Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 117, Houston Rockets 105

Denver Nuggets 117 Final
Recap | Box Score
105 Houston Rockets
Corey Brewer, SF 32 MIN | 6-16 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +8
As usual, Brewer was instrumental in setting the tone of the game, especially in the second half. Brewer started off somewhat slow but steadily gained momentum after leading the charge with the fast break in the third quarter where the Nuggets outscored the Rockets 31-24. His defense was solid and his effort, yet again top notch.
Kenneth Faried, F 30 MIN | 7-12 FG | 2-5 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | +11
Kenneth Faried was born to play basketball. What is happening right before our very eyes is difficult to process. In only a short amount of time Faried has taken drastic steps in his game — as a rookie, keep in mind. Against the Rockets he was the Nuggets’ best player for an extended period of time before Ty Lawson took over. And by “best player” I don’t mean strictly with hustle alone. Faried really looks like he’s just on another level at times. His athleticism allows for him to make a handful of plays in one night that most guys wont make in a week. Faried’s impressive 22.8 PER currently leads the team and with more playing time, that will likely only increase. At this point it’s fair to say, the “Manimal” revolution has begun.
Timofey Mozgov, C 18 MIN | 1-2 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +2
Unfortunately Mozgov re-sprained his left ankle that sidelined him earlier this month, but before going out he was having an impressive performance. While we’ve seen Mozgov steadily improve over the course of the season, we’ve still been waiting for his confidence to catch up. Against the Rockets, he finally appeared to combine his skill set with a confidence level that has been absent all year. Mozgov didn’t hesitate to shoot, rebounded well and actually attempted a few post moves in an assertive manner for once. Because of this, Mozgov gets his first A in six games.
Arron Afflalo, SG 31 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 17 PTS | +6
Arron Afflalo was sent from above to do one thing and one thing only this game: ignite the Nuggets offense in the second half. Going into the third quarter, even though the Nuggets had played hard, they were still behind and in danger of losing the type of game they had all too often leading up to the All-Star break. Enter Afflalo, who scored 10 of the Nuggets first 13 points in the third quarter which ignited the Nuggets offense for a 15-5 run. Afflalo scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half and was without question one of the main factors that contributed to Denver winning this game.
Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 6-15 FG | 9-12 FT | 7 REB | 15 AST | 22 PTS | +18
Words really can’t do justice for Lawson’s performance against the Rockets. Was this the best game of his career? You could argue that. He set a new career high in assists with 15, and was three rebounds shy of a triple-double. So statistically speaking, this was one of his better games as a Nugget. However, from an evolutionary standpoint, where upon you only analyze his progress as a player and where it culminates, this was hands down Lawson’s best performance of his Nuggets career. In fact, this was basically what his entire career was leading up to. The monster Ty Lawson we all know is hiding inside that diminutive frame finally emerged. Funny it happened this game too, considering just last night I published the Nuggets midterm grade report where I strongly implored Lawson to be more aggressive with his dribble, especially in the half court set. In all seriousness, if Lawson can have more games like these, the Nuggets will be a totally different team.

