|Nene, C 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 10-14 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +25
The Raptors were extremely physical with Nene despite lacking anyone remotely capable of guarding him. Nene didn’t shoot particularly well and was fouled whenever he found himself in good position down low. He still had a solid 20 and 10 in 33 minutes behind improved free throw shooting. More importantly, he was a dominant presence on the floor and the Raptors simply had no answer.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-18 FG | 5-7 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 21 PTS | +14
Gallo’s scoring opportunities didn’t come as easy without Ty Lawson starting alongside him. He reverted to shooting too many threes and generally looking awful when trying to create for himself. Defensively, Gallo struggled defending the post but continues to show potential as a reliable team defender. Gallo’s grade gets a bump thanks to his ability to close out the game after Toronto made a late push against the Nuggets reserves to get back in it.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +16
Mozgov made a welcome return to the starting lineup and continues to develop into a more physical presence down low. He had his two finest blocks of the season and rebounded well for the minutes he received. He did struggle to work himself back into an offensive rhythm and mishandled a few too many passes. Nevertheless, Mozgov was a big part of the solid defensive effort that held Toronto to 12 first quarter points.
|Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 12 AST | 13 PTS | +18
Miller had too many turnovers, but several of them were due to Mozgov and Birdman being slow, out of position or just not ready to receive a pass. His erratic wandering on defense can be frustrating and the Nuggets did struggle to maintain pace with him running point. This is the first time Miller has been in the starting lineup at the point guard position and he produced outstanding numbers as expected. The luxury with Miller is that he’s more than capable and perhaps better as a fill-in starter.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 21 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +11
I’m not gonna dock Afflalo too much for struggling to ease himself back into the rotation after nearly a week off. He’s still taking questionable shots and not making very many of them. The bottom line with Afflalo is that he has such a positive effect on the Nuggets defense you can live with whatever he does offensively as long as he’s not a total black hole.
|Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 3-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -3
Harrington had a bad day. He came into the game with little energy and by the fourth quarter he was exhausted to the point of parking himself at the three point line with his hands on his knees and spectating. He played entirely too many minutes and made only one of five shots in the second half while struggling to make any sort of impact on defense. Buckets also got into a childish spat with Linas Kleiza and needlessly extended the game’s conclusion.
|Chris Andersen, C 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2
Birdman’s playing harder, I’ll give him that. His energy and his effort were sincere. Andersen continues to be a disaster guarding the pick and roll as he struggled staying in front of the smaller Raptors in the first half. Birdman wasn’t putting up numbers, but I did not think his performance warranted benching him in the second half. He was engaged and active, but Birdman is just not a reliable guy for George Karl right now and he seems to be losing the coach’s trust quickly.
|Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 1-2 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -5
Brewer had another confusing game. After launching 18 shot attempts against Sacramento he barely attempted anything, which I think is a good thing. He flew around the court with his usual energy creating chaos and extra possessions. Offensively, Brewer is scary and unpredictable and he’ll need to be a bit more consistent to gain more regular playing time off the bench.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 33 MIN | 9-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | +9
Thank God for Rudy. He looked great upon his return from an Achilles strain and his hot shooting singlehandedly held off the Raptors’ furious second half surge. Rudy also did a great job chasing the feisty Raptors guards all over the court. Bayless was able to shake him loose a couple of times but his offensive game was so brilliant it hardly mattered. Not only did Rudy handle the ball some as a backup point, he was fantastic off the ball – juking out Barbosa for one of the most poetic wide open threes of the season. Magnificent game from Rudy and all the more impressive considering he hasn’t played in quite some time.
|Kosta Koufos, C 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -12
The decision to pair Koufos with Harrington in the middle was a head-scratcher to say the least. Kosta didn’t receive any minutes in the first half and calling on him to stem the tide during Denver’s worst stretch of play might have been asking too much of the seldom used 22-year old. He had a rough go from the moment he stepped on the floor, immediately being hit with a questionable blocking foul and worsening Denver’s stagnant offensive attack. Defensively, the Nuggets completely fell apart with him on the floor and while you can’t put the blame solely on Koufos, Toronto seized total control of the game and it’s hard to defend the decision to bring him in.
Five Things We Saw
- Zonin’: The Nuggets were fantastic against Miami’s zone defense and the results against Toronto were a mixed bag. The Raptors didn’t exclusively run zone, but at times they stifled the Nuggets offense and forced them into way too many bad jumpers. Without Nene, the Nuggets struggled mightily to get anything going and there was not enough drive and kick or aggressive ball movement against the zone. Gallo also needs to stop shooting horrible step back threes in isolation. I would not read too much into it as the Nuggets were definitely missing Lawson’s presence in terms of opening up the offense and pushing the pace.
- No More Mr. Nice Guy: We saw the mean side of Nene tonight. As I mentioned above, the Raptors were physical and not afraid to foul him every trip down the floor if they needed to. The simple truth is there are many teams out there who cannot guard Nene yet the Brazilian takes himself out of the game through frustration and god awful shot selection. Nene still relies too heavily on his finesse game when it comes to layups and finger rolls when really he just needs to seek out contact and get fouled. 14 free throw attempts probably shouldn’t be as a rare as it is for Nene.
- Daily Operation: Offensively, the game was a bit of a mess. Afflalo didn’t score and Harrington was missing in action. The Nuggets were actually out-assisted by Toronto and out-shot from the three point line. What rescued the Nuggets was another mainstay of their offensive attack – free throws. The Nuggets earned 32 free throw attempts to Toronto’s 14. As long as the Nuggets can be one of the best teams in terms of getting to the line they should be able to win ugly as they did tonight.
- Step in the Arena: I had faith the Nuggets would get back to their winning ways at home and handily beat a Bargani-less Raptors team at the Can. It’s important for the Nuggets to play well and leave no doubt against weaker opponents while playing at home. Also of note – Masai Ujiri sat down with the local broadcast crew of Marlowe and Hastings and gave a fantastic interview. He revealed that Chu Chu has cleared immigration and will come stateside to play in the D-League shortly. He also talked about building continuity after the Melo era and how badly he wants to maintain a winning culture for the foreseeable future.
- JFK 2 LAX: The Nuggets are still undefeated against the eastern conference. They are 8-0 and only play one eastern foe in the month of Febuary, a road contest against Indiana. The rest of the eastern conference schedule isn’t particularly brutal either. In mid-March they play at home versus Atlanta, Boston and Detroit; then on the road at Chicago, Orlando, Charlotte and Toronto. How long could they keep this streak going?
Game 19 Advanced Stats
Pace Factor: 90.6 – Slow for a home game, but no Ty Lawson
Offensive Efficiency: 105.9 – Not much to complain about. Free throws were key
Defensive Efficiency: 89.4 – A very good performance that might have been better without some really hot shooting from Bayless.