Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 97 Memphis Grizzlies 100 (OT)

Denver Nuggets 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
100 Memphis Grizzlies
Nene, C 33 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -16
It’s tough to put a lot of blame on Nene for what transpired tonight, especially because he’s carried the Nuggets throughout the last two games. While Nene’s production trailed off it’s hard to ignore just how badly he was outplayed by Marc Gasol. Although Nene had a decent individual performance, he took a grand total of three second half shots and disappeared late when the Nuggets sorely needed him to step up
Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 1-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +2
Did not show up to play. It’s a simple as that. Hardly worth mentioning anything he did because it was just a bunch of terrible jumpers. Gallo found himself benched for most of the fourth quarter and entire overtime (for the second time this season).
Timofey Mozgov, C 10 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -8
Five fouls in 10 minutes is too much. He started off on Speights instead of Gasol so it’s actually hard to even credit his defense on the Memphis bigs. While he was more physical in terms of defending the rim and blocking shots, he just looked lost and couldn’t stay on the court long enough to help. The turnovers need to stop at some point too.
Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -9
He’s regressed big time. Afflalo was one of the best role players in the game last season and he’s currently lost with no idea what his role should be. The shots he is taking are indefensible. Fadeaways with 20 on the clock and contested turnaround jumpers over Rudy Gay? Welcome to this year’s Arron Afflalo. He’s hardly looking for his three point shot anymore which makes spacing a big issue too. More importantly, he just isn’t having the sort of positive impact on defense we’ve all been accustomed to.
Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | -11
There was a stretch in the third quarter Lawson came alive and looked poised to take over the game. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long as Lawson spent most of his time struggling to find a rhythm after missing nearly three games with an ankle injury. The turnovers keep piling up and although his threes started falling, Lawson looked tentative going to the rim. He lacked his usual bursts of speed off the dribble and let’s hope he continues to work himself back into form for the upcoming stretch of three games in a row.
Al Harrington, PF 38 MIN | 8-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 23 PTS | +3
The Nuggets can’t waste a game like this from Al Harrington. He was outmuscled and outmatched on defense and still managed a double-double with 24 points off the bench. Harrington’s primary role is to score and he delivered. Buckets nearly made what could have been the play of the game by almost taking a charge on Memphis final possession of regulation that ended up tying it. Harrington badly wanted to win this game and it has to be disappointing seeing his teammates lacking the same resolve.
Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 8-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 20 PTS | +5
It’s a tough grade to give Miller, because he really played pretty well. Except of course for the most crucial moments where he made a ton of uncharacteristic mistakes as the Nuggets melted. Missed free throws, untimely turnovers and just flat out bad decision making. It might be a little unfair to say this, but if he just makes one less bad play the Nuggets win – and he certainly had every single opportunity down the stretch.
Chris Andersen, C 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +6
Birdman gets an incomplete. At some point this has to stop — either give him a role or take him out of the rotation. Although I was disappointed in Birdman’s defense, it’s not fair to expect him to play well under these conditions. George Karl needs to show some faith in him or just put him behind Koufos in the rotation. This can’t continue.
Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +1
A little too high? I really don’t think so — Brewer was a part of the big runs that gave the Nuggets every opportunity to close out this game. He outplayed both Afflalo and Fernandez. Although he was in for defensive purposes late, it was disappointing to see him have such a good game and be off the court for the most important stretches of play. Brewer’s body of work is starting to suggest he should be seeing close to 20 minutes every night.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 19 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +6
Rudy was the only Nugget to go scoreless and clearly didn’t have it tonight. Although he’s coming off two solid scoring performances his defense has been incredibly erratic and unreliable. Combine this with turnovers and he just had a pretty disastrous overall game.
Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | +6
Koufos played only a few minutes in the second half due to Mozgov getting in foul trouble. Although he played nine minutes, one rebound is the only evidence he isn’t actually the invisible man. Although the stats are lacking, Koufos played respectable defense and I was impressed with his hustle in the limited minutes he received. I wouldn’t mind seeing Koufos get regular minutes as the first big off the bench as he’s had his moments and a little confidence might go a long way into making Koufos a more reliable option.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Second Half Struggle: Denver had turned the ball over 14 times and still led by 12 at halftime. It was clear Memphis was in a funk and the game was there for the taking. From the start of the third quarter onward the Nuggets were awful, the most problematic areas being defense and rebounding. After dominating the boards early Memphis ended up winning the rebounding battle 48 to 42. The Nuggets started fouling like crazy and Karl was forced to get Mozgov and Lawson out early. It’s clear he had no idea what to do with the rotation as Denver’s defense never improved. The Grizzlies dominated the second half in every way imaginable. Outside of Harrington’s hot shooting it’s hard to give the Nuggets credit for anything.
  2. Miller fatigued: Andre Miller was on his way to a very good game and he was actually the key guy getting Denver out in transition early. All that running the floor definitely caught up with him late. Karl refused to give him a rest in the fourth quarter or overtime and Miller’s legs starting giving out. His shot was flat, causing him to miss a couple of free throws and misfire a line drive jumper at the end of regulation. I don’t fault Andre’s effort in this game and it’s possible he just ran out of gas in the final minutes.
  3. What’s Eating AAA?: I don’t have an answer for this one. I literally can’t believe some of the shots Arron is attempting this season. As I mentioned above he’s not spacing the floor for Lawson and Gallo as his three point shot is no longer the staple of Denver’s offense it once was. Furthermore Afflalo isn’t even looking to come off screens and get his midrange game going. Afflalo has lived off of quality shot opportunities where his teammates did a lot of the work. Now he’s simply trying to do too much off the dribble and he’s not even looking for teammates to help him out. This is the last thing I expected out of Arron Afflalo.
  4. Crunch Time Woes: The Nuggets gave up a game tying dunk in the final seconds of regulation. In the previous game against the Clippers they gave up what should been an and-one layup by Chris Paul. In the Philadelphia 76ers game Gallo and Lawson miscommunicate on a switch and give up the game tying layup to Jrue Holiday. Denver can’t beat anybody with this defense. Part of the problem is the lineups are completely different in each situation and there is no continuity with anyone on the floor at the end of games. Guys aren’t sure if they are switching, trapping the ball handler or whether or not they are supposed to double. The result has been wide open layups in crucial situations down the stretch. As much as people want to dwell on the fact Denver has no “closer” to make shots at the end of games, they could have been winning all of these had it not been for complete breakdowns on defense.
  5. Man in the Middle: The Nuggets need to address their issues at center. The timeshare between Koufos and Birdman has turned both into inconsistent non-contributors thanks to the fact neither of them are trusted with meaningful minutes. At this point I would go with Koufos getting 10-15 minutes a night and Birdman being relegated to the third big off the bench. On nights like tonight where Mozgov is ineffective and hampered with foul trouble, a backup Center would have been incredibly useful. Instead George Karl clearly had no idea what to do and ended up with two incomplete performances by guys who aren’t even getting a fair shot in terms of contributing. It’s time for Karl to make a decision.