Al Harrington, PF
27 MIN | 5-13 FG | 1-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | +8
Harrington did nothing of great significance. Although he made a few big shots and played solid overall, this was a somewhat mediocre performance from “Big Al.” Nevertheless, he tried hard and played a role in an important Nuggets victory which shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 5-15 FG | 6-6 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 16 PTS | +7
Miller was basically in the same boat as Harrington. Offensively he had a few nice post-ups and key baskets on occasion, but overall, considering how well everyone else played, Miller was fairly pedestrian.
Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 5-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +3
In yet another quality outing Koufos provided the size, defense, intimidation and rebounding that is needed from him. He made all five of his shots and had two huge blocks that really gave the Nuggets a much-needed spark. With Mozgov likely out for at least a few more games, Koufos should do a fine job filling in his place.
Julyan Stone, G 1 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -4
Stone only saw one minute of action, which was really about eight seconds. He was asked to guard the scorching-hot Kevin Martin on the last shot of the first half, and proceeded to strip the ball from him preventing Martin from even getting a shot up. This was outstanding defense and for that alone, he receives a B.
Jordan Hamilton, G 10 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +1
I felt Hamilton got somewhat of a raw deal in terms of minutes. He clearly got pulled after Karl didn’t feel he played well, however he didn’t have enough time to atone for his mistakes either. Though he missed all but one of his shots, none of them were bad, which makes the inaccuracy much more tolerable.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Blastoff: This game was one of the better “feel good” wins of the year. It was a tightly contested match the entire night with both teams battling valiantly back and forth and the Nuggets, thankfully, coming out on top in the end. Denver had perhaps its best team effort of the year, displaying an outstanding willingness to share the ball and defeat its opponent through teamwork rather than hoping for one person to simply get hot. If the Nuggets had played like this the last three weeks, there’s no telling where they’d be at right now and it just goes to show: This team CAN play well through injuries.
  2. Manimal Report: We’ve been tracking Faried closely since before the 2011 NBA Draft. I’m sure everyone remembers my hysterical post about having seemingly reached nirvana when the Nuggets selected him, and now, for the first time, we’re starting to see why I was so crazy about the NCAA’s all time leading rebounder coming out of college. Faried has done things these last several games that are remarkable. From his insanely athletic blocks, to his uncanny hustle for 50-50 balls, to his put-back dunks after missed free throws — these are plays you simply do not see in the NBA every day. I’ve always said the best way to delineate truly special players from the average is by examining the amount of difficult shots or spectacular plays they make, and right now, Faried is making a lot of spectacular plays. But more than anything, it’s Faried’s heart, desire and passion for the game that have the potential to touch the rest of his team and in turn, make players around him approach the game with the same level of energy he does. When this happens, when one player makes others around him better, that’s when you know you’ve got something special. And it’s certainly no coincidence that on the evening Faried turned in one hell of a performance, so did Ty Lawson and a few of his other teammates.
  3. Lawson Report: In our recent Nuggets midterm report card piece, I stated how “Lawson needs to be confident in his ability to control the pace of the game even in a half-court set.” One game later, he did exactly that and it led to one of the better games of his career. It’s unclear as to whether Lawson understands his potential and doesn’t tap it (like Nene) or really just doesn’t understand how good he can be at all. Either way, the more assertive Lawson is, the more confident he is, the more willing he is to take on a leadership role with this team and make it his own — the better the Nuggets chances are of doing something special in the Postseason. Lawson MUST continue expressing himself on the floor and controlling nearly all aspects of the Nuggets offense for this team to really take flight. If this means more dribbling and more shot attempts, then so be it. At this point, Lawson has demonstrated that the more he has the ball, the better the team is.
  4. Credit where it’s due: I’m not sure what got into the Nuggets on Friday evening but whatever it was, it worked. Karl has received a lot of the blame from us and the fans for the Nuggets recent struggles, so it’s only right that we reward him when the team plays well and wins. Hats off to Karl for finally getting the team to coalesce, play as a unit and most importantly, win.
  5. Bigs showing promise: For the second game in a row the Nuggets have ridden their size advantage to a win despite poor offensive showings from Andre Miller and the guard-heavy lineups designed to keep him in the game. Since shelving Birdman, the confidence of both Koufos and Faried has gone through the roof. They’ve steadily improved their fundamental play and their production is finally earning them George Karl’s trust and the opportunity to close out games. Andre Miller’s pick and roll game was nonexistent and without the 19 offensive boards and 31 second chance points, Denver would not have scored enough points to win this game. Mozgov, Koufos and Faried combined to shoot 13-19 while the rest of the team shot 30-78.

