Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 104 Portland Trail Blazers 95

Portland Trail Blazers 95 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Denver Nuggets
Corey Brewer, SF 26 MIN | 5-14 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +4
14 shots in 26 minutes is a lot, but Brewer has never been shy about letting it fly and he’s continued to develop into a more consistent offensive player. I thought it was a very tough matchup going against Gerald Wallace and Nic Batum, but Brewer held his own. Karl did a fantastic job managing his minutes and not forcing him out there in a super-small lineup where he’s likely to be overpowered by bigger players.
Kenneth Faried, F 17 MIN | 6-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +8
It sounds ridiculous for a player who only saw 17 minutes, but if I had to give an MVP award for this win it would undoubtedly go to Faried. He was instrumental in setting the tone for the Nuggets, defending with vigor and dominating the paint on both ends. Seven offensive rebounds is the most any Nuggets player has gathered this season, and Faried did it in less than 20 minutes. The “Manimal” is growing up quick and when you imagine what he might do with more minutes and a more polished offensive game — it’s downright scary.
Timofey Mozgov, C 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +3
Mozgov had a very solid performance. Although he struggled defensively at times, much to Scott Hastings’ chagrin, Mozgov was physical with Aldridge and much more assertive on the offensive end. He’s been struggling with turnovers and rebounding, two areas in which he improved greatly tonight. Mozgov just needs to be more consistent in terms of production with his 20 minutes a night as he continues to prove himself as a valuable role player.
Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | +9
Afflalo’s shot was flat and he missed several big free throws, but outside of that his game was superb. Afflalo’s been much more confident in his offensive game and continues to improve by taking more shots in the flow of the offense. The only things missing right now are the three-point consistency and his reliability at the foul-line. If those areas improve and he continues the kind of production we’ve seen in the last two weeks, Afflalo could be safely considered one of better shooting guards in the Western Conference.
Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 18 PTS | +17
Lawson started slow after returning from injury and seemed to be going through an up-and-down night as he struggled to find his rhythm. On the other hand, the Nuggets offense looked so markedly different with him back in the mix it became clear how important he is despite not being able to make his shots. Lawson then exploded late and assumed total control of the game behind 6-9 shooting in the fourth quarter. His offense was brilliant most of the night and he delivered the win when the Nuggets needed someone to step up down the stretch.
Al Harrington, PF 31 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +8
Al played a good game, replacing Faried early and often but maintaining good enough defense and rebounding to avoid much of a drop-off in either area. Al was clearly worn out before the break and struggling to work off his teammates for shots. Harrington played 30 minutes and looked tired at the end of his stint, but there’s no denying he took much better shots and gave way better effort in other areas outside of scoring.
Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 4 PTS | +1
Miller was not as bad as his stats indicate, but just take a look at how dreadful his line was. Although Miller looked spry and was more “active” on the defensive end, he still struggled to rotate and close out on shooters. It should be stressed Miller was better on defense than he has been, but his game is still plagued by inconsistency and frequent stretches of flat-out horrible play. Miller took only four shots, two of which were three-pointers and he committed two bad turnovers late, when all Denver had to do was hold onto the ball in order to win.
Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Koufos was his usual productive self, providing a steady rebounding presence and decent enough offense in his limited time on the floor. Where Koufos really shined was in the closing stretch of the game, where Karl trusted him to close out the win in Nene’s usual role. Koufos defense was spectacular in some crucial late-game sequences and he never stopped playing hard. This is some of the most focused defense I’ve seen out of Koufos, who had two of his four blocks in a pivotal fourth quarter where the game was closer than it seemed.
Jordan Hamilton, G 14 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | +2
Hamilton was a mixed bag – but mostly good as he’s still finding his way through the first handful of meaningful games in his pro career. Hamilton was extremely aggressive on offense, dishing his way to three nice assists but also taking some bad shots, a couple of which he made in spectacular fashion. You have to love the energy Hamilton is playing with, but he failed to block out Batum on a fourth quarter putback which ended up getting him benched. A double-digit scoring game is progress and Hamilton just needs to work on his fundamentals and accept the short leash that comes with every rookie mistake.

