tired to me, in the same way other teams look tired when they come into Denver after playing the night before. The reason Brewer looked much better than the rest is he didn’t play at all in New Orleans the night before.

    I think you have to play more guys on the back to backs (and even more on the back to back to backs). The truth is our 6 through 14 players are better than most other teams so it should be an advantage. But only if you play them. No excuse not to try Faried out there when he’s fresh and the team is down 20.

  • Brad H.

    I was out of time and missed the game. Thank you, C and K, for your excellent and thorough overview of the game, especially since the Denver Post just started locking out us iPad users from thir website (we’re automatically redirected and forced to download the DP app — which absolutely sucks!). And Sunday morning the DP app still had nothing on last night’s game.You guys were my out of town salvation on a Sunday morning when I was in desperate need of a dose of Nuggs news!

  • FinazzAus

    Hay Charlie, can you start up some kind of push for everyone to vote for our boys in the All star weekend

  • Aaron

    I Wish Karl Would Put In Corey Brewer In More, Look How He Brought Us Back Into The Game Twice, In 2 Different Times In The Same Game. That’s All I Gotta Say.

  • Ricardo

    It’s good that the nuggets are running the offense through Gallinari and Lawson, they should keep running it through them. And they should keep running it through Harrington in the second unit. I would like if Karl played Koufos and Brewer more minutes, Koufos just plays well, when he is given a lot of playing time and Brewer is a good defender and draw charges on offensive players.