|Corey Brewer, SF 33 MIN | 4-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +2
Take away the three 3-pointers he missed and Brewer shot a much more respectable, and efficient, 4-8 from the field. While there’s nothing wrong with him taking a few open threes, keep in mind Brewer has never been a strong outside shooter and is much more effective when cutting to the basket.
|Kenneth Faried, F 29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -2
Faried had a relatively quiet night from a statistical standpoint. In 29 minutes you’d expect him to be well above a double-double; however, what can’t be ignored is Faried’s effervescent attitude and unrivaled enthusiasm that overflow into the rest of his teammates. His willingness to do the type of dirty work many NBA primma donnas won’t even consider is the epitome of the phrase, “a breath of fresh air.” Is it a coincidence that at the same time George Karl is showing confidence in Faried by prescribing him a heavy dose of minutes, the team is suddenly playing with a renewed sense of passion, heart and energy? I think not.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 15 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +4
Prior to Mozgov exiting the game for the second time in as many nights, he was having yet another solid performance. While it’s frustrating watching him fumble more often than Brett Favre, it’s also encourage to watch him grow in other aspects of the game. His defensive effort is still there while his confidence continues to expand. Hopefully his injury was nothing serious as Mozgov needs as much playing time as he can get in order to keep evolving as a player.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 37 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | 0
Yes, his stat line isn’t gaudy but Afflalo gave the Nuggets nothing but positive output, and when you’re facing the Spurs, that’s EXACTLY what you need to do in order to win. Limiting mistakes must be No. 1 on your gameplan list when going up against San Antonion and no other player embodied this philosophy as much as Afflalo.
|Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 7-16 FG | 6-6 FT | 9 REB | 11 AST | 22 PTS | +6
Ty Lawson. Just let it simmer. Again, words aren’t going to do justice for just how big of a role he played in a huge road win for the Nuggets. He was one rebound shy of his first triple-double yet hit the first game winner of his career. This is the second night in a row where Ty Lawson has virtually won an important road game for the Nuggets by being unconsciously aggressive and taking control of his team’s offense as a whole, all while flirting with a triple-double. If this Ty Lawson keeps showing up the rest of the season, the Nuggets will be a totally different team than is currently constructed.
|Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 6-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | +3
Harrington hit some huge shots when the Nuggets were on life support and for that alone, he gets high marks. Not only were these shots important, but many of them were difficult as well. Making difficult shots in tight games is not an easy task. You really can’t say enough bout “Big Al” in this regard. He also played pretty decent defense on Tim Duncan most of the evening.
|Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 5-18 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 11 PTS | +4
Fans have struggled with Andre Miller all season long and while his “defense” has always been the topic of discussion, it’s now his selfishness that’s really driving people bananas. Against the Spurs, this culminated with a stretch — late in the game, mind you — where Miller missed 10 straight shot attempts, three of which didn’t even come close to going in. It was as if Miller totally disregarded the fact that (A) he even had teammates and (B) was in a close game that his team was in position to win. Almost every instance where he received the ball Miller immediately tuned out everyone else but himself and decided then and there that it was he who would attempt to score the basketball. Had Miller not been so self-centered the Nuggets probably would have won in a more comfortable fashion.
|Chris Andersen, C 19 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +3
It’s tough grading “Birdman” in this scenario. He was more efficient and productive than Faried on a minute-per-minute basis, but also committed several frustrating mistakes that the Nuggets couldn’t really afford. For example, his two unnecessary fouls on Tim Duncan within 10 seconds of each other in the fourth quarter could have easily come back to bite the Nuggets in the ass. Thankfully however, Denver didn’t commit many more ill-advised fouls after that and kept the Spurs off the free-throw line to close out the game. Additionally, Birdman just looked tired out there. Perhaps all the trade rumors are wearing him down. Either way, he gave it his all and that’s enough for one night.
|Julyan Stone, G 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Stone was again inserted to play defense on one possession and did his job. Now if he could just share a few of Andre Miller’s minutes and actually make an impact on the defensive side of the ball like he’s capable of doing, we’d actually be able to give him a real grade.
|Jordan Hamilton, G 11 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +5
Hamilton hit one huge 3-pointer but was otherwise somewhat invisible. It’s hard to do much in 11 minutes and at this point, it’s unclear as to where Hamilton stands in George Karl’s pecking order. You’d like to see him log more time but as has been mentioned above, mistakes must be limited against the Spurs. In this sense, Karl deserves some credit for recognizing this was probably not the best game for Hamilton to experiment in.
Three Things We Saw
- Cowboy Up: The Nuggets have had a few monster wins this season. Beating Miami and New York were awesome in their own right, but there’s really nothing like conquering the Spurs (short handed nonetheless) on the road, in their home arena down in Texas. Led by Greg Popovich, San Antonio is near basketball perfection and like a finely-tuned machine, it takes essentially the perfect equation in order to make them malfunction. This is a win fans should not only enjoy, but most of all, be proud of. The Nuggets out-played and out-hustled the Spurs all while holding San Antonio to only 94 points on the night. As the Twitter mob might say, #blueandyellow.
- Something in the Air: Since the All-Star break the Nuggets have looked like a totally different team. The only thing that’s confusing is the fact that Denver is even more injury plagued than before the break when the team was playing like a despondent band of lost souls. Clearly the break was much needed, but this recent three-game winning streak certainly does nothing to resolve any lingering confusion regarding the mysterious losing streak the team went on prior to All-Star weekend. Say what you want, but to me, there has been a clear change in the Nuggets’ state of mind since the second half of the season got underway. The last three games the Nuggets have played with verve instead of anguish and are showing resolve in the face of adversity. These were things the team just was NOT displaying on a consistent basis prior to the All-Star break. It’s unclear as to what’s changed — maybe more rest, focus or an overall attitude adjustment — but either way, it’s refreshing to see. Fans understand the elevated level of fatigued this year considering the condensed schedule but a resolute state of mind is something that can always remain constant no matter what the circumstance.
- Nature of the Beast: There’s been a lot made in Nuggets Nation of this seemingly realistic distinction between those who are “negative” and those who are “positive.” Quickly, I’d like to say that I believe this notion is a crock of you know what. Stating you’re opinion does not mean it MUST be considered negative or positive, right or wrong. It’s simply one person’s point of view on a current event. Worse of all, what goes totally unnoticed in this categorization of fans from the same team, mind you, is the element of human nature. For those who can remain calm in times of crisis, I salute you. That’s an excellent characteristic to posses. However, most of us are not quite as composed you and tend to display our emotions to reflect the current state of our favorite sports team. As fans, we’re really nothing more than chameleons with our colors hinging on the fragile amount of wins and losses our team complies throughout the season. This same sentiment can be applied towards our feelings about people, specifically head coaches. The old saying about giving coaches all the blame when the team loses and none of the glory when it wins is somewhat true, although we’d like to avoid that as much as possible here. Right now, judging by the last three games, George Karl has done something that’s worked. The team is just plain different. I don’t what it is, I can’t put my finger on it, but I’ll be damned if I’m not gonna give him credit for winning three tough games against (at the time) plus-.500 basketball teams, two of which came on the road. If Karl continues winning while implementing the type of basketball we’ve seen from the Nuggets the last several days, we will continue to give credit where it’s do. Don’t get it twisted. But as always, this team cannot and will not be judged until the Playoffs. That is the test. Until then we’ll try and be as fair as possible, but let it be known that the tolerance for first-round playoff exits is still just as thin as it was two weeks ago when the Nuggets were in the midst of its worst losing streak in four years. That my friends, is the nature of the beast.
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Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.