|Nene, C 30 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-6 FT | 11 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | -16
The one knock on Nene has always been his soft demeanor and his uncanny ability to disappear in big moments. That’s been the one caveat to his well-rounded game and tonight we saw all that all his athletic ability and efficiency comes at a price. Nene was a defensive sieve and after looking decent against Kaman and Okafor last Friday, he was dominated inside and couldn’t be bothered to put up much a fight.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 38 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -18
Gallinari didn’t play the fourth quarter till the game was well out of hand. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only factor that made his stat-sheet contributions an empty effort. Defensively Gallinari was awful against his fellow countryman Marco Bellinelli and any other Hornet lucky enough to find themselves guarded by him.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 11 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +2
Not enough minutes to be a factor either way, but the Nuggets had some success guarding the rim and played better defense with him in the game. Nene and Mozgov continue to look like an odd pairing in the starting lineup. Karl’s quest to go small no matter how poor the matchup ultimately erased whatever small chance Mozgov had at making a difference against the Hornets dominant front line.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 2-8 FG | 8-10 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | 0
Not a good game. He was one of only two Nuggets putting up some kind of resistance on defense and it salvages his passing grade. Afflalo continues to set a poor example with questionable shot selection. Don’t be fooled by the 10 free throw attempts – Afflalo is a poor ballhandler and not a great finisher. The Nuggets need him playing his game and instead he forced offense all night – with poor results.
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -9
Lawson was awful on Jarrett Jack. He made poor decisions with the ball and just couldn’t sustain what little momentum the Nuggets were able to get. There’s a caveat to Lawson’s grade – he injured his ankle towards the end of the first half and looked hobbled the rest of the way. I would’ve liked to see him rest and he probably should have, but Lawson was a warrior and battled through.
|Al Harrington, PF 18 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | -11
Is Al Harrington as good as his torrid start to the season suggests? Absolutely not, and it would have been totally unreasonable to believe so. Harrington won’t be able to defend consistently and that limits the impact of his offensive talents. When he can’t hit shots, it’s just pure disaster as we saw tonight. Really awful defense and if Al Harrington’s 13-year career is any indication, there’s more to come.
|Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 PTS | -13
To get an ‘F’ it goes beyond having a bad game. That happens to everyone. You have to be actively hurting the team every minute to be this bad. Miller did just that, making selfish decisions with the ball and doing the same thing he’s been doing all year – shooting too much. Miller’s contributions to this team have been overstated and I don’t like the way he’s played all year. He is an odd fit on this team to be honest.
|Chris Andersen, C 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -1
Incomplete. For whatever reason, he received a few charity minutes from George Karl and didn’t do enough to affect anything. Considering how poorly he’s played as of late, I’m not sure why Koufos didn’t get the call earlier.
|Corey Brewer, SF 8 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | 0
Incomplete. Despite earning minutes, Brewer was another charity case given a few scraps for no apparent reason. Unlike Birdman he probably deserved his shot but just didn’t do enough to make any fair judgement concerning his play.
|DeMarre Carroll, F 1 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +6
He saw a minute in garbage time, perhaps confirming suspicions that Faried won’t see a single meaningful minute of court time no matter what. Incomplete.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 27 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -9
Fernandez made shots, but they were awful ones. I really would have liked to see Brewer eat into his minutes. Rudy plays with energy and reckless abandon, but he is not an explosive scorer and I fear that this coaching staff somehow believes he is. Energy and effort were there, but he just took terrible shots and he doesn’t take enough pride on the defensive end. Another empty statline.
|Kosta Koufos, C 10 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +4
Incomplete. He was called in during the second half, but unfortunately the Nuggets were already getting blown out and had no shot. Like Mozgov, the coaching staff has zero trust in him and refused to give him a chance in a game dominated by size.
Five Things We Saw
- Coaching – F: The Hornets strength is their overwhelming size and their solid collection of post players. It was clear in the last game in New Orleans and it was clear tonight. On Friday, Koufos had a big game and delivered the win despite the Nuggets falling behind early thanks to the Hornets ability to control the game with size. George Karl’s team looks like they were satisfied coming out of San Antonio with a close loss and weren’t ready to play. They continued to play no-defense small ball and Karl refused to adjust to the matchup against New Orleans.
