|Nene, C 35 MIN | 8-15 FG | 2-7 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 18 PTS | -4
I don’t grade the boxscores. Yes, Nene scored 18 points with decent efficiency, but he missed 5 free throws and had 5 turnovers on the night. Nene was the key to this game for the Nuggets and came up short when it mattered most. Poor rebounding, poor defense, and poor shot selection. He looked like Koufos out there with the array of underhand flip shots, soft floaters and hooks underneath the rim.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 30 MIN | 2-6 FG | 12-12 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 18 PTS | -9
Gallo must be more aggressive for the Nuggets to have a chance. He came into the fourth quarter with a grand total of 3 field goal attempts. Gallo gets credit for making all of his 12 free throw attempts and doing some creative work with the ball in his hands. I liked him running pick and rolls with the Jazz aggressively trapping Lawson. He tallied 4 assists and had no turnovers. Just way too passive and once again he was eaten alive at the power forward spot – which is purely a coaching mistake.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 18 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -3
Mozgov’s rebounding instincts are really bad, but beyond that he was the best big man the Nuggets had in this game. He was active during his minutes but nothing about his performance really stood out. He needs to be tougher and the coaches need to trust him more.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 4-10 FG | 6-10 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -4
He certainly played hard, perhaps harder than anyone else on the floor, but his mistakes were costly and momentum killing. Two flat out terrible travels, a couple of out of control drives to the hoop and once again incredibly un-clutch shooting and huge missed free throws. I give him an A+ for effort, but results are all that matters.
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 6-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 13 PTS | -6
What a tough game for Lawson. I think he would have easily scored close to 20 had he not missed some bunnies at the rim. Lawson’s energy was there, but his teammates looked slow and out of sync. Lawson should be able to have unspectacular, solid nights like this and still be in a position to win. Much like Afflalo, Ty couldn’t catch a break tonight but he made far fewer mistakes than anyone else on the floor.
|Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | -3
Harrington deserves credit for being the only bench player showing fire and competitive spirit. He had 4 steals, scored fairly efficiently and really, you can’t complain about his numbers. His defense was atrocious and he was another one making crucial mistakes in a close game when it mattered the most. I’ll take less production out of Harrington for fewer fouls and smarter basketball plays. Harrington was worse than his numbers and that trend is not exclusive to this game.
|Andre Miller, PG 20 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | -11
Looked like he didn’t care. Just a shocking performance all around. Failed to contribute anything and completely killed the team’s spirit and energy every moment he was on the floor. Miller looks lost and does not seem like he ever wants to be found.
|Chris Andersen, C 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -2
Andersen had 4 blocks, but one was erroneously credited to him when it should have been Corey Brewer’s. Birdman put up somewhat of a fight, but he did not block anyone out and was bullied down low by the much more physical Utah Jazz. One rebound is not acceptable. Birdman’s game and his athleticism are broken down to a point he should not be in the rotation. It isn’t his fault because I do believe he is trying. On this team, he is the wrong guy and the wrong fit – Karl should have kept him on the bench and should continue to.
|Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -2
Brewer’s energetic style finally produced his first sub-par performance of the season. He is too aggressive bodying up his man at the three-point line, giving up wide open lanes to the basket for no reason. He took some questionable shots and did not play a controlled game. Brewer needs to show he can be more than a crazed maniac running around the court creating chaos.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 9 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -6
Rudy got hurt, but he started the game poorly with little energy. This grade is an incomplete and losing him turned out to be costly. The Nuggets had to rely heavily on Andre Miller and we all know that ended
|Kosta Koufos, C 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Koufos should have played more, but he only came in for a split second after Birdman tweaked a muscle. I can’t remember seeing him do anything, so let’s go with an incomplete.
Five Things We Saw
- Millsapped: Going small doomed the Nuggets in this one. Paul Millsap once again destroyed the Nuggets as he has his entire career. Millsap is a tougher player than anyone in Denver’s rotation. Harrington, Birdman, Koufos, and Gallinari are the wrong players to guard him. Denver had no answer.
- The Blame Game: I have called out George Karl for games he has lost, but this was absolutely not one of those games. What do you expect him to do? Bench Andre Miller for good? Miller only lasted 20 minutes despite being George Karl’s favorite player on the roster. Al Harrington should not have played in this game if Denver wanted to contain Millsap. The Nuggets lost this game because they were a worse team and deserved to lose. Karl pulled the plug on the small lineup when it became clear Miller could not get them to run, but it was too late. Even then he brought Harrington back in and the team fared no better.
- Feed the Manimal: Would Kenneth Faried have helped in this game? I certainly think so, but he has Al Harrington and Chris Andersen ahead of him. This is a roster issue in addition to a coaching issue The Nuggets have to permanently take someone out of the rotation or Faried won’t get his shot. I believe the Birdman should be permanently caged, but even then, the Nuggets will continue to go small to accommodate Andre Miller’s minutes.
- Free Throws: Need I say more? 26-39 will not get it done. The worst offenders were Nene and Arron Afflalo. Just not good enough from the line and it has been a disturbing trend all season. The Nuggets will likely blame this issue for losing them the game but it was very, very small compared to everything else that went wrong tonight.
- On the road again: The Nuggets have a five game road trip coming up. Their switching scheme has been horrible and this team is plagued by the need to play a small lineup which cannot defend effectively. There are no easy solutions for the Nuggets right now. They don’t have the foundation of a good defense and the offense is plagued by a second unit being led by Andre Miller. I expect the Nuggets to lose most of their next five games on the road. The upside is that rotation changes and roster solutions could follow.