Game 21 Advanced Stats

Pace Factor: 104.1 – Good pace, but the game going to OT was a factor
Offensive Efficiency:  93.1 – Awful, the bench did most of the work as starters struggled
Defensive Efficiency: 96.0 – Memphis couldn’t shoot for well over half the game yet nearly manage their average (97.8)

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • gk4prez

    Poor coaching, and poor execution gave this game away.

    • Cody

      Hardly poor coaching, there was 25 turnovers… players fault

      • gk4prez

        Very poor coaching, he went with the small ball group way too long, didn’t go defense offense down the stretch, kept his best player buried on the bench, drew up some questionable plays out of timeouts, etc…

        • Charlie

          I don’t think the game would have ended well with Gallinari in. He looked very bad the whole game. As Cody said the big problem was 25 turnovers that is something you can’t put on the coaching.

          • Bryan

            Small ball killed the Nuggets. The 3 guard lineup didn’t protect the ball and got pushed around.

            Gallo wasn’t shooting well but he was still playing D and rebounding. If the Nuggets didn’t give up 3 (was it) offensive rebounds before the three they wouldn’t have lost.

            When small ball fails, Karl refuses to acknowledge it and change. This is 3 games in a row a small lineup has blown a big lead.

            That’s bad coaching.

            • Charlie

              I just flat out disagree on the Gallo benching. Sorry, but he looked awful and was one of the biggest culprits preventing the Nuggets from getting good shots.

              When he got benched, the Nuggets immediately seized the lead back. They went up double digits almost right away. There was no reason to bring Gallo back in.

              Even if the fourth quarter, Andre Miller had the ball in his hands every big play. If he just takes care of the ball or hits free throws the Nuggets protect their lead. If anything shouldn’t Miller have been benched considering how tired he was? It’s just too easy to second guess these things after the fact.

              At the time Gallo was benched, it worked. The fact the Nuggets later lost the game doesn’t prove that was a bad decision. The Nuggets lost the game because of turnovers late in the game by Miller and AAA. When a team turns the ball over 25 times coaches can’t do anything about it

  • Jeff

    I actually thought the Nuggets played pretty well besides turning the ball over. You could tell Memphis really wanted this game. I dunno what happened to Gallinari though. If he would have been his usual self we would have won this thing pretty easily. The only guys who were aggressive with Gallo on the bench was Buckets and Andre Miller.

