Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 95 Dallas Mavericks 105

Dallas Mavericks 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
95 Denver Nuggets
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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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.
  • Cider

    Of the games I’ve watched so far this season, this has been the only one I had to stop watching out of disgust towards the end of the first half. On my end, that was probably a good thing because of the work I needed to get done tonight, but I probably would have preferred needing to stay up later and get less sleep if it meant the Nuggets played well.

  • Trevor

    Just one of those night where no one really steped up. Even with all the injuries they had a chance, which is a positve to take out of this game. When Mozgov and Brewer get back they should be fine until Gallo gets back or they sign Wilson.

  • lil rik

    1) For all the Timo haters out there – losing him has made a huge impact. I know we’re depleted elsewhere, obviously Gallo being out is big, and Afflalo has been very poor, but it Is clear to me now just what a presence Mozgov was having.

    2) I’m not really getting all of the questioning of Karl’s rotations and such – it’s just SO easy to opine from the outside looking in, like on of us should be coach. The guy knows what he’s doing – half of his team just went down. If the strings he’s pulled would have worked we’d all be sitting here praising his genious. He doesn’t know what works – he’s trying to figure that out, on the fly, that’s what happens when you have unexpected injuries like this. He could do the exact opposite with the same result and would still be getting questioned.

    3) http://www.hoopsrumors.com – good new site. informative it is the brother site to one of my favorites http://www.mlbtraderumors.com

  • lil rik

    P.S. the Mavs had some WIDE open shots last night. I could have knocked them down. GK can’t play defense.
    Plus, who’s this talented crop of young rookies? Stone and Faried? They have each started one of the last 2 games. And I don’t think they need to be coddled – welcome to the NBA, if you can’t handle sitting the bench until you understand the game at this level, or mixed signals, then it’s time to go play in China

  • steve

    ugh, terrible loss. not just because we lost but how we lost. No energy at all. We couldnt hit anything wide open unlike the mavs. We didnt play D. Wayyyy to many TO’s.

    Good news about Chandler i guess but honestly the way we are playing now it won’t matter. Chandler probably isn’t coming till march. We could be 4 or 5 games under .500 by then if we keep playing like this. Have you guys seen the next 12 games? An extremely tough schedule is coming up and we are entering it as cold as anyone could.

    GK needs to figure out his rotation FAST. Put nene back to C and start Faried at PF for the time being. At least maybe we’ll out rebound someone. Brewer should also start when he gets back.

  • Thomas

    Let’s not waste any more time and get rid of GK. He’s just terrible, from any angle you slice it.

    You guys can continue to blog and talk all you want about other stuff until we are eliminated early in the playoffs. With this guy coaching, that’s all you will get. Focus on the real problem here. Yesterday we had some of the most atrocious rotations one could imagine to match up with Dallas. He threw Stone under the bus, gave no minutes to Faried and Hamilton. What, he was trying to win the game? With no rebounding and the 2-guard line-up? 34 minutes for AAA, -21 on the night? Al Harrington 33 minutes, KK 20 minutes only? With Andre Miller slowing things down and absent on defense?

    I sure hope the players give up on GK so that we can move on soon to someone that is better suited to coach this team and realize its potential for what it is, for better or worst. Pretty much anyone will do. Otherwise we will continue to hear unacceptable comments like “this was a good loss” from coach and more excuses. Guy only cares about being mediocre and employed and sticking to his stubborn ideas that clearly don’t benefit the team now and particularly not in the long run. His man-crush favoritism for certain players (Miller, Rudy) is downright irritable.

    • Andrew

      I totally agree…to the point that I am going to add another post at the bottom.

  • Mitch

    Looks to me that the game plan for playing the Nuggets has been figured out. Notice that whenever the Nug’s start to make a run the other team calls a TO and their coach reminds them of what they need to do. End of the run. Time for GK to figure out a new game plan.

  • GZ

    Like some of the other commenters, I turned this game off at halftime. The elderly Mavericks made the Nuggets look tired and slow, and their body language gave me little hope that they would stage a comeback.

    I can’ t speak for what went wrong in the second half, but there was a statistic in the first that the Nuggets and Mavs were shooting the same percentage, but the Mavs had taken 10 more shots. Our small-ball lineups were getting killed on the defensive glass. Tyically it is easier to get offensive rebounds against a zone, but we didn’t seem to make up much ground there either. This is where I think KK and Faried could have helped considerably, had they seen more PT, and where I think we really miss Moz.

    Over this losing streak, another trend I’ve noticed is that we’re getting a lot fewer points at the free throw line. Gallo’s drives to the bucket were our best source of these points and in his absence we need AAA and Ty to take it to the rack more.