Additional Game 37 Notes (by Charlie)

  • I’m not sure I have ever seen so many fouls called at the very start of a game. By the four minute mark of the first quarter, both teams were already in the penalty. By the time the first quarter ended, both teams had combined to shoot 29 free throws, which is two more  than the entire amount of free throws shot in Denver’s previous game against Portland. It was bizarre. The over-sensitive whistle continued well into the fourth quarter and neither team was able to build momentum thanks to the frequent stoppages of play.
  • Regarding the few seconds of playing time curiously awarded to Julyan Stone, it seemed to be a matter of protecting Corey Brewer, who had 3 fouls. Brew was biting on Kevin Martin’s fakes all night and I’m sure Karl didn’t want to see him pick up a fourth foul just before halftime, when it was clear the red-hot Martin was going to get the ball and try to flop his way to some more points. Karl inserted Stone for Brewer and Julyan ended up stripping the ball on Martin’s attempted flop. It was funny seeing everything go according to plan as the Nuggets perfectly telegraphed what was going to happen on Houston’s final possession of the half.
  • Chase Budinger, who smoked Denver for 16 points shooting 4-7 from three in the previous matchup, was curiously left out the rotation. He did play four first half minutes in which he was a minus 9, but didn’t see the floor for the rest of the game.
  • When Jordan Hamilton hesitates, even for a split-second after catching the ball, he gets himself into a lot of trouble. Jordan is great and catching and going and needs to be more decisive as soon as he gets the ball. With more experience, Hamilton should be able to adjust and resist the temptation to over-dribble. Hamilton was very good coming off screens and moving without the ball, which will ultimately get him easier opportunities to score.
  • The Nuggets should watch tape of their fourth quarter defense and drill those habits into their heads. The bigs did a solid job rotating and shutting down the lane while all five players were engaged in defending the pick and roll. There was no over-aggressive doubling or bewilderment when the ball was swung from one side of the court to the other. The Nuggets would have a much easier time winning games if they focused on playing that sort of defense more consistently, and it proves that they do know how to do it.
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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • Aaron

    Great Win Tonight! Wish We Would Trade Miller, Birdman nd Harrington For Jarrett Jack And Chris Kamen? I Think That’s Fir PERFECT For Us..
    All in All Great Win Tonight Tho!

    GOOOOOOO NUGGETZ!!!!!!

    • chris

      Hornets will not take on any salary. You could get Jack for Miller and a pick though.

  • Craig Binkley

    Just to make sure I read this right. We’re not bashing Karl when he goes small in special circumstances? Seemed there was a lot of bashing going on during the bad stretch before all star break. Yet they win a game going small down the stretch and nothing is mentioned. At all. Credit was given to Karl, but still. I’m trying to find consistency in these rapid reactions.

    • Kalen

      You got it Craig. I think most fans’ gripe hasn’t been the fact Karl resorts to small ball, just how often he does it and when. If you want my honest opinion, I don’t think small ball won the game tonight — Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and the Nuggets overall effort was more of a factor. Plus, the Rockets went small down the stretch as well which helped. Had the Nuggets trotted out a lineup with Faried at center and Harrington at power forward against the Lakers to close the game, it might not have worked. As I said in the recap, whatever Karl did to get the Nuggets to play so well is beyond me, but it worked. He deserves credit for that and we acknowledged this. Though, how much of a role small ball, specifically, played in the win — that’s debatable.

  • Klules

    I was incredibly excited by tonight’s win. This wasn’t a blowout but rather a hard fought game where the Nugget’s heart and effort were telling. Manimal’s playmaking and Ty’s aggressiveness were large factors in the end. One can only wonder what more can be achieved once we have Gallo, Nene, and perhaps Chandler in the mix. Karl has many options to choose from in the coming weeks.

    Another big factor I believe was simply rest from the All Star break. The schedule is the same for all teams but the Nuggets were really struggling to find any energy in the last few games of February and the compressed schedule has been tough all around. It will be interesting to see how a long stretch at home will play and how well Karl can rally the troops as the relentless grind continues. Hopefully we can avoid injuries in the second half although Moz’s ankle turn could be another bad omen.

    Very glad March is here.

  • Brett

    Kenneth Faried deserves a starting position on this team and 30+ minutes a night.

    From a statistical standpoint, he’s already developed into one of the best players in the league. His player efficiency rating (“PER”) is the fifteenth best in the league. (Although it’s extremely difficult to quantify how good a player is, the top five players in the PER rankings include five players that EVERY NBA expert would include in their top 10: James, Wade, Durant, Paul, and Rose.) His offensive rebound rate (the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds) is the second best in the league, and his overall rebound rate is the third best in the league (behind Marcus Camby and Dwight Howard). He’s also been an efficient shooter as he is currently ranked 20th in the league in true shooting percentage (shooting percentage that includes free throws and 3-pointers).