  • BeefySwats

    Saw this loss coming from the 87-77 lead.

    Denver is a worse team than their record indicates, and much of it has to do with coaching. Karl’s lineups tonight were ATROCIOUS, and once again, the Nuggets have no clue how to execute in late game situations. Harrington is regressing to his good old “Al Chuckets” self, Lawson is starting to look like a backup again, and I have no clue what happened with Gallinari tonight.

    Make no mistake about it, this loss rests squarely on Karl and his rotations which were absolutely inexcusable. The Nuggets are far, far off from being a contender until they get a player who can score in crunch time situations and have a head coach who won’t be an absolute IDIOT with lineups in the 4th. Make no mistake about it, we’re one and done again this year unless there’s a drastic change in our execution down the stretch.

    • Charlie

      I don’t think you can blame Harrington much for this one. He continued to play hard while Denver’s defense went in the tank. He took a few bad shots but kept Denver afloat when nobody else could get it going. Overall I think you have to chalk it up to a team loss and a team-wide defensive failure in the second half. Al Buckets can’t be expected to do much more than he did

    • Jeff

      Harrington was all we had going at one point and finished with 20 and 10. It’s not George Karl’s fault that Gallinari goes 1-10 and Nene takes like 2 shots in the second half. But I’d love to see your non-idiotic lineups that would have magically made everyone play better.

    • Dan

      Have to agree with you about seeing the loss unfold before my eyes. The past two games, the Nuggets have had no killer instinct to close out a game and win. It is so frustrating. That’s where I think everyone is correct about the coaching. As much as I respect George Karl, I can’t wait for someone else to come in and infuse confidence in players and make wise basketball coaching decisions. I do think though, that Harrington has been playing out of his mind and if there ever was a go to guy for this game, it should have been him. He was the only Nugget down the stretch that looked like he actually wanted to win. I’m getting really tired of the lack of effort down the stretch, letting teams claw their way back, and a team that attempts to “not lose”. Someone needs to instill a fire inside of them and I think that is where consistent smart coaching comes into play. (I know they are professionals, but there is a rhythm to the game that is lacking for sure).

  • coxy

    thatts 2 straight games where we have held 10 point leads throughout the game and lost it in the last, frustrating but they were both against good teams, you cant win them all i say, next up clippers in LA, we can win this game and it could be a statement game coming of 2 close loses

  • Tuck 321

    When do they work on their defense.

  • Desean

    Our defense was good early and it just continues to disappear down the stretch

    Cannot believe people blame al buckets in the slightest. He played awesome and was really the only reliable guy in that second half as miller and nene faded down the stretch

    Unbelievable how one of my favorite players afflalo looks completely lost out there

    We played pretty well but just panic at the end of games

  • Thomas

    Most Nuggets blogs all talk about how good this team is and continue to give praise to GK.

    My comments are not based on this game alone. This team has no chance with this coach. Every game I see there are glaring rotation mistakes and playing time preferential treatment given to some players.

    The team had a nice effort going on yesterday on the 4th quarter with Koufos at center keeping a body on Gasol. Not all 5 players on the floor have to be scorers – sometimes you need a big body to stop people. We stopped a Memphis mini run and looked to be in control. Then, as usual, GK took out that unit and put in Nene and his “trusted” men – Fernandez and AAA. We never saw a real center again in the game and lost it over a failure to rebound and block out.

    Why does our coach have a man crush on Fernandez? Why is he on the floor so much, in detriment of playing time for Brewer, who was playing great defense and not laying bricks on offense. Why does he continuously go to small ball in the end, taking the ball out of Lawson’s hand, making him second fiddle to Andre?

    This is Lawson’s team. I pay NBA broadband to watch Lawson, Gallo, Brewer, and other young players who have a chance of perhaps giving this team a chance to win the big one someday. I don’t pay to watch journeyman Andre Miller (there is a reason why he has been around), Fernandez and lately AAA and his fat contract and no game. I pay to watch Faried play at least 10 minutes and him or even Koufos grab the rebounds Nene and Harrington will NEVER get at the end of tight games because they are soft (not really Harrington’s function anyway).

    We will win 60%+ of regular season games and be out in the playoffs with GK, as always. We will hear some 5 times more this season something as pathetic as “this was a good loss”. He will be praised when we win games we should win with this loaded roster – we would win with any average NBA coach. But he will lose games most average NBA coaches wouldn’t lose, like yesterday, because of his preconceived ideas of small ball and favoritism.

