|Nene, C 36 MIN | 6-12 FG | 4-5 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | -10
Nene had a harmless double-double. I was surprised he produced this much because he continues to have trouble finishing at the rim. Nene had an incredibly difficult cover in Dirk Nowitzki but that is not an excuse to completely neglect defending the weak side. No blocks, no steals, and too many turnovers. The one thing Nene did well was keep his head in the game instead of expending all of his energy arguing calls.
|Julyan Stone, G 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -8
I don’t know why the Nuggets went away from Stone. Karl keeps putting him in a terrible situation where he’s not in a position to make plays or develop his point guard abilities. I like the way Stone defends, but it’s hard to ignore how he helped the Nuggets get off to a horrid start on both ends of the court. I’ll give Stone an incomplete. The starting lineup experiment couldn’t have gone much worse and Stone suffered the most for it. He was not given a chance to play after 8 uneventful minutes.
|Chris Andersen, C 14 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -13
Birdman is like that cheap, no-name vodka occupying the bottom shelf of your favorite liquor store. Are the cheap thrills of a good night once in a while worth the ensuing week-long headache? No, and consistently going there is a sign you may have a serious problem. Starting him was Karl’s strangest decision yet. He hasn’t started since 2008 against the Hawks, where he also struggled mightily and the Nuggets lost. I like Birdman in small, infrequent doses when the team is exceptionally flat. Starting him flat out didn’t work.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 4-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -21
It’s tough to settle on a good grade for Afflalo, because he showed some fight coming off another horrendous start. There was a stretch in the third quarter where he looked to be asserting himself as a leader while imploring the Nuggets to work harder on the defensive end. Unfortunately, Afflalo was just way too up and down. He missed every big shot he took and just didn’t consistently play up to his talent. He finished with a game worst -21, a stat not indicative of his true play but a strong sign that he just doesn’t have it together. There are signs he is getting there.
|Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 5-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 10 AST | 16 PTS | -4
Lawson wasn’t aggressive enough, but it’s totally unreasonable to expect him to just start taking over games while trying to grow into his long term role as a starter. A double-double from your starting PG should be more than enough for any good team in the league to get a win, especially one with as much depth and scoring talent as Denver. It’s imperative that Lawson get way more aggressive going to the rim, but at least he is improving. The main problem is the defense and Lawson can’t fix that. Ty has the right idea in trying to make this haphazard offense work by not forcing too many shots, but he simply needs to get meaner and be relentless attacking the paint.
|Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 6-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 17 PTS | -5
Great stats, but just one of those hollow efforts as you never got the sense he had much of an impact on the game. To be fair, the game was pretty out of hand by the time he came in. Al Buckets is at least making shots and not afraid to take them when needed. With the Nuggets suffering a crisis of confidence at the moment, you have to appreciate what Al brings to the table. Unfortunately Harrington is a big part of the Nuggets giving back way more points than they are able to put up. I had to dock Harrington’s solid production because he ultimately didn’t make plays when the Nuggets needed it most. Al’s effort does not go unnoticed though, I love how hard he’s playing and this team’s problems are much bigger than him.
|Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 11 PTS | +4
His defense is so bad, you need a nightly double-double just to compensate. Miller can’t guard anyone and the team seems to know it. Karl seems okay with having him lay off his man while praying he can cut off drives to the rim. The problem is teams are finding the open shooter and Miller can’t be bothered to close out. Outside of the defense, Miller struggled again with turnovers but played about as well as he can offensively. This may be the best you can get out of Miller in a nightly bench role and I’m not sure giving a 36 year old this many minutes is the wisest idea.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 29 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 17 PTS | +4
Fernandez had the hot hand early and helped close out the second half on a mini Denver run. The Nuggets then curiously went away from him while the starters lost all momentum. His shot selection was much better and his gambling defense continues to be frustratingly hit or miss. Still, Rudy played with a lot of passion and showed resolve on a night the rest of the Nuggets looked scared.
|Kosta Koufos, C 20 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +3
Koufos is impressing me more with each game. He still makes a lot of mistakes getting caught on switches and trying to guard the perimeter, but the guy is only 22 years old and still learning the most difficult position in the NBA. He usually produces whenever he gets minutes, so I don’t understand why he was removed from the starting lineup. Koufos may have been the only positive in terms of the defense tonight and he barely played. I was wrong about the guy — he’s a surefire rotation player and the Nuggets need to live with some rookie mistakes while developing him.
Five Things We Saw
- A new low: In my game preview, I praised the Nuggets for playing hard against terrible circumstances. I expected them to play desperate and make their own luck with a heroic home effort against the defending champs. I am shocked at the way Denver is playing at home this season. This team is clearly making excuses and not resolved to fight through the injuries. The Nuggets were never legitimately in this game. They did not have a chance and for me, it qualifies as the worst effort of the year. They are shorthanded and perhaps they should have lost, but there is no excuse not to fight hard.
