|Nene, C 39 MIN | 6-11 FG | 5-9 FT | 12 REB | 4 AST | 17 PTS | +9
Nene had one of his better games this year against the Heat. His 12 rebounds were a season high and his 17 points the most since the Nuggets faced the Jazz the second game of the year. From the get go it was clear Nene made it his mission to be aggressive and his stat line reflected this effort. That said, Nene still needs some refinement in his post game, specifically when it comes to finishing around the basket as there were a handful of occasions where he missed easy buckets that he simply has to make on a more consistent basis. Working with someone like Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing would likely do wonders for Nene’s offensive and defensive output.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 4-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +11
Gallinari was the best player on the floor for the Nuggets through about two and a half quarters, then his offense dropped off a cliff. Still, he hit numerous clutch shots when the Nuggets were in danger and played excellent defense on LeBron James for most of the night. But most importantly, Gallinari finally started to hit threes with confidence and boy does it look good!
|Timofey Mozgov, C 24 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +16
As I tweeted during the game, if you took Mozgov’s best play from each game so far this season and added them all up into some sort of montage, you’d get his performance against the Heat. Where this came from I have no idea. Not only was this Mozgov’s best performance of the year — and one of the top three of his career in the NBA — but it couldn’t have come at a more important time either. Mozgov showed off a silky smooth jump shot (which I had no idea even existed), good instincts and a desire to rebound the ball for really the first time in unison all season. If he has more outings like this, it’s fair to say his job as the starting center of the Denver Nuggets will be fairly secure.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 20 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Afflalo didn’t necessarily stand out but if you watched him closely it was obvious the type of defensive impact he was making on the game was commendable. You kind of have to do this with Afflalo to really appreciate his game. Yes, Wade and LeBron still had big games, but none of the shots they took went without being contested, and a lot of the times that was due to Afflalo. Additionally, AAA hit a few big-time 3-pointers when Miami was starting to mount some comebacks that really halted the Heat’s momentum and gave the Nuggets a shot to the heart.
|Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 9-11 FG | 6-7 FT | 3 REB | 9 AST | 24 PTS | +16
My man: Ty Lawson. Anyone who follows this blog knows how big of a Lawson fan I am and tonight, he proved why that is. Looking at his All-Star caliber stat line is impressive enough, but it becomes nearly mind boggling when you consider the only shots he missed from the field in route to scoring 24 points came on 3-pointers he had to hoist up in order to beat the shot clock! This might very well have been the single best performance of any Nugget this year and is the type of confidence-building game that can really boost Ty Lawson to the next level. His crossover followed by a buzzer-beating jump shot on LeBron James near the end of the fourth quarter was teeming with shades of Tim Hardaway (who ironically enough, played for both the Nuggets and Heat and is a player Ty Lawson has some resemblance to.) Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what he follows this game up with.
|Al Harrington, PF 18 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | +11
On a night when the Nuggets desperately needed someone to come off the bench and stifle a flurry of Heat runs, Al Harrington stepped up. He hit one countless big shot after another and did so, yet again, on an extremely efficient 6-for-9 from the field. It’s safe to say that without Al the Nuggets probably don’t win this one.
|Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -7
Miller has certainly made me scratch my head recently with both his play on the floor and comments off it. In 27 minutes of action he managed only seven points and three assists all while failing, yet again, to push the pace the way the Nuggets are accustomed to playing. I’m not sure if what he said to Chris Tomasson this past week has gotten to his head or if he’s just fatigued, but either way this is now the second time in the last three games that he’s received either a “D” or an “F” after getting A’s and B’s through the first four games of the season.
|Corey Brewer, SF 12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -1
What Brewer managed to do with his measly 12 minutes of playing time absolutely won’t show up in the box score, except in the final number of points scored by the Miami Heat. His defense against LeBron James and Co. was excellent and his energy, outstanding. The more Brewer plays the more he impresses.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 29 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 15 PTS | +15
To me, this was by far Fernandez’s best game of the year. Granted, he took a few ill-advised shots, but that’s to be expected from a guy who’s main role is to score off the bench. What I liked most out of Rudy tonight was his activity on all ends of the court. He played solid defense on some of the league’s best offensive players and was constantly looking to nab a few steals in the process. Like Gallinari, his 3-point shooting finally appears to be clicking, which is creating a deep threat off the bench that the Nuggets haven’t had since, well, J.R. Smith. Over his last four games Fernandez is averaging 13.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting .474 percent from beyond the arc.