    Our front office put a great team together, they just forgot to put a good coach in charge.

    Long live small ball and Andre Miller. Good riddance.

    • Herman Van Ness

      With all due respect no one cares about your reason for buying NBA Broadband.

      Okay, on to the game. The Nene, Al, and 3 guards to close games is a recipe to get out-rebounded.

      For those critical of Al and Andre….. They kept the Nuggets in the game. Andre ran the offense so much better than Ty. Sure, he missed the free throws that would have won it but, without him steadying the troops through most of the game and getting the team into some semblance of an offense the Nuggs would’ve been toast. Al hit huge buckets.

      Nene continues to disappear or shrink at the most inopportune times. Too many possessions he won’t post up hard or he will get the ball and immediately pass it thus screwing up the rhythm and spacing on offense.

      Man, when Gallo is off he’s really off. GK has to find a way to get him better looks other than 3’s and drives from 25 ft out. He needs to come off of some staggers or get the ball at the elbow or low post from time to time.

      • bayesk

        i like your analysis, HVN. but for a couple of missed threes and a lack of rebounding, this should have been a win; an ugly win surely, but it was there for the taking.
        though the two previous losses were both very disappointing, i’m reluctant to panic like many of the readers here. so we won’t finish 60-6, oh well.

      • Thomas

        With all due respect, you sound like George Karl. Stick with Andre and Harrington for the rest of the season, and you will be rewarded with a quick dismissal from the playoffs.

        The Nuggets would not have been toast without Andre yesterday in crunch time – they would have won the game on defense. Lawson-Brewer-Koufos-Nene-Gallinari would have done it.

        You will say that Harrington was hot and Andre was in control, that Gallo was 1-10 and Lawson was struggling. That is to ignore what really put us ahead in this game to begin with – team defense and match-ups. We completely lost the match-up battle in the second half and OT – that falls squarely on our coach.

        A good coach would have kept Gallo in and told him to drive to the basket and would have trusted Lawson to be the distributor in crunch time. We didn’t need buckets, we needed stops! They scored 54 point in the second half.

        Not the way to build the confidence of your young core. this is GK’s style – he doesn’t care about building for a title, he cares about job security.

        Worst yet –


  • steve

    2 straight games with double digit leads after half that we lose. Unacceptable. I love these nugs but i have a feeling we are going to start a trend here. We have a very tough schedule coming up and we go on stretches where we play 5 or 6 straight games vs tough opponents multiple times. We are in a stretch now and have started off 0-2. Obviously we can play vs anyone…but if we cant close out games we will never do anything. This is exactly what happened last year to us and we are starting to see it again. Karl needs to adjust. he cant keep doing the same thing over and over.

    What killed us last nite was simple…we couldnt get the rebound after 2 straight terrible 3 ball attempts by memphis. Finally on the 3rd try they knock it down and go up by one. From there we choked again and couldnt get a game winner. IF FARIED would have been in there, we most likely get those rebounds. Nene and AL are both soft rebounders. COME ON GK!!!!!!! YOU KNOW THIS!!!!!!

  • Ron

    You should include George Karl in your analysis after a game. With all of his depth, he goes to a different line up every night and often times I think you need to question the decisions he’s making. In the 4th quarter and OT, when they were struggling to score he stuck with a lineup that looked lost offensively. AAA is lost on offense, and the team is essentially playing 4 on 5, that is when AAA isn’t launching some ridiculous shot. For the game tying 3 in OT, he drew up a play for Rudy who was 0-4 and scoreless on the night. Gallinari, who admittedly struggled but is still Denver’s best player sat the entire 4th and OT. Nene looked completely uninterested allowing easy bucket after easy bucket, and offensive rebounds for Memphis to get 2nd and 3rd chances while Mozgov who was disrupting shots sat. And Brewer who was the energy all night watched from the sidelines as his tired team mates lumbered up and down the court. Grade the coach, give him an F and put the loss on him.

    • Dan

      Totally agree. I think there have been complaints about Karl for a long time, and although he might be a great person and has overcome cancer (twice), I hope he’s outta here soon. Any one who has ever played basketball sees the glaring coaching mistakes that are made, and to not play rookies ever… oh except for his N.C. guys, come on!! Not sure what his contract situation is, but that is the next change I would like to see.

