|Kenneth Faried, F 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +1
Time to temper the high expectations surrounding the Manimal. All things considered, he had a very solid debut in his first real NBA game. Despite some foul trouble, he showed a lot of promise defending Scola and Dalembert. Faried even skied high for a spectacular block and his high energy play energized the crowd in a painfully ugly game. It was not the most productive jaw-dropping debut, but Faried simply needs to take baby steps towards becoming a better player and he did so tonight.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 20 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-7 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | -5
I thought Gallo still showed signs of fatigue but battled hard in the 20 minutes he was able to play. He rolled his ankle badly in the third quarter and it was later revealed he suffered a possible chip fracture. It’s just a terrible injury at the worst possible time. Gallo hasn’t always played like the Nuggets best player but he’s clearly been one of the toughest. Assuming he’s out for a few weeks this is an incredibly costly loss.
|Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +1
Koufos couldn’t keep up his solid production as a spot-starter. Despite having a size and quickness advantage over the Rockets front court, he clearly doesn’t know how to assert himself on the block. What’s worse is he fouled out in 23 minutes. Despite notching some impressive blocks, 2K showed he’s a work in progress on the defensive end. Although Koufos is in his fourth year it’s hard to forget just how raw he still is.
|Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 13 PTS | -2
Lawson had a tough time matching Lowry, one of the most overlooked guards in the league. It was tough for him to create with Houston packing the paint and doing a solid job getting back in transition. There was no post up threat on the floor and no consistent pick and roll options to work with. Ty tried his hardest to get others involved without forcing shots, but he could have been a lot more assertive with his own offense. Considering how talented he is, it’s tough to see him go passive even for small stretches of game.
|Julyan Stone, G 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -4
Stone has trouble hitting an open jump shot and I thought it was a curious decision to start him. Although I’m a big Stone fan, Andre Miller seems more motivated as a starter and has played poorly off the bench. Stone’s length and quickness contributed to a solid defensive performance, but he had trouble fitting in on the offensive end where Miller and Lawson assumed most of the point guard duties, relegating him to becoming a spot up shooter.
|Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 5-16 FG | 2-6 FT | 15 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -8
Harrington was asked to step way outside of a reasonable role yet again. He played close to 40 minutes twice in the past week and tonight he pulled the majority of the duty at power forward. 15 rebounds is pretty fantastic, but it cost him on the offensive end where Al couldn’t hit a shot or make free throws down the stretch. I give All all the credit in the world for his effort, but he just didn’t look good in the defense and rebounding glue guy role. Buckets is at his best when he’s living up to his namesake as a reliable bench scorer.
|Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | -13
I get a lot of criticism for being hard on on Miller, but I expect a lot of out of him. He’s clearly capable of orchestrating the offense and yet consistently puts up duds every couple of games. He’s supposed to be the steady veteran hand guiding this young squad and showing them how to win. Miller opened the game with four first quarter turnovers, three of which were credited to him but all due to errant Andre passes. Miller just didn’t look like he was into it tonight and he just can’t set that kind of example for this team.
|Chris Andersen, C 19 MIN | 4-4 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -7
Birdman clearly took exception to being benched and responded with one of his most productive outings of the season. As the game wore on Birdman’s defense faded a bit, but for a guy who hasn’t been playing his energy was a valuable shot in the arm to a lethargic defensive team. All in all Bird made the most of his minutes and you can’t say that for anyone else who received significant playing time
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -8
Fernandez used up a ton of crucial possessions this game and just didn’t deliver enough. It was a huge opportunity for him to assume a larger role and play big minutes with no Brewer and Gallo out with an injury. Rudy doesn’t offer spacing and hasn’t developed into a potent playmaking threat. The worst part of his game is the defense where he inexcusably jumps the passing lanes without regard for his teammates. Rudy was abused by every Rocket he attempted to guard tonight.
Five Things We Saw
- Ugly: It’s hard to imagine a more disheartening way to lose. The Nuggets shot a higher percentage than Houston and handily out-rebounded them. They failed to defend the three and hit free throws. This was another night to forget, as you just never sensed the Nuggets possessed the same will to win as their rivals. These kind of efforts shouldn’t happen at home, especially for good teams who generally don’t outwork their opponents yet still manage to lose
- Home Alone: The crowd was dead tonight as the shorthanded Nuggets struggled to keep up the energy. This is the third home loss this season in which the Nuggets came out lethargic and the energy in the building was flat. Denver traditionally has a great home court advantage and the Nuggets are not taking advantage.
- Costly loss: The Nuggets already have a losing record against the Western Conference and they drop even further to 7-10. Denver is 1-3 in the northwest division. Looking at the rest of the schedule this was one of the more favorable games in February and one the Nuggets should have figured out how to win. It gets harder from here, and Denver has now lost five of six including three straight at home
- Scheduling woes: Even though the Nuggets did have a day off, they just came off of three straight games on top of four in five nights. It was clear they could have used more rest, but there’s only so much to complain about when losing at home. The Nuggets have now been beaten handily by the Hornets, Jazz, and Rockets at home where they never seriously threatened to win. That tells me the schedule is far from the only factor in the Nuggets recent struggles.
