|Kosta Koufos, C 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +3
Koufos didn’t see much time against the Wizards, but his six rebounds were third most on the team despite playing only 15 minutes. It’s still a mystery as to why he’s not seeing the floor more often, especially given his rebounding prowess which the Nuggets still desperately need at times.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 7-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 21 PTS | +3
Gallinari had a strong first half and mellowed out as the game progressed. But going 7-11 from the field while collecting four rebounds, five boards, an assist and a steal is a great all-around stat line for the Rooster.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 21 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Mozgov certainly played much better against the Wizards than he has in other games where he’s logged heavy minutes. Though you’d still like to see more rebounds and just a better overall feel for the game and his positioning, it’s obvious that he’s trying to improve which is good to see.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | +11
Afflalo didn’t have his best game of the year but he didn’t have his worst game either. His defense against Nick Young was decent, but he wasn’t the “stopper” he can be at times. He had a few nice mid-range jump shots that he knocked down coming off screens and a few good cuts to the basket, but in general Afflalo must do these things more often in order to make the kind of impact we all know he can.
|Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 7-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 9 REB | 6 AST | 21 PTS | +14
Lawson had one of the his better games this year against the Wizards, putting up All-Star numbers across the board. His nine rebounds and six assists were both team highs and his 3-for-6 shooting from downtown helped the Nuggets out tremendously in such a tight game. Though Lawson is shooting a pretty low percentage from the field over the last week, his aggressiveness is still appreciated and largely the reason why.
|Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 10-16 FG | 4-6 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 29 PTS | +4
Seriously, what more can you say about this guy? His 29 points were a season high and his seven boards, the second most on the team. His .362 3-point shooting percentage is above his career average and his 2-point field goal percentage is supposedly the highest in he league according to Chris Marlowe. Additionally according to 82games.com, Harrington leads the team in cumulative plus-minus at plus-109 and Nuggets’ points per possession when he’s on the floor at 1.13. Al is also second in the team in PER behind only Corey Brewer who hasn’t really played all that much this season. Currently Al is either sitting atop or near the top of the Sixth Man of the Year award race.
|Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 PTS | -7
Miller was frustrated all evening with the lack of calls he and the Nuggets were receiving from the refs. He spent more time complaining than he did playing — although, after the incredible performance he had against the Sixers, this can be excused for one night. Still, Miller needs to find some sort of consistency in his game moving forward. He’s just too talented to be struggling this much.
|Chris Andersen, C 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-7 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -6
Though numerically speaking, Andersen had a pretty good game, I still didn’t see how he was contributing to helping the Nuggets win. His negative-six on the plus-minus scale was second worst on the team — probably due to the fact that he was constantly fumbling the ball (like always) and letting McGee run wild, which led to numerous easy buckets. At this point, it’s really hard to believe that Faried would be anywhere near as bad as Birdman is.
|Corey Brewer, SF 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 PTS | -3
Hard to give a grade to Brewer when he was only in for such a short amount of time, although his defense and energy were there yet again. It’s anyone’s guess as to why he didn’t play much in a tight game where defense was nowhere to be found. After the way he’s played lately, you would think he would have earned himself a spot in the rotation, but apparently not.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 12 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -2
Fernandez played excellent ball for only seeing 12 minutes of time. It appears as though he re-injured his achilles which forced him to exit the game.
Five Things We Saw
- The Worst First: The Nuggets allowed the Wizards to score a season-high tying (for opponents) 37 points in the first quarter on Friday. To put things into perspective, the Wizards are 27th in the league in points per game at roughly 88 and have scored 30 in the first quarter only once all season — and that was against the Knicks. In the last nine games, the Nuggets have held its opponent to under 25 points in the first quarter only twice. This frightful trend does nothing but compound the Nuggets defensive woes even more and is solid proof that the Nuggets are coming into games mentally unprepared. While the Nuggets need to address its defensive shortcomings immediately, fixing the opening-game defensive strategy should be paramount.
- “Arc” Nemesis: Right after the Nuggets work on their defense to open up the game they should then concentrate on their perimeter defense as it’s some of the worst in the league and will end up costing them one of these days if not repaired. Right now Denver ranks 16th in opponent’s 3-point field goal percentage, 27th in opponent’s 3-pointers made and 29th in opponent’s 3-pointers attempted. It’s no secret that the Nuggets have had all kinds of problems this year with switching screens and closing out on defenders, what needs to be avoided at all costs however is letting this become a staple of the team rather than just an early season struggle.