|Kosta Koufos, C 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -4
Koufos didn’t see enough time to allow for anyone to adequately assess his “performance” although he did show some aggressiveness in his whopping minute of action, which should not go unacknowledged, and won’t as long as I’m around.
|Julyan Stone, G 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -4
When Julyan Stone enters the game, the opponent has one of two choices. Either way they are going to get schooled by an undrafted rookie but it’s their choice whether they’d like to get “Stoned” or “Julyaned” (as in chopped — like the salad… you get my point). The fact that he has a name which allows me to be my normal stupid self earns him a decent grade for the evening, but his nice dish to Koufos down low which led to a few free throw attempts doesn’t hurt either.
Five Things We Saw
- Going the distance: The Nuggets shot 25 3-pointers tonight, and made 12 of them. For all you non-math majors out there, that amounts to 36 points on 48 percent shooting all together. Though many thought going into the season that the Nuggets would be one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the league, Denver did its best to dispel this notion for about the first 10 games or so. Finally however, it appears the Nuggets are settling into a groove from beyond the arc which is greatly increasing its chances of securing a “W” with each passing game. Should the Nuggets continue to expand and improve on this aspect of its offense, the rest of the league could be in trouble, as dealing with both a fast-break offense and a deadly 3-point shooting team is one tough task to handle.
- Iceman and Viper: A while back when watching a Nuggets game with my dad, he asked about “this tall guy who looked like Val Kilmer.” I told him it was Gallinari then we went off on a tangent depicting what his nickname should be. Naturally, “Iceman” came into play and it has stuck with me ever since. Unfortunately Iceman is a bit of a rebel in Top Gun so unlike Maverick and Goose, he doesn’t have a sidekick with another sweet nickname to pair. Viper is about the only other character from the movie who has an original moniker, other than the main characters, so that’s the way the cookie crumbles for Ty Lawson, although I’m still taking suggestions! (Viper isn’t half bad when you think about it. There are a lot of resemblances…) Anyways, these two are proving to be quite the tandem in regards to coming up big when the team needs someone to carry it. First it was the Iceman in San Antonio (ironically), and Friday it was Viper that stung the Heat. If both Lawson and Gallinari can continue to take the Nuggets on their back through tough stretches of the season, we might very well be looking at our very own “superstars” everyone is so up in arms about intentionally sucking in order to obtain via the NBA Draft.
- Tight like a tiger: You know how I know George Karl really wanted to win this one? Because he treated playing against the Heat exactly like he would a playoff game. Friday, Karl was as active as he’s been since, oddly enough, the playoffs last year. His rotation was extremely tight — with no “Birdman Andersen” making an appearance all game long — and his attitude, brimming with enthusiasm. Although the box score doesn’t show it, the announcers claimed he received a technical foul and I wouldn’t doubt it. Now if only we can get him to coach like this every game…
- Montezuma’s Revenge: This, was a game of runs. Each team went back and fourth until the Nuggets finally pulled away big in the fourth quarter. With each run by the Heat its confidence grew drastically which is one fire you don’t want to entice. However, I thought the Nuggets and coach Karl did a fantastic job of keeping the Heat’s flame from reaching an inferno by using quality timeouts and thus, mounting a comeback of their own to match every one the Heat made. To me, this was the single most important aspect of keeping the Heat at bay, and the Nuggets did an excellent job of executing a well-thought out game plan.
- The little things: Aside from holding the Heat in check the Nuggets needed to do the little things right in order to win on Friday. From Mozgov having the biggest game of his Nuggets career, to Denver actually hitting its free throws, to keeping the rebounding differential relatively close, to playing team basketball at its best — everything had to go right for the Nuggets to win against the Heat, and it did. Only two things stood out that threatened the Nuggets chances of winning and that was Miller’s inability to push the pace as well as the Nuggets’ atrocious inability to rebound the ball on offense. These are two issues that need to be addressed soon, but on Friday, the Nuggets were able to overcome them — thank goodness.
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