|Kenneth Faried, F 25 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -10
His numbers were solid and the foul trouble was kept at a minimum. However, you got a dstinct sense Faried was trying to avoid whistles as he was occasionally exposed against Josh Smith and the Hawks’ many perimeter scoring threats. Faried did do a great job running the floor and going after rebounds like he always does. You’d like to see him work on a shot that isn’t a dunk, but his pure hustle makes it easy to overlook a lot of the rookie-type flaws in his game.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 6-7 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 19 PTS | +4
Hands down, that was one of the craziest game winners I’ve seen. Gallo is getting to the rim like he used to but the elevation and finishing ability just don’t look right. Karl finally realized Brewer does not need to be starting even with a half-functional Gallinari available, and Gallo responded with his usual “starter” numbers. Defensively Gallo was better than the rest of the Nuggets so it’s easy to crown him as the undisputed hero of tonight’s game.
|Nene, C 39 MIN | 8-16 FG | 6-6 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 22 PTS | -3
This is a really tough grade to give, because Nene made the game winning free throws and after Josh Smith fouled out, he was far and away the best big on the floor. Unfortunately I cant overlook the fact Nene played soft against Smith, who flat out embarrassed him. The only thing worse than his late game defense was watching Nene settle for jumpers nine times out of ten against Zaza Pachulia. It was one of Nene’s best games of the year, but I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth trying to evaluate his overall night. That just… wasn’t good.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -3
The leadership isn’t there. If the Denver Nuggets are going to fix their perimeter defense, it starts with Arron Afflalo. He is the only one capable of setting a good example. There are games where he’s clearly more concerned with getting his offense going rather than holding himself and his teammates accountable on defense. I could care less how many shots he takes — the Nuggets need more out of him from a leadership standpoint, because right now nobody cares about guarding the perimeter.
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 8-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 21 PTS | 0
Lawson’s early offense carried the Nuggets to a big lead, but his aggression seemed to be missing for a good part of the game. There’s no way you can complain about Lawson’s production, but he’s capable of a lot more. Lawson deferred to Andre Miller and Al Harrington way too much in the fourth quarter, and whether that’s a coaching decision or Ty’s refusal to demand the ball remains unknown.
|Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 8-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | +15
Al Buckets was once again the steadiest player on the court for the Denver Nuggets. You know exactly what you’re getting out of Harrington and his production rarely wavers enough to call him out. The story of the game was the fact he was perhaps the most important Nuggets player in terms of containing Josh Smith, for nothing more than the simple fact Harrington forced Smith to play defense. Smith would later foul out of the game in OT.
|Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 5 PTS | -3
My feelings on Miller are well-known, and it needs to be said right away Dre played his best individual game in weeks. He played probably about as well as he can play and was not in the game during the worst stretches, during which Denver really fell apart. The simple assessment I reach time and time again is only further affirmed by every game I see. When he comes into the game, Denver goes from a middling defensive team with potential to a terrible defensive team with no hope.
|Corey Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +3
Brewer thrived in a much more appropriate bench role. His production remained constant while his efficiency improved. It pretty much validates the fact Brewer is better suited to coming off the bench. The major problem I had with Brewer was his reach-in foul on Kirk Hinrich late in regulation. He just can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact you don’t need to go for a steal or deflection every single time you attempt to defend the ball.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 5 PTS | +2
Not much was expected out of Rudy after missing the last 11 games, but he was a surprisingly effective spark off the bench in the first half. His minutes were carefully monitored and he was only used for short stretches, but Rudy had a net positive impact during his time on the floor.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Awful. Really tough to watch, and judging by Mozgov’s reaction to coming out of the game, he seemed to know it. The good news is he barely played and the Hawks fortunately weren’t capitalizing on Denver turnovers in the first half.
Five Things We Saw
- Late game lunacy: Atlanta had a foul to give on the play that ended up being Gallo’s incredible three. At the time, I wondered if Atlanta was making a mistake by not giving the foul. As it turned out, they defended it pretty much perfectly. Karl drew up a play to clear one side of the floor for Nene and Gallo. Lawson set a screen to free up Nene for the inbounds catch and immediately cleared to the weak side with Harrington and Afflalo. Gallo did a fantastic job realizing the Hawks were not doubling Nene on the catch. The Hawks had forced Nene to take Josh Smith off the dribble 18 feet from the basket, which they were clearly prepared to live with. Gallo was the only one in position to get the ball from Nene and he put the Hawks in a situation where they had to risk fouling him on a 3-point attempt. Atlanta forced the ball baseline and defended Gallo as well as you possibly can without giving up free throws. In that situation, Gallo reacted and made a very heads up play, a sharp contrast to the timid execution we’ve seen on other last-second attempts. It was a lucky shot, but credit Gallo for having the nerve to take it.
- Nuggets must do better job finding shooters: As usual, the Nuggets perimeter defense was weak. Anytime the ball was passed more than two times the Nuggets defenders did not know how to react. Rotations were slow and more often than not, never even took place after the second pass was made. The Nuggets seem prepared to deal with only two possible outcomes on every possession — the ball handler trying to score or a single pass to someone else trying to score. Once again, Andre Miller camped out in the lane as if he was the designated shot-blocking help. There is no rhyme or reason to the Nuggets’ current perimeter defense and it is not a coincidence teams shoot are shooting an insane percentage on jump shots against them. It’s fine to try to play at fast pace and force jumpers but there needs to be some sort of focus on contesting shots and preventing wide open looks.
- Disaster averted: Gallo might have saved the Nuggets on defense as well. On the Hawks final possession with 3.5 seconds left, the Nuggets left Zaza Pachulia a wide open lane in the middle. Had the pass been made a second later, or had Gallo not been able to recover in time to get a hand in Zaza’s face, the Hawks would have scored an uncontested wide open dunk to win the game. In fact, Pachulia had no excuse not to make that layup. I’m sure he was not prepared to get the ball in that situation and he clearly was expecting contact, but thank God he was not able to finish a shot that easy.