- Conditioning – D: Most of the Nuggets looked a step slow and out of shape. The schedule has been difficult, but there’s no excuse to come out so flat at home on a day’s rest, especially against a Hornets team missing their best player and their best wing defender. Nuggets players weren’t properly prepared to compete and as a result there was no energy in the game.
- Toughness – D+: Once the Hornets got past the first line of defense, there was zero resistance at the rim. Granted the Nuggets played small most of the game, but there’s no way to overlook the glaring defensive hole in the middle. Denver is a very soft team and the defense has been overrated by early season factors including fatigue, home court advantage and most of all luck.
- Roster Balance – C-: The Nuggets strength is their depth, but they have a collection of flawed players and no one truly reliable on either the offensive or defensive end. There are no go-to players when the team needs a big basket or a crucial defensive stop. Depth serves no purpose when you have incumbents like Al Harrington, Andre Miller, and Chris Andersen who are going to receive minutes no matter what. The Nuggets are not a contender in the Western Conference with this roster remaining intact.
- Player Development – F: The truest sign of a non-contending team is home blowout losses against lesser opponents. Not to knock New Orleans, but they are without their best player, one of their veteran leaders and they have lost six games in a row. As the Nuggets charge toward another first round playoff exit, players like Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Rudy Fernandez and Chris Andersen will carry the load. None of these players have futures in Denver and the guys on the bench won’t get any better by sitting and watching. The most promising young players can’t improve without playing time and from a development standpoint, it’s looking like a lost season. The Nuggets future is cloudy.
Game 10 Advanced Stats:
Pace Factor: 88.7 – The slowest game of the year by far
Offensive Efficiency: 91.3 – Pathetic
Defensive Efficiency: 106.0 – Pathetic
Candid Notes by Kalen:
— Although it was ugly it’s important for everyone to remember this was only one game! I understand the implications that a single contest can present at times, but I’d highly advise against delving too far into the details here (which I’m about to do anyways). At the immediate conclusion of the game I was just as furious as I’m sure many of you were, although after having a few hours to sit on it, I’ve realized how inconsequential one game during a lockout-ridden season really is. Sure Al had a rough outing and so did Miller, but I think Charlie was a little tough on the these guys and the team as a whole tonight. Let’s keep in mind: You could make a really strong argument that Al, up to this point, has been the best, most consistent player on the Nuggets roster and has in fact played good defense. Meanwhile Miller has continued to post one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the entire league and has also played good defense for the most part considering all the two guards he’s had to cover. Sure, most title contenders don’t lose games like these at home, but some do. Still, whoever said Denver was a title contender in the first place? I guess I just think this team has played pretty damn good up to this point and there’s no reason we should discount everything that’s happened over one lousy performance. Every year almost every team in the NBA suffers at least one of these though losses (though it may not be this bad), so perhaps it was good the Nuggets got theirs out of the way already. There’s no doubt in my mind this team will not again come out as ill-prepared as it did Monday.
— That said… this was one ugly loss. In fact, I can’t remember suffering a loss this bad in a really long time. Off the top of my head, I’d say the loss to Portland on the last day of the regular season in 2009, right before the Nuggets went on its historic Western Conference Finals run, was probably just as bad considering what was on the line. But this… this was just disheartening more than anything. What I saw against the Hornets was nothing more than a cocky, unprepared, lackadaisical team that though it could sleepwalk through a victory against an injury-plagued squad simply because it was playing at home. If you haven’t already read it I strongly urge you to glance at my 3-on-3 pregame article I participated in over at Hornets247.com, as it’s brief and explains everything both teams had to do in order to win. The funny thing is the Hornets did almost exactly what I suggested while the Nuggets did the opposite. In short: The Hornets played tough defense and controlled the glass to near perfection, meanwhile the Nuggets took its strongest weapon –home-court advantage — for granted and made poor use of its depth. That was the recipe for each team to succeed, and on Monday, only one team followed the directions.
