Rapid Reaction: Los Angeles Lakers 103, Denver Nuggets 88

Denver Nuggets 88 FinalRecap | Box Score 103 Los Angeles Lakers
Kenneth Faried, F 28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -7
In the first playoff game of his career Faried played decent. The problem is, decent won’t necessarily cut it this time of year. Faried can play better than this and the Nuggets desperately need him to play better. His energy has been one of the team’s most prized assets all year long and against the Lakers it could end up countering some of Bynum’s electric blocks.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-14 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | -17
Gallinari was about the only Nugget who came prepared to play for the playoffs, not the regular season. This was especially interesting considering how long it’s taken him to regain his form since returning from injury. He attacked the basket early and often, utilizing a variety of spin moves in the post that we haven’t seen in quite some time. He also knocked down shots when he was open and played good defense for most of the game. In the postgame press conference he admitted his team was hesitant on offense and that they need to figure out ways to score (i.e. getting out on the break) before Bynum gets set on defense. Clearly Gallinari understands what it takes to win against teams like the Lakers in the postseason. Now if he can just get his teammates to grasp this concept…
Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -8
Koufos hardly made an impact. He started, as usual, but didn’t see many minutes after his initial stint. Karl said during a timeout how he needed his team to play up to it’s potential so he could understand whether his gameplan was working or not, but drastically cutting Koufos’ minutes seems to be hypocritical and counterproductive in that sense. Koufos has been a fairly large part of the Nuggets DNA over the last several months and is one of the few players on the roster who has the size and defensive aggression to possibly stifle Gasol or even Bynum. Seeing him play only 12 minutes doesn’t seem like enough time for a detailed evaluation of where he stands.
Arron Afflalo, SG 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -7
Afflalo played great defense on Kobe… for about half the game. But once Kobe got going he never slowed down. Guarding the NBA’s second best shooting guard of all time is not an easy task. Afflalo did well for the most part but he still has to shoot better than 27 percent from the field. Anybody who takes pride in their defense knows it’s extremely difficult to lock down your opponent on one end and attack with aggression on the other, and sadly that’s what the Nuggets are asking from Afflalo. Still, if anybody can do it, it’s him.
Ty Lawson, PG 31 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 7 PTS | -21
There was quite a bit of fuss on Twitter regarding Lawson’s performance. Clearly he was intimidated by the Lakers front-court duo of Bynum and Gasol and avoided penetrating the lane virtually all together for much of the game. But before we overreact and jump to conclusions (after only one playoff game nonetheless) let’s keep a few things in mind: First, Lawson was the Nuggets best player in the playoffs last year against Serge Ibaka and the Thunder. Second, Lawson has fared extremely well in terms of bouncing back after bad scoring outings this season, having scored in single digits on back-to-back occasions only once all year. Finally, the Lakers are just a flat-out bad matchup for the diminutive point guard. Ty Lawson is 5-11 on a good day; the Lakers front-court duo is 7 feet every day. Lawson relies heavily on dribble penetration and most importantly, finishing around the rim. When he has two 7-footers watching his every move, it’s extremely tough for him to play this way. I’m not trying to be an apologist, but I’m level headed enough to understand that just because he struggles against the best power forward-center combo since Duncan and Robinson doesn’t mean he’s not the Nuggets point guard of the future.
Al Harrington, PF 22 MIN | 4-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -4
Harrington was bad. He didn’t play his game and attempted to force shots up when they weren’t falling in true Mamba-esque fashion. This is not the type of performance the Nuggets need from Big Al. At some point he needed to sever ties with shot attempts, as none of them were falling, yet he just never did. Look for Harrington to bounce back next game.
Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | -5
Miller’s stat line is impressive, however it’s difficult to recall any one thing he did extremely well that helped the Nuggets in their attempt to win this game. He filled in for Lawson during stretches he normally wouldn’t — due to Ty’s struggles — and did a solid job all things considered. Hopefully Lawson finds ways to score next game so that Miller can revert back to the distributor he’s been lately that benefits the Nuggets most.
Corey Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +3
Brewer was certainly a bright spot on a dull, dispirited afternoon. He played great defense on every person he was assigned to guard and was one of the few Nuggets who tried to embrace the fastbreak. His defense could end up playing a key role this series, especially if Karl decides to place him on Bryant.
Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -3
For the second game in a row Mozgov played better than he has for most of the season. Perhaps the key is only playing him 10-12 minutes per night as he seems to top out at “Maximum Productivity” after that point. I still think Koufos deserved about half of Mozgov’s minutes, if not more, for the simple fact that he isn’t a liability on offense and has been a major contributor for the Nuggets down the stretch.
JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 0-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -10
Sunday was a struggle for McGee. Like many Nuggets, this was his first playoff game and it showed in the form of nervousness. He was fumbling the ball as if it were going out of style and couldn’t finish anything within two feet of the rim. But also like many of his teammates, he should bounce back on Tuesday with a more dominating performance.
Julyan Stone, G 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +2
N/A
Jordan Hamilton, G 2 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +2
N/A

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5-on-5: Lakers preview

In Roundball Mining Company’s latest edition of our 5-on-5 series we discuss what’s on everyone’s mind: Lakers vs. Nuggets. In addition to our normal trio of contributors (Jeremy, Charlie and I), we’ve asked Brain Kamenetzky of ESPN’s Land O’Lakers blog and Roundball reader Logan Wright to chip in with their take on the series as well.

