|Nene, C 27 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -18
It’s no secret Nene tends to struggle against taller, more talented big men. We saw it against the Lakers and again Saturday night against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers. Early on Nene attempted to go after Aldridge down low in the post but got turned back on nearly every occasion. From that point on he disappeared and never really attempted to get back in the game.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-14 FG | 5-5 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | -20
Gallinari drove aggressively to the hole and for that I commend him. This was a solid bounce-back performance after a few disappointing outings in which he took far too many outside jump shots. Gallo gave it his all for most of the game and looked completely pale on the sidelines at the end of the fourth quarter.
|Kosta Koufos, C 34 MIN | 7-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | -5
This was by far Koufos’ best game as a Nuggets and quite possibly the best game of his career. He logged at least 30 minutes for the first time in a Nuggets uniform and put up season highs in both points and rebounds as a result. More than anything, against the Blazers Koufos proved that if he receives enough playing time, he’ll produce. His 12 boards were a career high and the most of any Nuggets since Nene had 13 against the New York Knicks. His 34 minutes were also a career high.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 20 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -1
Something has to be up with Afflalo. Nuggets’ radio announcer Jason Kosmicki tweeted after the game that he might have a groin injury, which leads one to question why he’d be playing in the first place. Even if he was truly injured it still doesn’t change the fact that Afflalo has struggled mightily up to this point in the season and is without question the biggest disappointment of the year so far. This was his second game in the last six where he received at least 20 minutes of playing time and has gone scoreless in the process. Maybe Afflalo should just take a few games off, get refocused and come back when he’s ready.
|Ty Lawson, PG 32 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 16 PTS | -19
Lawson was a standout in terms of effort. He was flying around the court all night, looking as if he was the only one who hadn’t succumbed to chronic fatigue like most of his teammates. He penetrated with precision and either ignited or got out on the break every time he was presented with the opportunity. This was clearly one of Lawson’s most effective games in the last week.
|Al Harrington, PF 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -15
Harrington didn’t take a lot of shots but found a way to contribute in other areas, especially on defense where he played solidly against the much taller LaMarcus Aldridge. Once again Harrington’s passion for the game overflowed on to the court as he could be seen giving 110 percent even in the waning minutes of the game when the Nuggets didn’t have a shot at winning.
|Andre Miller, PG 14 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -8
Miller looked absolutely lost. Granted, his 14 minutes didn’t allow him to make the type of impact he’s capable of, but there was probably good reasoning behind his lack of playing time in the first place. Batum’s career night began when Miller “attempted” to guard him, and in his first handful of buckets that went in from beyond the arc Miller didn’t even put a hand up to contest the shot. We’ve known Miller struggles on defense at times, but not even attempting to contest a shot is absolutely inexcusable. Because of this, Miller gets the first “F” I’ve handed out all season.
|Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 4-10 FG | 6-7 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -7
Although a good chunk of his minutes came in garbage time, it’s hard to ignore just how energetic Brewer was in his time on the floor. Fourteen points in 20 minutes to go along with five boards, two assists, two steals and a block is nothing more than pure hustle numbers. His defense continue to impress, although he needs to work on not turning the ball over quite as often as he does.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -19
Fernandez seemed somewhat hidden. Even in 23 minutes of action it was hard to tell what exactly he was doing on the floor. I did notice him playing stingy defense on a few occasions yet I also couldn’t help but look at the box score and “smh” at his five three-point attempts. Rudy simply isn’t hitting 3-pointers at a high clip, so why he continues to take so many is baffling. It would be nice to see him drive to the basket more than just once in a blue moon.
|Julyan Stone, G 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +5
Stone, like all the rookies, didn’t play very much even though he should have. Still, his defense was great and his willingness to find nearly all of his teammates on offense continues to be a good sign from a young point guard. It’s hard to see Stone play with so much enthusiasm on the defensive side of the ball and not want to see more of him.
|Kenneth Faried, F 5 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +2
Faried definitely still has a ways to go before he’s a sound NBA player and more than likely this is going to take a while. He’ll go through some growing pains in the process, although I cannot stress enough how his energy, defense and rebounding will cover up most of these flaws. Right now he should be focusing on making the right basketball play rather than the most electric ally oop; nevertheless, just like Stone it’s almost frustrating watching Faried play because you’re always going to want more.
|Jordan Hamilton, G 3 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +5
You can tell, Hamilton has some offensive fire power up his sleeve. He hit yet another 3-pointer in the final seconds of the game to show off his range and displayed a fairly decent handle to go along with it. After seeing him get a little more comfortable each time out, you’re left to wonder just how effective he might be alongside the second, or first, unit in the heat of a real game.
Five Things We Saw
- A Whiter Shade of Pale: As had been previously mentioned, there was a moment late in the game where the camera shifted focus to Gallinari and I wasn’t quite sure if I was looking at a ghost, vampire or a combination of the two. His eyes had bags under them and his expression was blank. Now, if you hadn’t seen the game, that lasting image of Gallo was all you needed to let you know what exactly transpired. Four games in five nights and the last of a back-to-back-to-back on the road against the best home team in the league is nothing short of the recipe for disaster, and on Saturday the Nuggets saw this recipe being cooked up first hand. It’s hard to fret too much over this loss when you consider just how fatigued the Nuggets had to be.