    Sure, it’s possible that these incredible rankings might not be sustainable if Faried – a rookie – started logging 30+ minutes a night. But we’ll never know until he is given that chance.

    Aside from the numbers Faried is posting, he has developed into a fan-favorite because he easily passes the “eye test.” The dude is fun to watch, and as Kalen mentioned above, “Faried really looks like he’s just on another level at times.” Also, what Kalen said about the infectious nature of his energy and passion for the game is spot on. Given the minutes he clearly deserves, Faried could help lift this team to a decent playoff seed and an exciting playoff run.

    • Brett

      Updated PER Rankings:
      (1) James, 33.3 PER, 37.1 MPG;
      (2) Wade, 28.7 PER, 32.4 MPG;
      (3) Durant, 27.6 PER, 38.1 MPG;
      (4) Paul, 26.1 PER, 36.1 MPG;
      (5) Rose, 25.0 PER, 35.3 MPG;
      (6) Howard, 24.2 PER, 38.3 MPG;
      (7) Bryant, 24.1 PER, 38.0 MPG;
      (8) Love, 23.9 PER, 39.5 MPG;
      (9) Faried, 23.5 PER, 17.8 MPG;

      This is ridiculous. Faried deserves more minutes.

      • Kalen

        Wow, that is crazy. The interesting thing is that none of those guys are flukes either. Every player on that list is a flat out stud and All-Star. Sign of things to come?…

        • danuggz4ever

          Abosolutely

          • Aaron

            Imagine if Faried Got Double The Minutes Like The Other Top 8 There…WHOAAAAAA!!!! Faried is Amazinq! If Gallo Reaches His Expectations (All-Star) Imagine if Lawson Reaches His???(Star) Mozgov And Koufus Tall Big Guys To Clog The Lane Like Crazy…Afflalo (Defensively Player Of The Year) Hamilton. Avg. 4 3’s A Game?? Chandler (6th Man Of The Year) ….All Of A Sudden That’s An Amazing Team (Championship) its All Up To Karl To Get Every1 To Reach There Expectations…if He Does Then This Team is UNSTOPABLE!

  • Jake

    Really hoping manimal gets the minutes I’d like to see him get. I’ve been pondering what it would look like if we traded Nene and Andre for Rondo. I doubt Nene is going to ever do what we all desperately want him to; which is demand the ball, dunk the ball. If he can’t figure that out, I don’t have any use for him, especially with Manimal and the euro-bigs in the picture. Plus, if we had 2 squads straight up with point guards that dual for the triple double every night, and who control the pace like Ty and Rondo do… rings…

    Maybe Rondo is too much headcase for all that… If so, I would be interested in a ring now and trade Nene and Andre for Steve Nash and Grant Hill. We contend immediately for a ring, while bringing quality men, and teachers into the locker room for maybe 2 more years? Time for Julyan to step up to back up role, and time for all our young and talented forwards to soak in the GHill?

    Pipe dreams, I know… But I see a lot of value in young beastly Nene, and I don’t see us getting our most from him. And Dre? I love him, but I don’t love the recent crumbles in clutch situations.

    Love your EFFING blog guys. I choose not to read most other nuggets media because you exist.

    • Johnny Bananas

      rondo are you serious???? what about lawson. Idiot recommendation.

      • Jake

        hey dude, read.

        George has been showing that he desperately wants to be able to throw 2 different lineups out there every night. What if Ty re-injures his ankles? He was good enough to win a national championship with both sprained, but that won’t work in the pros.

        Your one line response is the idiot statement, and Rondo is the best pure point guard in the game. Isn’t that kind of the role we want from Andre? and wouldn’t we look better if andre was a triple double threat every night?

        I know Rondo may be a headcase, and may not fit. I actually already said that. Nene is not our future, this is the point I’m actually making. Beastly a he looks, and fast as he is, and as good a passer as he is…. maybe he lacks the testosterone to make him the egomaniac he needs to be under the rim.