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Film Room: Mozgov vs Bynum

The most difficult matchup for the Denver Nuggets in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers is Andrew Bynum.  Bynum is the dominant offensive center in the NBA and the Nuggets must make sure that he does not score at will.  Unlike in the past when the Nuggets bigs consisted of Nene, Birdman and Kenyon Martin, Denver has plenty of size to attempt to matchup with Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Out of Denver’s four centers, the one who does the best defending Bynum is Timofey Mozgov.  In the Film Room segment below I have strung together six clips from the April 13 game where Mozgov is defending Bynum.

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Hickory-High breaks down Nuggets vs. Lakers

This is an excellent video breakdown of contrasting styles of play and individual matchups by our friends at Hickory-High. We can talk all we want about predictions but the fact is, the technical side of the game — running plays, exploiting weaknesses, ect. — will play as big of a role as any in deciding the outcome of this series. Hickory-High details these nuances with easy-to-understand video analysis which you can’t find anywhere else. If you’re a Nuggets or Lakers fan, this is a must read.

Nuggets vs Lakers – Lakers Defensive Philosophy

The Los Angeles Lakers are a very good defensive team.  A big part of that is they do a good job of forcing their opponent to go to their second and third option on offense thus encouraging their opponent attempt low percentage shots.  Against the Nuggets L.A. will attempt to pack the paint and close off the driving lanes to the basket.  As a result the Nuggets will be able to get open looks from the perimeter, but they are low percentage shots.  In the following Roundball Mining Company Denver Nuggets Film Room segment you can see the Lakers’ philosophy of remove the first option and close off the lane in action.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 131, Minnesota Timberwolves 102

Denver Nuggets 131 Final

Recap | Box Score

102 Minnesota Timberwolves
Kenneth Faried, F 32 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | +11
Faried is improving every game. Against the Wolves he refrained from making “rookie” mistakes he often does. This isn’t to say he doesn’t still have a ways to go, but it’s certainly is nice seeing him begin to realize and understand different aspects of the NBA game, and just in time for the playoffs nonetheless.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 27 MIN | 5-7 FG | 7-8 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 17 PTS | +17
Gallinari needed a game like this. He’s been in a slump since coming back from injury and hasn’t seen his shot fall the way it was in the beginning of the year. If the Nuggets are to do damage in the playoffs Gallinari will have to be the type of threat he was against the Wolves, and then some.
Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +23
Koufos is one hell of a serviceable big man. He will fumble a pass and miss a routine shot here and there but does his job and does it well. He seems to be getting more comfortable in his role as the starting center and hopefully will bring some toughness to the Nuggets in the postseason.
Arron Afflalo, SG 30 MIN | 7-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | +13
Afflalo is the new Rip Hamilton in terms of his midrange game. It’s almost unbelievable how efficient he is in knocking down a wide variety of jump shots, including 3-pointers. Against the Wolves he hit numerous shots that kept the Nuggets lead steadily growing. If he keeps up this type of high-level play going in the postseason, it should be a delight to watch.
Ty Lawson, PG 25 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 15 PTS | +28
Lawson had a great game all around. He shot efficiently from the field, had a few nice steals and penetrated with verve. Seeing the aggressive Ty Lawson was certainly nice this time of year.
Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 5 PTS | +10
Where has this Andre Miller been the whole year? When he’s distributing first, he’s an excellent asset for the Nuggets to have. There will be times when he’ll need to score but if he can be a distributor for the most part, the Nuggets as a whole will benefit greatly.
Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | +19
In 28 minutes, 12 points doesn’t look like much, but Brewer was fantastic in terms of his energy. He got out on the fastbreak and had some nice plays across the board. This is the type of performance Brewer needs to turn in every night.
Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 7-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 15 PTS | 0
The same night I refer to Mozgov “maladroit” on Twitter, he has one of his best performances of the year. He missed only one shot and was all over the floor. He finished well around the rim and put back a few monster dunks. If he gets called upon in the playoffs hopefully he can play this good again.
JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 9-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 19 PTS | +17
This was probably McGee’s second best game as a Nugget. Once again he finished very strong around the rim and made virtually no mistakes. He’s already a totally different player than he was in Washington and is starting to show signs of becoming the player people thought he could be on draft night. This is excellent news for the Nuggets.
Julyan Stone, G 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 PTS | +2
Stone was impressive. He’s not the type of threat most point guards are on offense, but his intangibles and defensive prowess is promising.
Jordan Hamilton, G 12 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +5
Had Hamilton been able to log around 20-25 minutes per game, there’s a good chance he would have made an All Rookie team of some sort. He’s got lots of talent, especially as a scorer, and it was on full display against the Wolves.