- Adversity: The Nuggets are embarrassing themselves but still need fan support. This is the worst stretch of the George Karl era I can remember, but the Nuggets still sit with a decent playoff seed and a great chance to turn things around. This team is probably not a contender, but that is not a reason to give up on the season. There is too much at stake and too much time to make amends. This stretch doesn’t have to hurt the Nuggets too badly if they can find the resolve to fight through it. Keep supporting the Denver Nuggets.
- Son of a switch: The Nuggets again reverted to switching screens in an effort to simplify a defense they have no idea how to fix. I hate switching because it does not promote any sort of accountability in terms each player taking pride on that end of the floor. A lot of bad teams resort to switching because their personnel is inexperienced or unable to grasp team concepts on defense. Tonight we saw Afflalo matched up on Marion and Lamar Odom, Andre Miller and Ty Lawson on Dirk, and countless other mismatches the Mavericks exploited at every opportunity. The only solid defensive stretch came with Koufos in the lineup yet the Nuggets did not reward him.
- Zoned out: The Mavs often played 3 players wide near the basket with 2 defenders roaming the perimeter outside. They conceded threes to Nuggets shooters and dared them to make shots. It was so effective the Nuggets offense often had trouble even finding an open look. The worst part is Denver hesitated to shoot against the zone and often dribbled around aimlessly or bulldozed their way into double and triple teams. The Nuggets were great against Miami’s zone earlier this year and now this team hardly bares any resemblance. This crisis of confidence on the offensive end has to end. The team lacks mental toughness needed to fight through this right now.
- WILSOOOON!!!!: For those looking for any good news tonight, Yahoo Sports is reporting that Wilson Chandler has decided to re-sign with the Denver Nuggets upon his return from China. Unfortunately, this turned out to be little more than a ploy by Chandler’s agent to put the onus on Denver to bid against themselves and deliver Chandler to fan base desperate for good news. See Jeremy’s post here for full details and my thoughts on the matter.
Game 26 Advanced Stats
Pace Factor: 93.9 – No energy. A totally flat performance
Offensive Efficiency: 101.1 – Tough to judge because the game was a laugher. Nuggets didn’t get close
Defensive Efficiency: 111.8 – It’s time to start getting worried. Denver is a really bad defensive team
Candid notes by Kalen
I have to agree with Charlie about Stone, Birdman and specifically Karl’s rotations altogether. At this point, it’s just getting tough to understand his point of view. He desperately wants to keep his bench in tact (even though it’s essentially just Miller and Harrington) so he resorts to starting a rookie point guard at small forward who’s hardly played a single stretch of significant minutes all season. Then, after starting Koufos for a few games and even Faried, he tries out Birdman who’s largely been relegated to “DNPs” for the last 10 days. I understand tinkering with lineups once injuries strike but isn’t this the same guy who utterly refuses to play rookies no matter how good they may be and basically preaches to the media about the importance of keeping his rotations tight?
Starting Stone, a point guard who never once played a full season at small forward while in college, just doesn’t make sense and again as Charlie says, doesn’t put him in a position to succeed. Stone isn’t an effective scorer and needs the ball in his hands to distribute, which is his strength. What’s even the point of playing him a measly seven minutes at a position he’s entirely uncomfortable playing in the first place? If it is, as Karl says, just to keep his bench rotation intact then that’s nothing more than an idiosyncrasy with no real strategy behind it. And of course, this goes directly against what Karl has traditionally lauded in terms of why he likes smaller rotations and avoids rookies. He’s always said he prefers giving regular rotation guys a few extra minutes rather than letting someone at the far end of the bench take them, yet here he is going staunchly against that very notion.
At this juncture, it’s just hard to buy what Karl’s selling, especially in terms of the talented crop of young rookies on the roster. Now would be an excellent time to tap into the deep bench the Nuggets possess to see just how promising these rookies really are. Instead, Karl will likely end up messing with their heads and sending mixed signals regarding his confidence level in them.
During the recent six-game losing stretch the Nuggets are allowing 104 points per game while only scoring 96. That’s a scoring differential of negative eight. The Nuggets usually average 104 points per game, which despite this most recent struggle, is still first in the entire league. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball the Nuggets give up, on average, 99 points per game. In summary, not only are the Nuggets letting teams score way more points than they typically do, but they’re also failing to make up for it by scoring more points themselves. Even the one go-to aspect of the Nuggets team that you though you could always count on — scoring — finally appears to failing them.
This is probably the most troubling statistic you will dig up regarding the Nuggets most recent woes and while there’s no doubt injuries have contributed to this startling trend you’re still left to wonder who exactly this Nuggets team really is. Is it the team that won six straight games on the road for the first time in franchise history, or the team that lost six of its last seven to most of the same Western Conference teams it will likely face in the playoffs? Is it the highest scoring, most unselfish, offensively potent team in the league, or the team that can’t even buy an open 3-pointer nor find a way to score a bucket when it needs it most? The fact of the matter seems to be, that while the Nuggets have a lot of talent on the squad it also has a very simplistic way of doing business that often times malfunctions in the face of adversity. Nuggets fans can only hope that these issues are soon realized and resolved.