- Defensive Wins Back-to-Back-to-Backs: It’s worth noting that in three of the last four games the Nuggets have faced three teams who rank top 10 in the NBA in defense. It’s also worth noting that the Nuggets rank 25th in defense and have lost all three of these games despite having the best offense in the league. Scoring will never be a problem for the Nuggets, which makes it extremely frustrating knowing that if they just tune up their team defense, it would make all the difference in the world when it comes to playing in tight games. Right now only five teams rank lower than Denver in defense; all five have losing records and are on the fast track to the Lottery. If Denver’s defense doesn’t start improving, Karl needs to be held accountable as it’s his job to organize this aspect of the team and demand more from his players.
- Batum Mindstate: Take Batum out of this game and, believe it or not, the Nuggets actually have a chance of winning. His nine 3-pointers were a career high, four more than the entire Nuggets team made on the night and set a Blazers franchise record in the process. The Nuggets’ inability to shut him down, or at least contain him, was perhaps the culmination of their defense woes on the perimeter this season. Here at Roundball Mining Co. we’ve been warning the team for months that if something isn’t done to correct the perimeter defense, it would eventually result in a loss and this is exactly what happened on Saturday. For whatever reason the Nuggets seem to be dead set on double-teaming players that absolutely do not need to be doubled, which in turn is leading to wide open shots on the perimeter. Add this to the fact that the Nuggets have all sorts of trouble getting organized after switching on pick-and-rolls in addition to players not being able to stay in front of their opponent and it’s not hard to see why the Nuggets are so terrible on this side of the ball. Perhaps the only bright spot in the entire game came in the form of comfort knowing how high Nuggets management was on Batum last year, which only further corroborates the idea that Masai Ujiri has one hell of an eye for talent.
- If You Got it Flaunt it: I’ve never been a fan of Karl’s lineups nor his implausible fascination with small ball, but I’ve stomached it for most of the season due to how successful the Nuggets have been up to this point; however, after losing four of their last five games it’s time to start questioning if his funky rotations have anything to do with the recent losses. Birdman, although streaky, is without a doubt one of the Nuggets’ best energy players and can provide the type of shot blocking off the bench that’ hard to find. His three straight “DNP Coaches Decisions” are a little confusing considering just how large of a roll he’s played for the Nuggets over the past several season. Cutting down on his minutes is one thing but erasing them all together is a whole different story. In games like this, where energy is nowhere to be found, Birdman certainly isn’t a bad option. But more than anything, it was Karl’s refusal to tap into his incredibly deep bench and instead run his starters into the ground that made the least amount of sense. Rather than play guys like Andersen, Faried or Stone, Karl gave extra minutes to his starters who were clearly running on empty and not helping the team put points on the board in any way. Karl even stuck with his standard rotation all the way to the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter despite the Nuggets being down by more than 20 points for most of it. Why he chose to do this I will never know.
- The Camby Man Can: I couldn’t help but see Camby’s numbers in the box score and wonder where the Nuggets might be had he remained in Denver and not been traded to the Clippers several years back. At age 37 Camby is still managing, by himself, to haul in more rebounds on any given night than three to four Nuggets can. This was his third 20-rebound game in the last seven to go with 12 blocked shots in his last three. For some reason people myopically complained about Camby’s shot selection, without realizing just how dominate of a defensive presence he was down low and continued to fuss even after he won the Defensive Player of the Year award while in Denver. I’ll forever wonder just how different the Lakers series would have been in the Western Conference Final had he still donned a Nuggets uniforms, and same goes for virtually every other playoff series after that. One things for certain however: The Nuggets sure could use somebody like him right about now.
Game 24 Advanced Stats (and notes by Charlie)
Pace Factor: 94.9 – Hardly matters, it was a blowout
Offensive Efficiency: 102.2 – The Nuggets never led and the bench was non-productive
Defensive Efficiency: 123.3 – Blame fatigue, but the defense remains in total freefall and reached a new low
- Kalen did a great job breaking down the game, but I don’t have much to add except the fact that Nuggets just couldn’t climb this ridiculous mountain. As the game started they did a decent job keeping up and with Koufos in the lineup they actually rebounded quite well. The Nuggets just could not get up and down the court after a while and lacked energy all night. Players gave what they could and with the regular rotation it was never going to be enough. That being said…
- George Karl has to loosen up on the starters. No professional athlete likes to get embarrassed and blown out. Nene in particular was just simply over-exhausted tonight. It was evident in the first quarter that just getting up and down the court was was a problem. After a physical game against the giant L.A. Lakers, Nene just didn’t have enough in the tank to run full speed with Lawson or battle down low with Camby and Aldridge. He needed a break badly, and Karl left him out there for 27 minutes to suffer the worst game of his career. There’s no reason for this George – it’s borderline cruel letting Gallo and Nene suffer through an embarrassing blowout deep into the fourth quarter. Not only is it unsafe but the players deserve better than that.
- There’s something physically wrong with Afflalo. We know mentally he’s in a bad place and fatigue was a huge factor. Watching the game I felt he just looked wrong moving around the court and Jason Kosmicki may have confirmed it by tweeting that Arron’s groin was bothering him. AAA isn’t playing well, but I’m beginning to fear he’s pushing it too hard and exposing himself to further injury.
- The Nuggets defense hit a new low point. Karl had them frantically running around trapping and looking to force turnovers despite the fact no one had energy to get up the court and finish. Andre Miller coming into the game is where plane crashed into the mountain. He just didn’t put forth any effort in terms of contesting shots or picking up his man.
- This was a game to forget. It’s easy to blame the circumstances, but the Nuggets knew that approaching this game as if it were any other normal game would result in them losing 100% of the time. I did not expect a win, but I thought Karl needed to do something differently to give his team a fighting chance. I would like to see him protect certain players when they clearly can’t give any more on the court.