  • Dubz

    This was a tough game to watch. Memphis wasn’t playing well but so far this season, Denver has been able to win these types of games. Anyone even making an attempt to put blame on Harrington should have their comment making abilities revoked. Harrington had more energy and passion than the rest of the team combined. He looked like he wanted that win badly and I can’t blame him for being over matched defensively, he’s not a true PF. I would have liked to see either Brewer or Mozgov play crunch time instead of AAA. I’ve been a major AAA supporter but he looks defeated out on the floor. He can no longer receive minutes based on past performances, he got paid for future results. I think he’ll get it together but I’m afraid this team is moving on without him as far as chemistry is concerned. Last night, Brewers height and defensive abilities really could have helped secure some defensive stops/rebounds. Karl’s lineups are definitely starting to get under my skin, especially when his lineup on the floor is getting pushed around like that. This team will get back on track, but the notion that their can be too much depth is an intriguing one to me. Karl doesn’t have any continuity with his crunch time lineups like Charlie stated. So true, and last nights poor performance was a result.

  • Owen

    It’s funny to check into a Nuggets blog and hear fans dissatisfied with a team that all us Knicks fans are paying to watch on League Pass. I don’t think some of you realize how good you have it right now.

    FWIW, they Nuggets have actually played better than their record, their pythagorean expectation is 15-6…..

  • ny nugs fan

    i’m usually the sky-is-falling voice, but for some reason i wasn’t as upset after this loss

    hopefully the nugs can get back on track and get a win against the clips on their floor

    memphis is a really good team with a .500 record and look what the clips did to okc the night after they hit prayer-after-prayer from the 3 point line to barely beat us

    you gotta wonder though when if ever will we see the afflalo of last year… i’d play brewer more until aa wakes up

  • noah

    trade mozgov, chandler, and dre miller for kevin garnett…problems solved

  • DH

    This loss was so frustrating that I have to restrain myself from going on a long rant. So I’ll just focus on three things…

    It was obvious that Gallo and Rudy were off their games, and Brewer was terrific in the first half. I couldn’t believe that GK didn’t go back to him in the second.

    In my opinion, Gallo should have been on the floor in crunch time. The main reason why is because he can make free throws. Also, he can draw fouls and he’s a bigger body to put on Gay.

    This may seem like a small thing, but over and over again, Memphis was letting us drive only to poke the ball away from behind (which I was always taught was lazy defense). But it definitely worked for them, especially at big moments in the game. They did this so often that it seems like it must be a Memphis trend that advance scouts should have noticed and reported to GK. Regardless, after the 3rd time or so, shouldn’t our players pick up on the fact that they should switch hands after clearing the defender? Maybe it’s just me, but it was irritating watching this happen repeatedly.

    Anyway, I thought this was a win that we really needed to get, because it only gets tougher from here. Let’s hope Chauncey doesn’t go off again and we get this next one.

  • Eddie

    There are a lot of calls today for Karl to be replaced. Who will fill those shoes? There are not many coaches available that could step in actually improve this team.

  • Chris

    I’m starting to want JR back even more now, AA has no explosiveness to him, to do anything around the basket, he’s a back up gaurd at best.

  • Michael (anotheraussienuggzfan)

    The last few games have been so frustrating, but none more so than this Memphis game. I was getting to the point where I thought I was going to need a new TV from breaking the screen in anger.

    10 points up and the guys on the court switch off…again. Poor shot selection, over playing the ball, crap rotations on defence the list goes on.

    If I was George Karl I would’ve called a time out after they cut the lead to 5 and blasted the guys on the court. Nene was pathetic, 6’11” 260 ish and has rebounds taken away from him by 200 pound gaurds. Grab the ball and use your body, hell swing an elbow and flatten the guy, you may get called for a foul but at least it’ll show the opponent and your team mates that you give a shit about the ball.

    Andre Miller played ok, but over dribbled the ball far too much in the 4th especially when defended by Tony Allen. Pass the ball!!!! especially when the opponent press, we are getting killed by the basics.

    I didn’t mind how Mozgov played, I thought a couple of the fouls called against him were rubbish. When he was on, he was contesting shots and getting blocks and going after rebounds.
    He should have been in at the end of the game, if he fouls out so what at least he would’ve been giving a good effort.

    Another thing that annoys me is the lack of passing to the Centers when they make the effort to get good position. I’ve lost count of how many times Moz or Koufos have either ran the court and been wide open in the key or sealed there man right under the basket but don’t get the ball because the gaurds/wings are out of position to get them the ball or just simply won’t pass it in to them.
    I know the big guys (especially Moz) need to work on their hands to get better at taking the pass, but some of the problem is the passes that they receive.

    I was thinking that I’d like to see Karl try and make a statement by starting some (if not all) of the rookies to try and “fire up” the regular starters and maybe get some better committment out of them.

    I think thats enough of a rant, I know most here will understand my frustrations.