|Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +2
With Gallo and Nene back in the mix, I was worried about Brewer being able to ease up on his shooting. The Nuggets have needed him to produce points with all of the injuries, but double figure scoring from Brew typically means 10 plus attempts and around 40% shooting. The good news is Corey shot a lot less but still took most of his attempts outside the paint and just didn’t produce a lot in the hustle categories, where his true value lies. Despite the struggles, Brew gets a birthday bump for his grade on the night he celebrated his 26th with an utterly fantastic team win.
|Kenneth Faried, F 34 MIN | 7-9 FG | 6-7 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | -4
When you get a career high 20 points and a double-double for the third time in four games, you get an ‘A’. What’s remarkable about Faried’s last few games is the fact he’s been struggling like all rookies do. Faried was noticeably outhustled and outworked on the boards on several occasions. Just take a look at his gaudy statline and realize this was far from a complete performance. What the ‘Manimal’ is showing us in his short time as a rotation player is quite special — it’s just rare to see a rookie become such an important part of his team’s success is such a short time on the floor.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 7 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -3
This is the third game in a row Mozgov has tweaked his ankle and he has yet to sit out for some rest. The young Russian played only 7 minutes and kept the offensively-challenged Nuggets afloat in the first quarter. Shortly thereafter he again came up gingerly on his left ankle and Karl wisely kept him out of the game as a precaution. While Mozgov was solid in his extremely limited stint, there’s not a whole lot here to draw from in terms of a grade.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 45 MIN | 9-20 FG | 10-11 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 32 PTS | +3
Incredible. Afflalo set a new career high with 32 points and his clutch heroics need to be experienced to be believed. It was one of the more spectacular finishes I’ve seen in professional basketball, because these players and coaches have seen it all and they definitely weren’t prepared for Afflalo’s performance tonight. Those six points at the end of regulation came off some of the most cold blooded shooting I’ve ever seen at the close of a Nuggets game, even in the era of you-know-who. If you didn’t see it, stop what you’re doing now and go watch.
|Ty Lawson, PG 43 MIN | 7-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 13 AST | 16 PTS | -4
Another near triple-double, another game-winner, another up and down night where Lawson shined brightest with the game on the line and his team in utter despair. And this was the second night of a back to back. No big deal.
|Al Harrington, PF 35 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 14 PTS | +12
Harrington’s production remains some of the steadiest on the team. He turned in another solid game, nearing another double-double but struggling with efficiency and missing most of his fourth quarter attempts. Harrington played the final 16 minutes of the first half and was fatigued in the fourth quarter. Harrington gives you a solid effort night in and night out, but the increased workload is taking it’s toll. Harrington played “waist-up” basketball down the stretch and had trouble getting his legs under his shot and moving his feet on defense.
|Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 0-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 11 AST | 2 PTS | +8
Miller bounced back in a huge way, considering his second half in San Antonio was probably one of the worst shooting performances in a half by any player this season. Miller played much better tonight, notching 11 quality assists and making a fantastic play on what should have put the game away with 30 seconds remaining in overtime. Bad calls aside, Miller made solid decisions all night, perhaps the only downer being his 4 turnovers.
|Chris Andersen, C 14 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-5 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -4
He was great in the pick and roll, great in the open floor and superb in the energy categories, where Birdman tallied 2 blocks and 5 free throw opportunities limited minutes. Birdman is doing all he can to debunk the “Anthony Carter” theory stating that he needs a multiple days rest to be effective on the court.
|Nene, C 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -1
The good thing is Nene looked healthy and showed no problems making lateral cuts or elevating. The bad news is it appears Nene has gone the better part of a month without practicing much basketball. The game was moving a little too fast for him and Nene had trouble catching passes and getting his shot off. Nene should work himself up to speed with some more practices and conditioning sessions under his belt.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +6
It’s tough for me to tell if Gallo is all the way healthy yet, because he certainly wasn’t moving about the court at his normal speed. On the other hand, Gallo made some nice shots and never forced anything. Gallo still seems to be testing his ankle and feeling out his ability to go full speed, which is fine. Like Nene, the team just didn’t know how to adjust to him being back on the floor yet, especially having played a tough game last night in San Antonio.
Five Things We Saw
- Character win: I’m still fairly in shock the Nuggets walked away with a win here. Sacramento played much better throughout the majority of the night and the Nuggets were disjointed from the start. This team has been playing fantastic ball without two starters and incorporating them back into the rotation wasn’t easy for George Karl. While it seems like a big letdown of an effort by the players, the Nuggets competed hard and just faced a hot shooting team on a night the rotation was thrown out of sync. Although I don’t think Denver’s overall play from start to finish merited a win, there’s no denying they played composed and confident basketball when it mattered the most. The mental approach to winning games couldn’t be any more different than what we saw prior to the All-Star break.
- Execution: Lawson’s go to play has been a high pick and roll with Faried. He’s used it to set up the game winner twice in the last two contests. Faried is making solid contact on the pick and has greatly improved that aspect of his game since the season began. Outside of getting the bigs involved to create space for Lawson’s game winning shots, the Nuggets also ran a nice inbounds for Afflalo to score a game tying three in regulation. It was poor defense by Sacramento, but Denver is doing a much better job doing the little things to create better shots such as running off screens and attacking the weak side defense. The stand-still offense has been addressed. This is something completely new compared to what we saw during the month of February and the coaching staff deserves credit.
- Faried’s impact: Like anything fiercely competitive, the difference between winning and losing at the highest level often comes down to 50/50 situations. There is no one who goes harder after 50/50 balls than Kenneth Faried. Keep in mind his career high 20 points came without the benefit of his teammates or coaches setting him up to score. With his raw post game and under-developed offensive skills, it’s remarkable he can score 20 without the benefit of superstar players to draw all of the attention. It’s difficult to appreciate how good he is at this young stage of his career. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Faried will put up double doubles regularly in a meaningful role.
- Changes in leadership: The much maligned play of Andre Miller and Al Harrington has been the source of a lot of frustration whenever the Nuggets lose. While Andre and Al are no doubt the most experienced shot makers on the squad, they often dominate the ball without working through their teammates to create shots. Outside of Andre Miller’s unspeakably bad second half in San Antonio, Andre and Al have deferred and emphasized ball movement instead of pushing the hero role on themselves. It is the biggest reason the Nuggets have gotten better shot opportunities and won games despite Miller and Harrington continuing to shoot the ball poorly. Miller in particular got into a play much more quickly than he normally does, often initiating the action within the first 10 seconds of a possession.
- Birdman rises: Chris Andersen started the season entrenched at the backup Center position and couldn’t have been more fundamentally inconsistent. While Bird has always been able to draw fouls and produce rebounds, what really stood about his early-season play was his famous penchant for biting on fakes and his inability to finish dunks at the rim. After taking some time out of the rotation, Birdman has his spring back and he looked like the athletic presence around the rim that prompted the Nuggets to lock him up for a five years after the 2009 season. If he continues this motivated play and realizes that his veteran savvy is what keeps him on the floor, Birdman will soar again.
Game 39 Advanced Stats
Pace Factor: 108.8 – Another OT thriller, one of the fastest games of the year
Offensive Efficiency: 109.4 – How they managed this is beyond me. Nuggets weren’t at their best
Defensive Efficiency: 106.6 – This was one of those nights Sacramento just made shots. The Kings played very tough