Four Things We Saw

  1. A weight off the shoulders: The month of February has mercifully come to end, and thanks to a renewed spirit in the face of adversity the Nuggets are ending their worst month in years on a high note. I was worried coming into the game that despite Lawson returning, the Nuggets injury situation remained largely unchanged since before the break. They have been struggling to put up consistent effort and had every excuse to continue that and end up losing to a rested Blazers squad. The Nuggets ended the month with a record of 5-11, a disappointing performance but not a complete disaster. As small as a single win out of those 16 games seems, this one felt great and renewed a sense of hope as the Nuggets came out with their most complete effort since January.
  2. Go big or go home: The Nuggets have a size advantage against virtually every opponent they play, and that’s with the injuries to Gallinari and Nene. Despite having bigger and more athletic front court players than their opponents, Karl often ignores it in favor of guard heavy lineups designed to get the Nuggets out in transition. Tonight Karl rewarded the promising young bigs and the Nuggets proved they are just as good in the open court without having to play small. The decision to go with Faried and play Koufos down the stretch proved to be the difference in winning this game. Denver’s big men dominated with their energetic play, outrebounding the Blazers and outhustling them in the paint . Faried and Harrington logged double-doubles with Mozgov and Koufos both coming within inches. Denver needs to play like this more often.
  3. Masai’s revenge: Watching this game I couldn’t help but be reminded of the draft day trade swapping Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, which allowed the Nuggets to draft Jordan Hamilton and Kenneth Faried. Miller had a poor game, but the Nuggets brought him in expecting nothing more than a solid backup. The Blazers made the trade assuming they had a bonafide starter in Raymond Felton, who played a solid game but has faded into the background as Jamal Crawford’s backup. Meanwhile Kenneth Faried dominated the game in 17 minutes and the additional depth provided by that trade allowed the Nuggets to win despite missing Gallinari, Nene, and Rudy Fernandez due to various injuries. Although Portland has gotten the better of their season series with Denver, the Nuggets played both previous games on a back-to-back and I think it’s safe to say Denver will end up on the better end of that trade for the foreseeable future.
  4. Ty Lawson… the closer?: It’s my belief the Nuggets are best served with the ball in Lawson’s hands during crunch time. Ty does not require a screen to get his shot off, but he is undersized and unselfish to a fault. The Nuggets must preach team-wide execution on offense when a big basket is needed. Without that, you end up with a lot of dribbling and an off-balance heave by Lawson in isolation, which is not his strength. As we saw tonight, Lawson can make his shots but it requires a fluid and less predictable offense. Lawson often scored in isolation by himself when he needed to, but the biggest shot of the game came off an Afflalo drive where the Nuggets moved the ball with precision and found Ty for a spot-up three at the end of the shot clock. Portland played great defense, but the Nuggets got all five players involved and trusted each other enough to create that pivotal shot opportunity as a team. Execution like that is sorely needed late in games where the Nuggets don’t have a dominant one-on-one player.

Game 36 Advanced Stats

Pace Factor: 91.4 – Slow, but heavily affected by Andre Miller and a bad fourth quarter
Offensive Efficiency:  113.7 – A great rating by the shorthanded Nuggets playing their style of ball
Defensive Efficiency: 103.9 – A very inconsistent game, but honestly much better than I’ve seen in weeks.

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Charlie Yao

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.
  • Klules

    Excellent start for the second half. And an excellent start to this game. The Nuggets came out with energy and played up tempo offense along with sting defense. Manimal rocked the beginning and immediately laid claim to the boards on both ends.

    The second half was a little worse and we let Portland climb back into the game. The key stat I’ve been tracking late has been offensive rebounds vs turnovers and the Nuggets killed it tonight going 21/12 (*insert Rush comment here*) Manimal himself had SEVEN offensive boards. And the big men all did very well and held Portland to mostly outside shots. They missed Kurt Thomas helping out but not sure how much he would’ve contributed.

    I think the rookies are presenting themselves very well (Stone didn’t see any time tonight) and are becoming true assets. Still wondering why we didn’t see Faried more down the stretch.

    Bring on March!

    • evan

      So as to not risk any rookie mistake that could cost the game when you have 3-4 guys who are just as good but more experienced

  • Cider

    Unfortunately didn’t get to watch it, but you gotta love a box score that consists of 4 guys getting double doubles or almost double doubles with points and rebounds, resulting in an 18 rebound advantage.

    • Andrew

      They were one assist (Ty Law), one rebound (Moz) and 2 points (Koufos) away from having five guys get double doubles.

  • Hank

    MOZGOV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dunk

    Nice to see Lawson get 11 of their 19 in the 4th, sad that he has to because of the awful group that closes the game.

    • al68

      Why Faried 17 min & harrington 31 min??????.

      • Thomas

        Because George Karl is the worst coach in basketball. There is no answer really to your question, other than that.

        To see a guy dominate like Faried did in his first 6 minutes and then be benched for the majority of the time afterwards for an old fart like Harrington is perplexing to anyone with some gray matter between the ears.

        Harrington, Miller, two-guard point guard line-up. Rinse, repeat, start over. Out of the playoffs in the first round. Same coach next year. Rinse and repeat.

        If we keep up with this idiocy, Masai is not so smart after all.

        • Henry aka LWH and formerly KFH

          Thank goodness the rotation was actually a bit better than you describe last night. Yes, it’s been perplexing, to be diplomatic, but the Blazers game could represent the moment Karl at least got it that having a big on the floor may get you the ball in the form of a rebound. And bigs can run the floor, too, as Charlie says here.

  • Alex

    I think Karl is afraid that if he gives Faried too much playing time that he will put up such a great line that Karl himself will look foolish for not playing him more and sooner. Also I hope Rudy never comes back I would much rather see Hamilton play and get better. It’s looking like a really bright future with the rookies the way they have already played to start out their careers.

  • evan

    I think he starts faried because he has energy and can start the first quarter off fast, witch has been a problem for the nuggets as of late. And closes with another big so as to not let faried make any rookie mistakes when it matters most.