  • chris

    After incorporating last night’s game Faried now has a 23.5 PER. Nice.

  • Desean

    Nene needs to start playing centre again or he should be traded cause Kenneth is the pf of the future in Denver . Given real minutes faried could easily be a top 3 rebounder in the league

    • skithebert

      A Nene-Faried-Gallo-AAA-Lawson crunch time lineup would be pretty killer. But I just don’t see Karl giving Faried that chance over Harrington.

  • al68

    Muy bien Lawson Faried y K2. GK hizo buenas rotaciones manteniendo fresco a miller todo el partido.

    Hemos recuperado intensidad, que pena la lesion de Mogdov.

    La vuelta de Rudy quitara minutos a brewer que en los ultimos partidos a demostrado falta de concentracion cuando esta muchos minutos seguidos en pista.

    Para mi Harrington no deberia de jugar mas de 8 min seguidos pierde mucha efectividad.

    Buen partido.

    Mañana tenemos que ganar y no ser barridos por San Antonio.

    Go Nuggets!!!

  • Jim

    As shitty as February was, it forced gk to play manimal, and that is a gift. That put back dunk off the miss free throw was just playground sick.

    What’s the word on mosgov? That sucks to reinjure the ankle on a cameraman. This team plays better with all those bigs. Maybe it’s time for Birdman to rise from the ashes.

    • Ricardo

      Yeah, that put-back by Faried reminded me of Kenyon Martin’s put-back after a missed free-throw in L.A. last year. He is the new, better version of K-Mart.

  • SmokinNugs

    Moz taken out by a camera man, remember when Ty went down in the one row? I’m so tired of seeing players get hurt by the crowd. Can we please get a 5-10ft perimeter around the court so the players don’t have to risk injuring themselves on spectators?

    • Cider

      Ya, I’ve always felt that at the least, there should be much more room behind the baskets, especially when there are large hard things like the cameras that are always there. Something like what happened especially should never happen; the players shouldn’t have to look out for the crowd when they’re doing nothing more than an inbound pass.

  • Ernie

    AAA finally got some height on his shot! I mean it’s simple physics that a better angle makes his percentages go up. Hopefully it’s permanent, great job by him last night.

    I was also happy with the rotation because Miller, Harrington and K2 all sat for part of the 4Q. The team was fresh at the end and this enabled them to close out the game. I just wish Hamilton had gotten some minutes in the 2H, he usually plays one good half a night.

  • Ricardo

    It was a great road-win for the nuggets last night. Lawson, Faried, and Koufos played out of their mind. Faried and Koufos were playing with a lot of energy. These two players should be given more playing time in future games with the way they are playing right now. Lawson hit some big shots in the fourth quarter, like I said in the previous rapid reaction, he may be the player the nuggets may have to give the ball to in crunch time.

  • GZ

    I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on Nene. I agree that it would be a shame if his return caused significant reductions in minutes for Faried, Moz, & Koufos, but that doesn’t necessarily need to happen. Throwing another quality big into the mix should only help our depth. In general, the Nuggets’ offense is best when they get out in transition. I think that as long as the bigs run the floor, their presence on the defensive glass only helps us get more transition opportunities and better finishing on the end of the break. For now, though, I’m content to let Gallo and Nene rest as much as possible and bring the rookies along in the meantime. Seasoned rookies and well-rested veterans will be a recipe for success in April.

  • GZ

    BTW- Waaaaayyyy to early to start comparing Faried to the rest of the players on that list! I’m excited by the way all the Nuggets rookies are playing, especially Faried (I think he could become a more offensively gifted Rodman- which would be fantastic), but a lot of his success comes from out-hustling the competition. Some of that will be neutralized in the playoffs when EVERY player steps up their intensity. Nonetheless, kudos to Masai for turning an over-hyped Felton into two great picks (and Andre Miller’s corpse).

  • ny nugs fan

    there was a game right before nene went down that karl had nene and faried on the floor (maybe it was the golden state travesty) and you could see the potential of those two on the floor at the same time; so i wouldn’t necessarily lament the return of nene at the expense of manimal… i definitely see those two complementing each other