  • Dubz

    I want to preface this by saying A: Injuries aren’t a good excuse, BUT the Nuggets have had a ridiculous amount of injuries. In the last 15 games it seems like we always have at least 2-3 guys out. It’s hard to establish chemistry that way. and B: Growing pains were going to occur eventually. This team is too young and in experience for it not to happen. HOWEVER, this is starting to get very frustrating. I’ve been a supporter of Karl this year but my support for him is hanging by a thread. The worse things get, the smaller his lineups get which makes my blood boil. The C: Nene, PF: Harrington, SF: AAA, SG: Miller, PG: Lawson, experiment must be thrown away and never again see the light of day. It’s one thing to be over matched at one position, but with that lineup we’re over matched at EVERY POSITION!! What the heck is Karl thinking? Miller doesn’t bother playing defense and AAA is afraid on offense. How do you win with that lineup? This team needs to go BIG for once and throw out lineups like C: Koufos, PF: Nene, SF: Al, SG: Stone, PG: Lawson, for once. Mix it up for crying out loud. Karl’s short comings are really starting to show and I’m starting to think he and his massive head should get fired. I know it’s easy to simply put the blame on the coach but I gave him a lot of credit when this team was winning. The guy simply refuses to adapt and is too stubborn for this team. My goodness he’s starting to piss me off!!

  • Andrew

    I, like so many above, agree that it would almost be better at this point if the Nuggets just went on a horrendous losing streak.

    As many of us have thought for a few years, Karl is not a great coach…particularly in the playoffs when it counts. C’mon, Masai, pull the trigger on this guy! Give him a different role! Maybe, at least, negotiate with the Clippers to bring C Bill aboard for the rest of the year as an assistant or something.

  • Andrew

    AAA and Miller deserved lower scores. The Nuggs have to work through AAA issues, but Miller should be traded. I was a Miller fan at the beginning of the year, but seriously, his defense is so bad the Nuggets need to try to unload him on some Eastern team that is desperate for a PG. Horrendous that the Mavericks had wide open looks almost everytime down the court.

    Also, K2 has earned the right to start and play big minutes…fouls or no fouls, he is the Nuggets absolute best post defender. Did you see him work last night?! If the perimeter guys would stay on their guys, this team would be a lot better defensively. Birdman is no more than a role player….PLEASE don’t start him again! Stone is not ready for the start either.

    Just my opinion, but start: Ty/Rudy (at last until Brewer comes back)/Harrington or even try JHam or Faried (until Gallo and Chandler are back)/Nene/K2.

  • Andrew

    The other thing I could not help thinking last night was how much the Nuggets miss Kmart in games like this. Dirk would still get his points, but think of how much better this matchup goes if Kmart is defending him rather than Nene.

  • Guy

    I agree with a previous comment that the best thing that could happen right now is a long losing streak. Taking a look at the Feb. schedule I see this team @ or below .500 by the end of the month. Hopefully Masai will look @ the big picture and not sign Chandler to another stupid long term contract. The Nuggets need an “A” player or 2, they have right now too many “B” & “C” players and the only way to do this is to get into the high lottery by record or by trade.
    Nuggets fans should not fall in love with ANY of these players, they are all expendable for the right price. What position do we have a major advantage against any of the potential playoff teams?? Nene is our highest paid player and he can’t dominate against any of the prospective playoff opponents. That’s a big problem. The Nuggets need to play the rookies because they need to find out and develope what they have. Playing Stone at the small forward spot is ridiculous. If the Chicago Bulls can give Jimmy Butler significant minutes I think we should be able to fit Faried & Hamilton into our rotation. Thinking this team is a Championship contender is Fools Gold. I’ve been a GK supporter but if he doesn’t realize this then maybe it’s time for him to go.

  • Hi

    Guys our greatest strengths depth with these injuries we don’t have the same depth with all of these injuries. Our best talented players Galo and Ty are young ver very young and this is their firist year as go to scorers it’s gunna be fine this is a good team to build on take it easy

  • Guy

    Gallo and Ty are good young players but they are not stars. Depth is great in the regular season but in the playoffs the benches get shorter as each posession means more. In the playoffs you need to beat a team 4 times to move on and good teams with stars will adjust and exploit mismatches just like the Lakers did in the Conference Finals 3 years ago. This current team, while deep when healthy, isn’t as talented as last years team after the Melo trade, the one that got bounced out of the playoffs in 5 games.
    I do think the FO has done a good job keeping the Nuggets competitive with the departure of the 3 players to China but I hope they don’t lose sight of the big picture for the short term. This team is still a work in progress and like it or not if we are going to be a true contender we need to find an impact player somewhere that rivals Kevin Durrant, Dirk, Chris Paul…hopefully someone who can hit free throws. Maybe Gallo is that person but this is his 4th year in the league and every star I can think of you knew he was the guy by now. I keep thinking back to the days of Rodney Rogers and Mutumbo, Laphonso Ellis…if we only just gave them a little more time…

  • Dubz

    This team should not tank the season people, stop it. There incredibly young and again, they’re going to have growing pains. I have to say I’d definitely be open to an Andre Miller trade for Karl insists on playing him at the 2 and thus must play Afflalo at the 3. This team really needs Brewer back and hopefully he’ll be back sooner than later. Karl has gradually gone smaller as the season has progressed, and it’s really killing this team. All the guys look tired, confused, and worst of all: indifferent. I don’t blame them, they all play out of position and are forced to defend guys who are either 3 inches taller than them or 25 pounds heavier. I’d fully support GK getting fired right now which I can’t believe I’m saying. He’s going to do irreparable damage to this young team which is unacceptable.

  • Kevin

    AAA was a C for this game and Kalen hit the nail on the head.