|Corey Brewer, SF 35 MIN | 3-15 FG | 3-6 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | -4
Brewer certainly wasn’t as effective as he has been coming off the bench, and he continues to struggle with his shot, but seven boards, four assists and five steals are smart, hustle numbers no matter how you look at it.
|Kenneth Faried, F 21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +1
Faried once again played solid, although his three rebounds in 21 minutes are tough to swallow. It’s odd; the last few games Faried has actually played much better on the offensive side of the ball than on defense — his specialty in college. It’s nice seeing the “Manimal” show the ability to score, although at this juncture his rebounding and defense are needed more.
|Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 6-7 FG | 0-2 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -14
Koufos continues to impress. In only 26 minutes he set a new career high in rebounds, at 14, and was one of the few Nuggets who actually came to play. His toughness, passion and defense are more than admirable, while his gradual improvement only corroborates his case for being a steady rotational player. At this point, you could argue Koufos is the best big outside of Nene on the Nuggets roster.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 25 MIN | 0-6 FG | 3-6 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -33
After scoring 20 points in three straight games Afflalo reverted back to the player he has been most of the year and laid an egg; however, being that most of the entire team did so as well, this performance can be somewhat forgiven. It’s going to be interesting seeing how Afflalo bounces back from this outing. Does he kick into overdrive and score in the upper teens like he’s capable of doing, or does he turn in another stinker? Stay tuned.
|Ty Lawson, PG 28 MIN | 1-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 3 PTS | -15
All in all, this was probably one of Ty’s more disappointing efforts of the year. Before you chastise him too much though, keep in mind he was coming off 17 and 27-point performances the two games prior (which were both wins), and was met by a furious Mavericks’ interior defense every time he attempted to drive. Dallas really did a fine job of taking away the Nuggets penetration offense, which is essentially — Ty Lawson.
|Al Harrington, PF 25 MIN | 4-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -23
Harrington’s struggles continue. After leading the league in two-point shooting percentage through the early part of the year, Harrington has now shot over .500 percent in just one game this month. His overall field goal percentage has dipped nearly 10 percent in that time. All that said, Big Al has embraced the leadership role of a young Nuggets squad and is one of the few members of the roster who actually plays with a sense of pride on a nightly basis.
|Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -9
Twenty one minutes, zero points and two steals — what more can you say? About the only signs of life Miller showed against the Mavericks was when he angrily tossed the ball to a ref after not receiving a foul call while attempting to drive to the basket. Though his minutes did come in garbage time, it’s at least worth noting that Stone looked worlds better than Miller, especially on defense.
|Chris Andersen, C 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -4
Birdman didn’t crack the rotation till later in the game but once he did, he gave his full effort on both ends of the floor. His turnovers were down and his boards were up, but most importantly, he followed up one great performance with another solid outing. Right now, consistency should be Andersen’s biggest goal.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 20 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | -11
Fernandez looked as if he wanted to prove something to his former team near the start of the game, and succeeded in doing so. He hit multiple 3-pointers and even a few tough jump-shots, but the luster slowly faded and eventually Fernandez was rendered just as useless as most every other Nugget.
|Julyan Stone, G 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 2 PTS | +10
Stone deserves a good grade because he truly made the most out of the time he was given and played the best defense of anybody on the Nuggets roster. George Karl should consider sitting down his entire team and forcing them to watch Stone’s lateral defensive movement as it’s quite remarkable and hands down better than anyone on the team. Furthermore, Stone’s penetration followed by his pinpoint passes is exactly the type of offense Karl urges his team to implement, which shows Stone is listening. Should Andre Miller find himself either traded or injured, Nuggets fans can rest assured knowing Stone would be able to fill in just fine… if not better.
|Jordan Hamilton, G 9 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +12
In some truly extended minutes Hamilton finally gave Nuggets fans their first glimpse into the type of player he can be, which is an offensive scoring machine (note: “machine” used lightly in this instance). In nine minutes “J-Ham” took eight shots and made four them. His drives to the basket were a bit ill-advised and his defense was inconsistent, but there was no denying the skill Hamilton possess on the offensive side of the ball. It would be extremely interesting seeing how he fares in the heat of a close game.
