|Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 2-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 4 PTS | -1
Brewer contributed to other areas of the game besides scoring, although it’s nearly impossible to overlook such a poor shooting performance. Since becoming a starter Brewer hasn’t quite played with the type of energy we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him when coming off the bench. Hopefully Gallinari soon takes his rightful spot as the team’s starting small forward soon so that Brewer can play the spark-plug role he’s much more comfortable with.
|Kenneth Faried, F 20 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | -7
Nine rebounds in 20 minutes is solid by any standard, however, at this juncture Nuggets fans expect much more from the “Manimal” than just rebounding alone. His defense against Antawn Jamison to start the game was atrocious and opened the flood gates for Cleveland to gain confidence, which they ultimately utilized to win the game. Although his interior defense is decent, Faried’s one-on-one perimeter defense must improve dramatically.
|Nene, C 22 MIN | 5-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -9
The story of the game was Nene’s inability to play any sort of help defense whatsoever in the dying moments of the fourth quarter. On key possessions late in the final several minutes of the game Nene didn’t even contest Kyrie Irving’s shots as he dribbled right down the center of the lane for multiple layups. The worst part: Nene was clearly not only within striking defense of blocking Irving’s shots, but likely could have at least altered them if he had just tried. Yes, Nene also had a few important buckets on offense to keep the game close, but this production was virtually erased by his inability to prevent Cleveland from scoring on the other end.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 40 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | -5
In 40 minutes, Afflalo simply must produce more. He’s been a revelation the last month but against the Cavaliers he was invisible for most of the night. In fact, I was shocked to see he even played 40 minutes as I only remember him making a true impact for about 15. His defense on Irving at the end of the game also played a big role letting him get the rack for the game-winning basket.
|Ty Lawson, PG 41 MIN | 6-14 FG | 5-5 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 18 PTS | -6
Grading Lawson is extremely difficult. He finished with 18 points and had another solid night statistically; however, he also committed a ghastly seven turnovers and could not stop Irving if his life depended on it. In the Cavaliers last offensive possession of the game Ty easily could have stepped in for a charge, but instead moved entirely out of the way for Irving to made yet another easy layup. Then, with four seconds left, Ty took it upon himself to drive to the hole yet failed to convert a fairly routine layup of his own. Bottom line: Lawson has been spectacular of late and his willingness to step up in the clutch should be applauded, but key defensive mistakes and a carelessness with the ball really cost his team some big possessions on Wednesday.
Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 10-20 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 22 PTS | +6
Harrington was one of the lone bright spots on the evening. While he took quite a few shots he also made 50 percent of them which is always appreciated. Like everyone on the team, Harrington struggled defensively but his effort and ability to knock down clutch baskets made up for many of his mistakes.
|Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 5-7 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 16 PTS | 0
It’s not often that Miller receives an A but on Wednesday he played superb, all things considered. His defense, as always, was questionable at best, yet his offense was not forced and came within the flow of a fairly rugged basketball game. Seeing him play team ball, after a few selfish outings, was extremely refreshing.
|Chris Andersen, C 18 MIN | 0-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +7
Birdman deserves nothing but a solid A tonight as he was the only Nugget who brought focus, defense and enthusiasm to the floor for almost every minute he was on it. His three blocked shots were monumental in terms of swinging the momentum back in the Nuggets’ favor, while his seven rebounds in only 18 minutes were hard earned.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 22 MIN | 1-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | +10
Still rusty, Gallinari somehow managed to contribute in other areas of the game besides scoring. His defense was the best of anybody on the team and in a night were getting stops virtually meant winning the game, this was very admirable especially considering how fresh off injury he still was.
Five Things We Saw
- Biblical Beatdown: Apparently somebody forgot to inform Nuggets fans before the game that Kyrie Irving is the reincarnation of Moses, because every time he drove, the Nuggets defense parted like the Red Sea. Irving was responsible for 10 of the Cavaliers’ final 12 points of the game, all which came in the last three minutes on strictly layups alone. That’s right, not one of Irving’s final 10 points came off a jump shot, runner, hook shot, fade away or anything even remotely close. They were all layups. But the worst part: On two of Irving’s final four baskets, the Nuggets committed a foul allowing him to get to the line for an “And-1” conversion, which he made on both attempts. In essence, in a game won by only a single point, the Nuggets half-hearted attempts to foul (or play defense of any kind) — instead of just wrapping up Irving entirely — cost them two points from the free throw line, and could have lost them the contest in the process.
- Matador Man: As has previously been mentioned, Nene’s soft (if you even want to call it that) interior defense might very well have been the deciding factor in this game. While Ty Lawson could do nothing to keep Irving from penetrating in the lane, Nene compounded the problem by refusing to challenge any sort of shot he threw up within five of the basket — which was every single one in the last three minutes of the game. Nene didn’t even attempt to alter Irving’s path to the basket and instead, sidestepped to allow even more space for Irving to finish. It was truly an unbearable sight to behold and one Nuggets fans hope never to see again in the future.
- Lawless: After winning Western Conference Player of the Week and converting back-to-back game-winning shots, a lot was expected out of Ty Lawson on Wednesday. Unfortunately, he came up short. What hurt more than anything was his careless ball movement in conjunction with his lack of assertiveness in terms of controlling the flow of the game. When the Nuggets come out flat like they did tonight, it’s Ty’s job to rally his troops by zipping around the court, pushing the pace of the game and forcing his teammates to get involved. Instead, he was as stagnant as the rest of his fellow comrades, especially on defense. On the last possession of the game for the Cavaliers, Irving literally dribbled the length of the floor with Lawson standing in the middle of the lane nearly the entire time; but instead of stepping in and taking a charge, he moved out of the way at the last second, allowing Irving to score an easy bucket. In the heat of the moment, it’s tough to know when to take, however, Lawson had the entire length of the court to see Irving coming directly at him! Why he didn’t at least make an effort is beyond me.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T: As Scott Hastings so eloquently stated in the Nuggets post-game coverage, there’s a level of respect you must maintain in the NBA on a nightly basis no matter who your opponent is. The Nuggets, all too often, do not put a premium on this aspect of the game. All season long we’ve seen a massive fluctuation in the Nuggets style of play depending on who its opponent may be. In big games on ESPN, the team often has no problem showing up, yet in seemingly easy wins the team is nowhere to be found. The Nuggets have a serious problem in terms of playing down to its level of competition and usually this involves failing to play with passion, discipline, concentration and worst of all, energy.
- Karl Cop Out: Many fans were griping after the game saying Karl once again botched his rotations late in the fourth quarter. I tend to disagree. Kenneth Faried was having an atrocious game on the defensive side of the ball up to that point and Birdman — how often does he close out in tight games? Yes, he was having a solid night as well, however, had he faltered down the stretch fans would have been up in arms asking why Birdman, of all people, was in to close out a heated battle. Nene and Gallinari are the Nuggets unquestioned starting power forward and small forward while Al Harrington was the Nuggets unquestioned best player against the Cavaliers. These three comprise more than half of Karl’s go-to lineup to close out games and it has been this way all season. While Nene and Gallo were indeed coming off injuries, the fact remains: if they were healthy enough to play, they should be healthy enough to close out the game. In these scenarios you always want your best players on the floor and in the Nuggets case, that is Nene and Gallinari.
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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.
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