    Jham is a baddass.

  • Andrew

    If Karl stays smart and keeps getting those bigs in early and often, the Nuggets could get back in the groove real quick. I would be happy to see less of the Ty/Miller/Afflalo lineup, though. The Nuggets destroyed Porkland on the boards, with K2, Moz, Faried and Harrington. Just imagine when they get Nene and Gallo back.

    Next thing you know, Karl will be playing Stone a few minutes a game in sub of Miller (especially on defense) and will be drawing up legitimate plays at the end of tight games…

    • Henry aka LWH and formerly KFH

      Now let’s not get carried away with what is obviously utopian thinking! Kidding aside, I agree that Karl may get a clue and get back to some basics with rotations and offense-defense substitutions. Dare to dream!

  • al68

    Otro partido en que se ve mucho miedo a ganar.
    El equipo pierde ritmo y defensa cuando estan harrington y Miller, si ambos no aportan en ataque el primero con puntos y el segundo con asistencias no deberian estar en el campo.

    Pienso que deberian jugar Al y Dre menos minutos a favor de Faried y Hamilton/Stone.

    CON UNA CALIDAD TAN LIMITADA AHORA NECESITAMOS MUCHISIMA MAS DEFENSA.

    Grandes canastas de Lawson en el ultimo cuarto y buena defensa de KK.

    • Thomas

      Jorge Carlos (GK) es una bestia.

      Nada va a cambiar con este viejito al comando.

  • Ernie

    The substitution patterns still make no sense to me. In the 2nd quarter they play their regular subs, and then bring back the starters so everyone is fresh and the team scores 33 points. In the 4th qtr they leave K2, Harrington and Miller in there to play each almost 18 straight minutes without a break (besides the timeouts and end of 3Q) and the team struggles to score 19 points.

    If GK wants Harrington and Miller in there at crunch time he needs to take them out for part of the 4Q (ideally at least 4 minutes). At their age they can’t play 18 straight minutes and be effective at the end of games. And even with K2s block he seemed tired at the end and struggled to make shots he had no trouble with earlier in the game. Anyone else see this as a big issue?

    • chris

      Could not agree more. The rotation stuff was just mildly annoying when the injuries were short term or the problem was too many rotation guys instead of too few. But with the Nuggets where they are right now, sometimes they can’t recover from five minutes of a terrible lineup, and if Dre or Al is off at the end of a game the Nuggets will basically lose since there is no Gallo/Nene to pick up the slack.

  • Frontrange

    I thought Moz was very good defensively, particularly on LA. Seemed to me that Kosta’s help D was good, but Mozgov did a better job making LA uncomfotable in the post and good P’n’R D, where-in in the fourth PDX got a number of good (missed, or passed up) open looks off Lawson/Miller screened by LA.

  • Eddie

    Faried gets knockout of the night.

  • eddi0

    Today’s “D-Day” for the Wilson Chandler drama…my bet is that he sits out the rest of the season and tests Restricted Free Agent market this summer and ultimately is sign/traded for a back up PG or C/PF (Jose Calderon anyone?)…Anyone else want to wager?

    • al68

      Calderon tiene una cualidad muy buena y rara en USA españa, o cualquier lugar. Busca el bien del equipo antes que el suyo propio no le importaría ser suplente y sería un contraste muy bueno con Lawson, lo malo es su defensa pero viendo a Miller tampoco sería un problema.

      Un gran fichaje sería Ellis e intentar vender a nene para dejar espacio para Faried.

  • Mitt Romney

    $10K

    • eddi0

      Mitt, with the extremely deep pockets you have I would have assumed a much loftier wager…say $1M dollars…lol

  • http://espn Gary

    We won yesterday on pure talent and effort despite GK’s best efforts to hamstrung the team with his crazy rotations. He treats a young hot rookie worse than a heretic in the middle ages. he would rather lose 72 games with old, sluggish, cold and tired vets…than win 10 with young, energetic, talented and hot youngsters.
    At full strength in the hands of a smart flexible coach, this team is a dynamite…in the hands of GK its a disaster waiting to happen..despite the talent.

  • ny nugs fan

    the nugs need to figure out how they’re going to get lawson some help or find a way to make teams pay because they’re increasingly trapping him with effect on the wing

    if they don’t figure this out real soon they wont be going anywhere this year

  • Ray

    As someone said before, the only problem with GK’s rotation last night was not getting Al/Dre some rest prior to their stretch run. I think having those guys come in at around 5 min left of the third, rest the start of the fourth, then bringing them in during crunch time would be best. And hell if the Nugs are way ahead just rest the older players.

    Not sure I agree with keeping Faried/KK in at the end of a game.

  • Ricardo

    Faried played with a lot of energy like he always does, he got a double-double in 17 minutes of playing time, imaging if he played 30 minutes a game? This guy could be a 20-20 player in the future. Hamilton also played well offensively, he is more consistent than Fernandez in making three-pointers. I hope these two players get more playing time in the future, they bring a lot of energy to the team.