Five Things We Saw
- A.I.: Artificial Integrity: Was I the only one who, when watching this game, was reminded of the Allen Iverson days? I swear this could have been a page right out of the 2006-07 season where the Nuggets won games based solely on talent, yet when it really mattered, when it came down to guts and grit, the team floundered monumentally. Say what you want about starters, about Dallas being the “defending world champs” and whatever other excuse you can come up with, but the bottom line was this: Nobody expected to win this game. Am I right in saying that? Sure, I thought there was an outside chance. I was encouraged by what I saw the two games before, but I fully expected the Nuggets to drop this one — just not in the manner they did. THAT’S what is so discouraging about this loss; it’s a slap in the face from our old friend, Reality. Because the fact of the matter is, the Nuggets are STILL an extremely flawed team that plays little to no defense and is suffocated by the slightest hint of adversity. Simply missing starters isn’t a golden excuse to give up mid-way through the game and not even contest shots. Playing the defending champs doesn’t excuse you from figuring out a way to score when forced to play half-court basketball. But with the Denver Nuggets (and this has been the case since Karl took over), it seems at times looking for an alibi is paramount rather than taking accountability and getting the job done. This, to me is a reflection upon George Karl. Throughout his coaching career no matter what’s gone wrong its never been his fault. First it was A.I.’s selfish mentality, then it was Melo’s lack of defense (and also, selfish mentality), then it was J.R.’s “craziness.” My question is: When is it ever going to be Karl’s fault? When can we look at a performance like Wednesday’s against the Mavericks and say, “Yeah, you know, Karl could have done a better job motivating the team, demanding some defense and lighting a fire up people’s asses”? When the camera zooms to the sidelines to catch the bench staring off into space, eyes more glazed than a sugary doughnut, that’s certainly not the hallmark of a championship caliber team, or even one with high playoff hopes like the Nuggets, is it? People may argue that every “championship contender” gets blown out once, but the Nuggets are now 3-9 in their last 11 games and have lost by 18 or more twice during that span. All I’m saying is Karl needs to stop getting a free pass for such unacceptable offenses. Like a police officer leniently letting the principal off the hook for speeding in the school zone, Nuggets fans have become accustomed to giving Karl a minor (if that) slap on the wrist for neglecting the most cardinal of basketball commandments based solely on his extensive track record (which is without a championship, I might add). Losing three of your last nine games? Unacceptable! Being ranked 26th in defense? Unacceptable! Not having a backup plan when you’re forced into playing half court offense? Unacceptable! Do I even need to touch on in-bounds plays? Again, these are not a player issues; these are philosophies instilled by the head coach. Missing shots, setting poor screens, turning the ball over — those are player issues. But never once being ranked higher than 18th in the league in defense during his entire tenure in Denver, botching potential trips to the NBA Finals because he disregards in-bounds passes, failing to conjure up any sort of game-plan to combat a zone defense — those all fall on the coach, have killed the Nuggets forever and will continue to do so unless addressed. In the end, Karl has nobody else but himself to blame as he’s the one who sets such low standards for his team, and as a result the franchise as a whole.
- Odds and Ends: The Mavericks lead grew to 31 points at its apogee, which is the biggest lead I can ever remember any team having on the Nuggets in recent years. While the Mavericks continued to play tough defense the entire night, holding Denver to 84 points total, the Nuggets let Dallas do virtually whatever it pleased on offense. There were times when guys didn’t even contest shots. No matter how bad you’re losing or how depleted you may be, you can’t give up on the defensive side of the ball like that. Credit Rick Carlisle for his outstanding team defense and conversely, scold George Karl for his.
- Brick House: While the Nuggets failed to play defense, they also failed to do anything on the offensive side of the ball as well. It wasn’t until the four minute mark of the third quarter that Denver finally cracked the 50-point mark, yet even after doing so the Nuggets hoisted up countless bricks, air balls and flat-out terrible shots all together than really had no chance of going in. Again, this was largely due to Dallas’ excellent defense and George Karl’s lack of a half-court offense.
- Go Big or Go Home: It should be noted that after being only 12 points behind at halftime, George Karl decided to start Al Harrington (an offensive-minded player) at power forward instead of Kenneth Faried. This was the turning point in the game. The Mavericks immediately opened the half on a 25-6 run which essentially ended the game right then and there. Though I am no basketball expert, there’s no denying the correlation between a struggling Al Harrington playing out of position against a 7-foot front court and a lead that opened up in Dallas’ favor that would never be relinquished.
- Rookie Report: To summarize, all the rookies looked solid tonight in the limited minutes they were given. Stone passed the ball well, while Faried and Hamilton showed off their scoring prowess. It’s safe to say that, if these young, developing players continue to mature, they might very well be an important part of the team moving forward as long as George Karl gives them a chance.
Update:12:06 AM February 16, 2012 by Jeremy – I cannot let that effort go by without a comment or two. Like Kalen I am baffled by the lack of any kind of efforts by the coaching staff to shake things up when the team so clearly needed a good slap in the face. The offense was completely stagnant all night. It was a pick and roll on one side of the floor while three players stood stationary on the weak side. When the pick and roll failed thanks to the lack of any significant contact by the big man setting the screen, the ball was reversed and someone dribbled until they could get off a long jumper. It is baffling to me how that was tolerated the entire game. Every once in a while Fernandez was run off a double screen, to shake things up, but then they were right back to what I am going to start calling “the best seats in the house offense.”
I am constantly reminded of a coach like Greg Popovich who demands excellence out of whoever is on the court. The fact is, when the Spurs are missing a star, or stars, they execute even more flawlessly because the players know the execution is their salvation. There was a game against the very same Mavericks a month or so ago where Popovich benched Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The remainder of the team fought back and forced overtime. Pop could have relented and allowed Duncan and Parker back in the game, but he did not. He did what he thought was right even though it might have cost the Spurs a victory.
Karl has just as much job security as Popovich so he should not fear making decisions like that. Instead he plays like an ultraconservative football coach content to kick a field goal in the fourth quarter despite the fact they are down 21 points. The Nuggets are allowed to continue to make the same mistakes over and over for 48 minutes with no significant attempt from Karl to right the ship. I realize every coach has their own style, but a coach that does not demand accountability from his players is nothing but a figurehead.
The game was lost before it even began because of the attitude the team inherited from the coaches.
The team is living with a wait-until-we-are-healthy-again attitude, but there is no guarantee that they will ever be healthy. What happens if Gallo gets injured again? What if Nene continues to be hampered by calf issues? What if Lawson goes down? I am not saying they should win every game, but the philosophy that it is OK to give certain games away is unacceptable. The mindset that everything be OK because things will get better is a festering boil on the organization and it must be dealt with.
There is no leadership coming from the bench, nor is there any on the court.
I continue to expect this team to make the playoffs, but for the first time, I have my doubts. If they can return to full health, sure things will be fine. They will run off a nice long winning streak and get back into the top of the West. However, if anything goes wrong, Lord have mercy because this team is not mentally strong enough to deal with the ramifications.