Game 13 Advanced Stats
Pace Factor: 97.0 – Not that slow, Denver’s average is 98.9
Offensive Efficiency: 99.0 – Denver’s deep bench did very little. 4 of 5 starters scored in double figures
Defensive Efficiency: 109.3 – The Nuggets aren’t a good defensive team. It isn’t really a part of their identity or how they win. It’s time for everyone to admit this.
Candid notes by Kalen:
— As I mentioned in the Heat recap, Nene desperately needs to improve his game in close proximity to the rim. I have never seen anybody miss as many easy layups, dunks and finger-rolls as he does, which has unfortunately been an issue throughout his entire career. George Karl will not address this, so I’m hopeful that another member of the coaching staff has taken notice and will try to work with him. More than anything Nene needs to develop an ability to recognize when and where certain types of shots should to be executed. Take Nene’s counterpart against the Jazz in Al Jefferson for example. He’s one of the better post players in the game and much if his success is due to the variety of moves and shots he uses in unison with where his defender is located. Jefferson knows when to utilize a baby hook and when the finger-roll is neccesary. Unlike Nene, you’ll never see him attempt a finger-roll in heavy traffic. Additionally, Nene needs to finish with authority around the rim. About 80 percent of his finger-rolls and lay ups could easily be dunks. All that said, I do commend him for attacking the rim with aggression this year and realize that some of these problems may be growing pains that have arisen solely out of him adapting a more offensive-minded game plan.
— Andre Miller is starting to become a problem, I have no other way of putting it. What I originally thought may have been nothing more than a few bad games has turned into a series of disinterested, uninvolved no-shows in which the most in-your-face aspect of his performances tends to be his bad body language. Quite honestly, I’m baffled. When Miller first joined the Nuggets he seemed fairly up beat and ready to contribute to the “team first” mentality George Karl employs in Denver, however after declaring his dissatisfaction about being a backup to Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida, he’s been a totally different player. Again the Jazz he was nothing short of aloof, often times alienating himself in the corner behind the 3-point arc while the rest of the team attempted to make something happen. Then, when he finally received the ball it was as if he was playing hot potato by handing it off to the nearest teammate without even thinking about attacking the basket. He’s no longer even trying to push the pace, his assists are non-existent, he’s yet to post up with verve like he’s done throughout his career and most importantly, he just doesn’t seem to care. All of his shortcomings on the floor could have been forgiven if not for his sulking as he exited the game for the last time on Sunday night. Put simply: With Miller in the game the Nuggets are playing 4-on-5 basketball. Let’s hope this turns out to be nothing more than an ephemeral slump, but if it doesn’t and Miller continues to pout about not being the starter, then he should be packaged (possibly with Birdman) immediately for an asset to prevent from further ruining the Nuggets’ valuable team chemistry.
— Though the Nuggets are sitting at a respectable 8-5 and rank near the top of the league in many offensive statistical categories (Denver is second in points per game and first in field goal percentage and points per possession) their defense conversely ranks near the bottom in many categories as well. The Nuggets are currently 25th in opponent’s field goal percentage and rebounds per game, as well as 24th in opponent’s points per game and 26th in opponent’s 3-pointers made. This ineptitude to stop the opponent from scoring was on clear display against the Jazz who normally average roughly 95 points per game, yet were able to put up 106 on the Nuggets. Though Denver has a few defensive “stoppers” in Afflalo and Brewer as well as plenty of guys fully capable of playing tough defense, for the most part the opponent is scoring whenever it wants, however it wants. Karl’s obsession with small ball may put points up on the board, but this schtick is rendered virtually useless due to the fact that Denver can’t stop its opponent from doing the same. Time after time both Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson had their way with Gallinari, Harrington and Nene, all of whom consistently play out of position on a nightly basis in order to compromise for small ball. And while there’s proof that Karl preaches defense, he hasn’t shied away from doing the same with offense, especially when it comes to getting out on the run. Quite honestly, it’s starting to seem like the Nuggets’ perpetual mission to ignite the fast-break offense has totally distracted them from executing some of the more fundamental aspects of the game like rebounding, one-on-one defense and half-court sets. Now, after two “bad” losses at home it’s fair to say the neglect for these issues is starting to cost the Nuggets games, which is inexcusable.
— While I acknowledged Karl for his commitment to getting up for the Heat game, I equally scorn him for refusing to do so against the Jazz. While my colleague Charlie may feel Karl had nothing to do with this loss, I respectfully disagree. Aside from the copious amount of undiagnosed problems mentioned in the previous paragraph that still inexplicably haven’t been addressed, Karl continues to leave Denver’s biggest and best rebounders unused on the bench throughout the game even though that’s one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. Koufos and Faried would have done wonders against a stacked Jazz front line that Gallinari and Harrington should have had no business trying to guard. While Tyrone Corbin realized the Nuggets were going small and thus, made in-game adjustments by taking nightly contributors, Favors and Kanter, out of the rotation entirely, Karl did not waiver from his normal game plan which led to the Jazz’s front court fully abusing Denver’s smaller lineup. And while one can argue that the players came out flat — which is true — at the end of the day I’ll always maintain that it’s the coaches job to fix any and every problem facing the team, including getting guys mentally prepared before each and every match. As a coach in the NBA part of the job description is motivation and Sunday, Karl was just as lifeless as his players. But worst of all, he had an entire three quarters to fix these complications before the game finally got out of hand, and he failed.