- Fundamentally Flawed: Sticking with the theme of defense (since that is in fact the primary “thing I saw” on Friday), it’s also important to note just how terrible the Nuggets are when it comes to executing the most basic elements of basketball. Everything from boxing out, to running precise plays, to crashing the boards — it’s all rusty at best. But this is perhaps most evident on the defensive side of the ball. Honestly, watching the Nuggets play defense is painful these days. Other than Afflalo, nobody seems to take pride in their one-on-one defense which leads to penetration, which leads to abuse of help-defense, which leads to kick-outs, which leads to open 3-pointers, which leads to the Nuggets getting in holes they shouldn’t be in. I know Denver is currently sitting at 11-5 but that doesn’t change the fact that it also ranks 26th in opponents points per game, 29th in opponent’s field goals per game, 26th in opponent’s field goal percentage, 24th in opponent’s adjusted field goal percentage, 23rd in rebounds per game, dead last in offensive rebounds per game and 23rd in opponent’s assists per game. So sure, winning in the regular season by outscoring the opponent is fun and all, but this type of basketball simply won’t cut it come playoff time. At some point the Nuggets are going to have to clamp down on defense and start playing fundamentally sounds basketball if they want to continue their success in the postseason.
- The Four Amigos: Al Harrington, Nene, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari are becoming quite the force. Not only are these the top four leaders in points per game on the roster, but according to 82games.com when they’re on the floor together along with Andre Miller they’re also Denver’s best defensive squad, allowing only .63 points per possession to the opponent. This specific five-man squad leads any other combination of Nuggets players in plus-minus and has outscored it’s opponent 5-to-1 every time it steps on to the floor. Between Al’s Sixth Man of the Year push, Lawson’s fringe All-Star status, Gallinari’s “do it all” type of game and Nene’s improving aggressiveness, the Nuggets have what it takes to succeed in the playoffs, but again, defense must become a top priority in order for post-season success to come to fruition.
- Road Warriors: After going 3-0 so far on the current road trip, the Nuggets now are tied for the seventh best record in the NBA and sit in second place in the Western Conference behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder. The road has always given the Nuggets trouble, but perhaps this year will be different given the shortened schedule and roster depth. Denver will always take care of its business at home, but if the Nuggets can manage to finish the year above .500 away from the Pepsi Center, they will almost certainly put themselves in position to finish as a top four seed in the West, securing a much-needed home court advantage in the process.
Game 16 Advanced Stats (and thoughts by Charlie)
Pace Factor: 100.8 – A fast game against a struggling defensive team
Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 – A fine performance on the road
Defensive Efficiency: 103.1 – Not good at all. This could become a big problem if not addressed
- I’ve been waiting for Ty Lawson to start looking for his jump shot more. Teams are clamping down hard on him in the paint and Lawson’s efforts to draw contact on drives have not been rewarded all season. Lawson can hit pull up jumpers with or without a screen, he can create space and step back with his range or simply spot up and take set shots from three. Ty is unstoppable when he gets more aggressive and more confident with his shot. Right now he’s taking a few too many floaters and off balance jumpers at the end of the shot clock and his efficiency is taking a serious hit. Tonight was a step in the right direction. Ty, for whatever reason, continues to get little respect from officials compared to other small point guards in the league.
- Kalen mentioned it, and the Nuggets’ perimeter defense was indeed atrocious in this game. Rotations were slow and anytime the Wizards swung the ball from one side of the floor to the other someone was guaranteed to be open for three. Part of the problem is the fact Andre Miller sags way off his man, allows him to see the entire floor and doesn’t close out on anyone. Chris Andersen is indifferent in terms of hustling out to disrupt a shooter. Shelvin Mack and Chris Singleton were on their way to career nights and the Nuggets were lucky Washington was fairly passing-averse and took enough bad shots to bring their field goal percentage down considerably.
- I was very surprised Rudy played. He wore a thick sleeve over his achilles and didn’t last long before having to leave. He has a nagging injury that needs rest; the Nuggets play tomorrow, Corey Brewer is playing great so there wasn’t exactly a pressing need to get him in. Let’s hope Rudy’s setback was not serious.
- Al Harrington won the game. He not only hit threes but without Nene, him and Afflalo were asked to post up more. Harrington was the only one having any sort of success. Al Buckets showed leadership and poise at the end of the game and he continues to be one of the most consistent and important pieces on the team.
- Koufos isn’t giving the Nuggets much. It’s not a coincidence he’s only produced at the Center spot and I believe he should only be getting Center minutes. The guy deserves court time, but it seems Karl is rewarding him charity minutes and starts without any intention of giving him an actual role. Birdman did have one of his better games of the season production-wise, but Washington had absolutely no threatening post presence and it really pained me not to see the Manimal get a shot. There was never any reason to start two slow, offensively challenged seven footers when the plan all along was to go small. Denver fell behind 37-27 in the first quarter.
- That being said, I credit Karl and the team in this one. It’s clear they were a little flat with Nene out and this was not a win to like, but one to accept. The Nuggets did claw back and fend off the Wizards nicely despite their offense struggling bad in the second half. Andre Miller wasn’t useless, but he went scoreless while playing 20-plus minutes for the second time this season. For a guy as immensely talented as Andre, I don’t understand how that happens and it’s incredibly disappointing. Nevertheless, what a great road win as long as the Nuggets learn from it.
- The only thing I will say about the coaching is that the Nuggets should take a strong look at getting Al some help at the Power Forward spot, especially against more physical teams. And I don’t mean Koufos.