|Corey Brewer, SF 29 MIN | 9-17 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | -18
It’s really tough to rely on Brewer’s offense, but his constant energy and enthusiasm sure is fun to watch. Brewer was having a pretty poor start to his night before exploding in the fourth quarter where he scored 12 of his 23 points. In an interesting development Brewer guarded Tony Parker with Andre Miller off the floor and was able to pressure him. Brewer’s being asked to fill too big of a role with all of the injury problems and his all effort deserves praise.
|Kenneth Faried, F 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 4 PTS | -18
He was benched for Al Harrington yet again, but Faried proved he is indeed still a rookie and struggled to keep the fundamentally sound Spurs off the boards. The “Manimal” has been expanding his game and showing flashes of offensive talent but needs to be more consistent on the rebounding front to solidify his place in the rotation. Games like these will happen for the inexperienced Faried and while he struggled to be effective you never once had to question his effort and his ongoing drive to improve.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 20 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -1
Mozgov was playing solid ball before getting injured against the Lakers and he’s really struggled to get back into form since returning. He once again started poorly, showing his penchant for fouling and turning the ball over too much. Mozgov did play better as the game wore on, but was generally dominated by the Spurs front line and it’s hard to overlook the fact he’s largely ineffective in his minutes right now.
|Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 7-10 FG | 5-6 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 20 PTS | -17
Miller is more reliable as a starter than a reserve, so his impressive stat line doesn’t come as huge surprise. What the numbers don’t tell you is that Miller held the ball a lot and struggled to create decent opportunities as Denver fell behind by as much as 28 points with him directing the offense. Staying in front of Tony Parker also proved to be a nightmare for the slow-footed Miller, who tallied four fouls in 27 ineffective minutes.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 39 MIN | 6-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | -8
Afflalo is banged up, clearly feeling the effects of nagging injuries and being asked to assume a big-minute, high-responsibility role as the Nuggets battle through numerous injuries. Despite Arron tweaking another muscle and struggling with fatigue he battled through a 39-minute night the best he could and came within one point of another 20 point performance — which would have been his seventh in the past nine games.
|Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Eight points on 10 shots and another tough performance to grade. While Big Al has continued putting up numbers in this injury-riddled stretch, the team is getting killed on defense as the ball movement on offense grinds to a halt. Harrington hasn’t missed a game yet and is clearly exhausted, but as a veteran leader he needs to focus on defending and getting the Nuggets offense back to their high-efficiency ways.
|Chris Andersen, C 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -12
It wasn’t totally clear why Birdman entered the game, but he didn’t do anything of note outside of blocking two shots and badly missing a baseline jumper. Birdman could have come out with better energy, but he didn’t get much of a chance and was not in the game long enough to have an impact either way. It’s another example of why the Nuggets are struggling to keep Birdman involved considering they have no idea what to expect when he’s inserted into a game.
|Kosta Koufos, C 19 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -2
Koufos played very few minutes until the game was well out of hand, but he was part of a unit that sparked a second half run and showed life for the first time all night. He grabbed three offensive boards and was clearly more effective than most of the other Nuggets bigs, most notably Harrington and Mozgov. On nights like tonight you’d like to see him get rewarded and show what he can do in a big minute role.
|Julyan Stone, G 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 9 PTS | +2
When Stone becomes more of a threat to score the ball his game will really start opening up. Right now it’s clear he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his scoring ability and he gets out of control trying to attack and do too much. Defensively, Stone’s play was top-notch and sparked a run where the Nuggets actually put up some resistance to Tony Parker and threatened to get back in the game. Stone is a rookie who needs work, but he brings great energy and in terms of overall point guard play I believe he thoroughly outplayed Andre Miller despite not being able to score.
|Jordan Hamilton, G 27 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -4
Rough night for Hamilton, who took some bad shots early and showed where he still has a lot of room to grow in terms of figuring out how to best use his array of offensive moves. Jordan was hesitant tonight and often caught in between trying to drive or shoot. Although Hamilton was a dud in the scoring department, he grabbed nine boards and showed off his versatility as a big guard who can compete on the glass. Ultimately Hamilton’s role is to score and while he needs to be more aggressive and decisive with his offense, Jordan showed there’s more to his game than just shooting.
Four Things We Saw
- The Will to Win: With four key players out, it’s hard to give the Nuggets a great chance to win this one but they again came out flat and emotionless at home. Karl did call a few timeouts and went to his bench early but couldn’t find any answers. The Spurs cruised to a victory and although the Nuggets were shorthanded and played last night, they barely competed for over half the night and did not look hungry or desperate enough for a win.
- Contrasting Styles: The Spurs have one of the most efficient offenses in the league without the benefit of constantly trying to run out in transition. They utilize screens better than any team in the league and Tony Parker dissected the Nuggets defense with basic pick and roll action. At times the Nuggets did a decent job keeping Parker out of the middle but San Antonio’s spacing was so good they often made the easy pass and found open perimeter shots. On the other hand, the Nuggets stand-still offense remains a complete mess. Andre Miller often failed to get a single pick and roll going as the Nuggets stood around waiting for him to stop dribbling in place. The bigs need to set better screens but there needs to be a more sincere effort towards getting into offensive sets earlier. The responsibility falls on the coaches and the primary ballhandlers — in this case Andre Miller and Al Harrington.
- The Young and the Restless: It’s hard to ignore just how much better the defense was with Stone, Afflalo, and Brewer manning the wings. The Nuggets were long and athletic, getting hands into the passing lanes and in turn getting stops and transition opportunities. With Andre Miller in the game, the Nuggets were stuck in the mud as the Spurs controlled tempo with ease and cruised to a lead that grew as big as 28 points. When you consider the fact Miller had one of his best statistical games and the Nuggets still looked dead with him running the offense, I’m starting to question whether he’s truly the best fit for this team going forward.
- Dejuan Blair: I would be remiss not to mention Blair’s 28-point career night in which he singlehandedly dismantled the Nuggets front court. The truth is this is something to be expected when the Nuggets play. I have no answer for it other than Blair simply played with a load more effort than anyone in a Nuggets jersey. Many of his baskets came off of hustle plays and there did not seem to be any in-game adjustments made to force him out of the paint. The problem is indicative of the larger defensive meltdown taking place and I’m not sure there is any hope of things getting better until Nene and Gallo return from injury.
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Contributor at Roundball Mining Company since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.