As for a few key developments I noticed…
— Up to this point I’ve been extremely lenient with Birdman. I guess he’ll always have a special place in my heart for that incredible comeback story he authored in 2009 and the huge defensive-energy role he played on quite possibly the best Nuggets team of all time that went to the Conference Finals. But my patients are wearing, as are George Karl’s. It’s almost baffling at this point how broken down Birdman’s fundamentals are. I remember the days when he could watch a guy pump-fake three to four times and not once bite on a single move. But oh, how times have changed. These days Birdman is almost like a toddler; you can fool him with the easiest trick in the book. I really hope he figures this out soon, because if not he’ll likely find himself on the receiving end of the amnesty provision sometimes next year.
— Offensive rebounding is virtually non-existent in Denver right now. The Nuggets currently rank second to last in the league in offensive rebounds per game, only .1 percent ahead of Toronto. Again, this is something that has changed drastically in the last few years as the Nuggets were always a team that you could count on to crash the glass leading to monster put-back dunks. Kenyon Martin specifically comes to mind when pondering this type of play. Of course, attempting to follow up shots certainly doesn’t help when you’re perpetually playing small ball and having to go up against much taller forwards. The developing 2012 Nuggets theme, “When will this be addressed?” applies aptly to this scenario.
— I’m legitimately starting to wonder if Karl’s fast-break offense is nothing more than the option, or “Wildcat,” of the NBA. We see this in the NFL (especially here in Denver), as something that can work temporarily but by no means is a recipe for long-term success. We all know that once the playoffs start the game slows down and your life essentially depends on executing in the half-court set. Well, I think it’s fair to say that if the playoffs started today the Nuggets would be doomed. As we speak, Denver is abysmal when it comes to operating in any other mode outside of the fast-break offense. The problem is: teams are already starting to adjust. If you ask me, the book on the Nuggets is out and it’s likely titled, “Get back on transition defense and win.” When will this be addressed???
— The Nuggets’ defense is slowly becoming a problem. Denver simply cannot stop people even when they try. We saw it against San Antonio and we saw it again against one of the worst offensive teams in the league in the New Orleans Hornets. At times, Denver plays solid team defense which usually leads to turnovers and thus, the fast-break offense, but this is more of an anomaly than a customary habit. Sometimes individuals will even go through extended stretches of supreme defensive effort, that will only vanish minutes later. Although this is a prime “When will this be addressed?” candidate, it’s not quite as glaring as some of the other deficiencies the Nuggets are currently dealing with and can therefore be tolerated… for now. More than anything Karl just needs to remind the team more often of how important defense is to its identity.
— One specific aspect of defense that does however qualify for “When will this be addressed?” is rotations. I simply cannot state in words how bad the Nuggets are on defensive rotations. It’s abominable, lets’ just say that. The problem is, this IS the very essence of playing team defense. If you don’t rotate fast enough, you cause a teammate to cover your ineptitude which in turn leaves that persons’ man wide open. In the NBA, wide open equals dead. A little anecdote: Tonight, after watching the Nuggets I caught some of the Chicago Bulls game and was blown away at how much better their defensive rotations were compared to the Nuggets. It was like watching a true professional basketball team, or at least how a true professional basketball team should play. Their movement was crisp, their organization flawless and unlike the Nuggets they were in a constant state of communication. The Nuggets simply cannot make it through an entire season as one of the better teams in the league if this issue is not resolved in a timely fashion. So I ask, When will this be addressed???
— Finally, Koufos and Mozgov. I’m probably the only person in Nuggets Nation keeping this alive and probably the only one who cares but for whatever reason I cannot let it go. In my eyes, the best players on each team at each position should be starting (aside from sixth men) and for the Nuggets Koufos is this person in center form, end of story!!! I’ve watched more than enough footage of both Mozgov and Koufos to determine this truth, so after each game that Mozgov clumsily stumbles his way to another 15-plus minutes of foul-infested, catatonic wandering I’m left flummoxed at what George Karl could possibly be thinking starting him over Koufos. I think it’s fair to say, that in George’s mind, the “Mozgov Mirage” is in full effect. When will this be addressed???