- We have a problem: Houston just seems to have the Nuggets number. They have won 3 of the last 4 meetings at the Pepsi Center. Give credit to the Rockets, but the Nuggets are just in a bad funk right now. They are playing poorly; they seem to know it and when they get in position to win or seize momentum they manage to play worse. There’s nothing to do but wait it out, and this may be the wrong time considering Gallo just went down and the rest of the schedule in February doesn’t get any easier.
Game 25 Advanced Stats
Pace Factor: 101.5 – Nuggets had no problem controlling pace and outrebounded Houston
Offensive Efficiency: 88.6 – Bad, laughably bad. Like 20 turnovers bad.
Defensive Efficiency: 97.5 – Actually one of the better ratings of the past week, but it comes in a 9 point loss at home
Candid Notes by Kalen
As Charlie already mentioned, the fracture in Danilo Gallinari’s foot couldn’t have come at a worse time and not just because the Nuggets are already without three of its four starters. Nene, Afflalo and Mozgov will come back soon, but Gallinari is likely out for a while. His “chip fracture” will require at least a couple weeks to heal, but chances are Galliari could be out until March. George Hill of the Indiana Pacers recently suffered the exact same injury and reports are his fracture will keep him sidelined for roughly one month. If this injury is serious, Gallinari is going to miss the most crucial stretch of the season. February is by far the toughest month the Nuggets will have to endure this year and considering how bad they’ve played of late, this was a month where things essentially needed to go perfect in order for them to keep playing at a high level. Harrington should be able to step in and make up for the loss of production coming from the starting small forward spot Gallinari occupies, but that in turn leaves quite a hole in terms of production off the bench. Corey Brewer should see an expanded role and will likely fill in just fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that losing your leading scorer in the midst of the toughest stretch of the season creates a sizable and perilous obstacle to overcome.
Which leads me to my next point: If the Nuggets struggle mightily in the coming weeks, it will only (erroneously, if I might add) increase management and the fans’ desire to secure Wilson Chandler even more. If Denver had Chandler right now, Gallinari’s injury wouldn’t be near as costly — on the court at least. As I mentioned in my recent Nuggets News post, Chandler’s contract is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of flexibility moving forward. It’s absolutely imperative that no matter how many games the Nuggets lose in the month of February, Ujiri and Josh Kroenke do not re-sign Chandler to a hefty contract based solely on a knee jerk reaction in an attempt to get a few extra wins this year. Again, depth is NOT the problem with this team. Adding one more small forward in the long line of wing men the Nuggets already have will certainly help, but it won’t fix the perimeter defense, one-on-one defense, atrocious three-point shooting/shot selection, offensive rebounding, turnovers and desire to win down the stretch. If Wilson Chandler wants to be in Denver and is willing to settle for a reasonable price, great; but at this moment the last thing the Nuggets need to do is get in a bidding war over his services because they’re myopically focused on getting the team back to playing dominant basketball this year without regarding the structure of the franchise in the future.
Which leads me to my final point on this issue: Injuries are not an excuse to lose basketball games. This is the time where coaches truly shine. This is where we’re going to see what George Karl is really made of. Winning with the deepest team in the league is one thing; winning in the face of adversity is a whole nother story. Nobody is asking Karl to go undefeated on road trips or come out the other side of February looking sprightly and untarnished. What fans are asking for however, is that the Nuggets get back to playing the type of basketball that landed them the two seed in the Western Conference to begin with. Denver has played awful during this recent losing streak, and yet, most of the issues the team faces are ones that can be fixed as long as they’re addressed. If the Nuggets continue to ignore trends that obtrusively rear their ugly heads, Karl is the only one that can be blamed. It’s the coaches job to find ways to fix problems, and if nothing else (and I mean nothing), at least attempt to get your team to play the way they need to in order to win. Formulating a better defensive game plan, demanding better one-on-one defense and above all, figuring out a way to execute down the stretch should all be atop the Karl’s “To-Do” list and about the only things the Nuggets focus on every day in practice from here on out until they are resolved.
As for those problems, it’s starting to become more and more evident that the Denver Nuggets are a team that does a few things well, followed by bevy of other things not so well. While the Nuggets rank near the top of the league in points, assists and steals, they also rank near the bottom in several critical statistical categories. As of now the Nuggets rank 25th in opponent’s steals per game, 26th in opponent’s points per game, 27th in turnovers, 29th opponent’s 3-pointers attempted and 29th in opponent’s 3-pointers made. Bottom line: The Nuggets are turning the ball over way too often and then giving up 3-pointers on the other end of the floor. That is exactly what we saw against Houston, exactly what we’ve seen the entire season and exactly the type of basketball that absolutely will not win you many games in the NBA no matter how good your offense is!
One last note: Can Rudy Fernandez please (A) take less contested, unbalanced three-point shots and (B) make the ones he gets that are wide open? That would be awesome. Thank you.