|Wilson Chandler, SF 33 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -8
When is Chandler going to step up? The Nuggets re-signed him to be a impact player, not a role player. He seems to perpetually be in cruise control and rarely goes on a period of extended aggressiveness. If 13 points per game is all he’s going to provide, look for Chandler to be moved this summer. His defense was about the only “highlight” and even that was nothing to write home about.
|Kenneth Faried, F 23 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +2
Faried’s minutes are erratic. It’s hard to tell when he’s going to play and when he’s going to get benched for extended stretches. He seems to play much better when he sees a heavy dose of time. Like Mick Jagger, if you start him up he’ll never stop. But Faried’s defense is pretty bad at the moment. He goes for every pump-fake thrown his direction and makes silly, unnecessary fouls on the regular. He must improve his perimeter defense and be more aggressive on the glass to help this team win.
|JaVale McGee, C 23 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-3 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -6
McGee continues to be a pleasant surprise. His defensive presence in the paint is something the Nuggets have lacked since Marcus Camby departed. He had one of the best dunks of the season over Jose Calderon and showed some refinement in the post as well. He was in foul trouble, but even so, 23 minutes is just not enough time for a player as talented as McGee.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 37 MIN | 5-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | -5
Afflalo was aggressive and drove to the hole on a night when the most Nuggets refused to do so. He lost his temper once again, and received a technical foul for it, but his passion is honorable. It wasn’t his best shooting night but because he displayed emotion and at least tried to play the right way, Afflalo gets a better-than-average grade.
|Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 9-19 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 26 PTS | -13
After a slow start Lawson turned up the heat in a big way. This is his second straight game of scoring at least 25 points and in both he took a high number of shots. Ty must continue to be aggressive. When he is, the Nuggets are totally different team. Without him the Nuggets might have lost by 20.
|Al Harrington, PF 31 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | -4
Harrington blended in for the most part. He had some good drives to the basket and made a few key buckets, but was otherwise quiet.
|Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | -5
Andre “Tunnel Vision” Miller did what Andre “Tunnel Vision” Miller usually does: get tunnel vision. This is his routine: dribble up the court at .0026 miles per hour, stall, dribble into the lane and shoot. That’s what Andre Miller basketball. He’ll make some nice passes and occasionally pass the ball off before he shoots, but it’s hard to tell what he does to help the team win on a nightly basis.
|Corey Brewer, SF 15 MIN | 0-1 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -1
Brewer played defense, or at least he attempted to. He over-committed on a few steals — as usual — but otherwise appeared to be hustling. His offense however, is a different story.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -5
Had to do it. Just had to do it. I’ve given out one F all season, but Mozgov’s performance against the Raptors increases it to two. Where to begin… lets see… In a five-minute span he got a defensive three seconds call, goal-tending call, committed two turnovers and one personal foul. In the four closing minutes of the third quarter he was inserted into the game, upon which the Raptors out-rebounded the Nuggets 9-2 and scored 11 points in the process. During this time he got boxed out, then dunked on by DeMar DeRozan. Overall, it was a complete disaster — and I’m not over exaggerating here. We’ve seen Mozgov play bad before, but nothing like this. Needless to say, Koufos will be a welcome sight when he returns.
Five Things We Saw
- cLOSING: The Nuggets ended the game going 0-15 from the field. They did not score a bucket after the 8:26 mark of the fourth quarter. Meanwhile the Raptors went on a 17-2 run. That’s the epitome of losing a basketball game. That’s not the type of loss you suffer because both teams played hard and one came out on top after making some tough, late baskets. That’s the type of loss where your entire infrastructure crumbles beneath your feet as everyone turns toward the other in disbelief, eventually ending with the entire team gingerly walking off the court in a despondent, desultory manner asking, “What. Just. Happened?”
- Red or Blue Pill?: At the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter, with the Nuggets trailing the Raptors by only one point, George Karl decided to substitute Al Harrington and Andre Miller in place of Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee. This was the undoing of the Denver Nuggets against the Toronto Raptors as we know it. From that point on, the Raptors out-rebounded the Nuggets 16-8, out-scored the Nuggets 10-2 and easily won the game by nine points. When Karl switched to Harrington and Miller the Raptors were playing zone. Instead of attempting to beat them from them inside out with defense, Karl elected to out-shoot them offensively even though the Nuggets had been relatively cold from both 2- and 3-point range. The Nuggets then became a jump-shooting team and lost because of it. Bottom line: Karl had the choice between defense (which would have required him to trust a rookie and young center) and offense, and he chose the latter even when it meant Harrington would be playing center, Chandler playing power forward and Afflalo playing small forward. This seemed to be a microcosm of the Nuggets season. In the face of adversity, Karl chose offense instead of defense (which is inexcusable by itself) and idiosyncrasies instead of bravery.
- Lineup Nightmare: The Nuggets lineups have been tough to watch all year. Karl is infatuated with small ball, yet hardly ever infuses Faried into the equation. Why Mozgov is even seeing the court over Birdman or Koufos is mind-boggling. Closing out games with almost every person on the floor out of position doesn’t seem like the recipe for success. All of this has added up to unsightly rotations that simply don’t work. The worst part: Karl refuses to acknowledge their malfunction and repeats his same mistakes frequently. They say the the definition of “crazy” is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results. You do the math…
- What Does It All Mean Basil?: As I wrote to Sam Holako of Raptors Republic in the game preview, the most frustrating part of this season has been the Nuggets inability to move firmly one direction or another. If they’re going to lose, then go young, get the rookies some run and make strides toward improving for next year; however, if they’re going to make a push for the playoffs, then make a push for the playoffs!!! Instead, this team is floating in mediocrity, teasing its fans with a few excellent performances every once in a while. More than anything, it would just be nice to see some consistency, especially on defense.
- 15: That’s how many games the Nuggets have left in the 2011-12 campaign. Hard to believe. Things have gone by fast and for the most part, the season has been a major disappointment. Since they started out 14-5, the Nuggets have gone 13-19. It’s difficult to imagine the team turning things around especially with Gallinari out most of the way and nine of the last 15 games coming on the road. Is the NBA Draft Lottery awaiting the Nuggets for the first time since 2003? If so, changes will need to be made in many departments of the Nuggets organization as this team is too talented to be underachieving this much.
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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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