There’s not much left to say about this game. It was a complete blowout by the second quarter. The Nuggets did exactly what they needed to do in order to secure the sixth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. They will face the Lakers in the first round, which is a decent matchup all things considered.

What is evident at this point is that the Nuggets are beginning to gel. They’ve hit another high point in the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Heading into the playoffs Nuggets fans have to feel good. It seems as if the team is thoroughly enjoying playing basketball right now and as a result, the fans are enjoying watching as well.

We’ll have much more coverage of the Nuggets over the weekend including video breakdowns and analysis so be sure to stay tuned!

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 106 Oklahoma City Thunder 101

Denver Nuggets 106 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Oklahoma City Thunder
Kenneth Faried, F 28 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-7 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | 0

Outside of some really poor free throw shooting, Faried was the player of the game. He made game-saving play after game-saving play down the stretch, whether it was a crucial block on Russell Westbrook or a monstrous putback jam off an Arron Afflalo miss. Faried really showed why he’s a special player by managing to outplay bigger, stronger, and taller competition through sheer will and an unwavering desire to win.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 3-13 FG | 6-7 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 14 PTS | +1

Gallo had a disastrous shooting night and couldn’t find his rhythm against an Oklahoma City team that defended him well. Since his return from injury, the Nuggets have looked for him regularly and created plenty of opportunities Gallo just hasn’t been able to convert. He’s doing other things reasonably well, but sooner or later Gallo has to assert himself and step up to his role. I thought Gallo grew passive as the game wore on and was little more than a spectator in the Nuggets’ offense at the end of the game

Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -4

Koufos made Denver’s first two shots of the game and was quiet the rest of the way. He played very solid defense on Kendrick Perkins, who picked up four fouls in the third quarter and was a non-factor for the Thunder throughout the night.

Arron Afflalo, SG 40 MIN | 6-15 FG | 2-3 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 15 PTS | +6

Like all of the Nuggets’ perimeter players, Afflalo struggled at times against the length and athleticism of OKC. He played very under control as he once again shouldered a huge part of the load on both ends of the floor. Afflalo’s solid perimeter defense helped spark the crucial fourth quarter run and his all-around contributions on offense produced the second-most points and assists on the team.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 8-15 FG | 6-8 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 25 PTS | +3

Lawson has now scored at least 20 points in seven of the last nine games. He’s been on an absolute tear and continues to keep the Nuggets afloat through thick and thin. Every time the Thunder found a surge of momentum, Lawson seemed to answer with a mini-run of his own. He’s playing at an unbelievable level right now and proven he can go toe-to-toe with the best scorers in the league.

Al Harrington, PF 23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | -1

Harrington’s lack of mobility only further hampered his ability to match up against OKC. While Harrington did his best and sank his threes early, he was a defensive liability with the Nuggets switching all pick and rolls in the second half. Harrington was visibly struggling to keep up and was eventually pulled mid-fourth quarter out of necessity.

Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 5 PTS | +1

Miller took too many shots (including two three-pointers), but generally played solid off the bench and had success igniting the sputtering Nuggets’ offense, finishing with a team-high six assists. I’ve come to expect the worst when it comes to Miller’s defense, but he was surprisingly decent against the Thunder, which was no doubt helped by the fact OKC relied heavily on Derek Fisher in the absence of James Harden.

Corey Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +12

Brewer is another player coming on strong at the right part part of the season. His energetic hustle was a key ingredient in Denver closing the game on a 7-2 run. Brewer played excellent defense on Russell Westbrook late and made the biggest shot of the game with a banked free-throw line jumper to put Denver up five with less than a minute remaining.

JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +7

McGee flat-out changes the matchup with the Thunder, who rely heavily on Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison off the bench. Neither of them could match the athleticism of McGee and both ended up contributing next to nothing. McGee on the other hand scored all ten of his points at the rim, where the Thunder had been able to keep the Nuggets’ relatively quiet. If he can keep up these types of performances in an extended role, McGee could be a series-changing talent for the Nuggets.

What did the Spurs win do for the Nuggets?

With their decisive victory over the tanking Portland Trail Blazers the San Antonio Spurs have locked in the top seed in the Western Conference for the second straight year.  With it they have may have solidified the Denver Nuggets’ hold on the sixth seed.

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Commenting, Roundball Mining Company and You

Hello faithful readers of Roundball Mining Company.  Recently our hosting company briefly shut down RMC for a violation of our Terms of Service due to an overabundance of spam comments.  The comments have been blocked by our spam comment filter and did not appear on the site, but they still took up enough space on their servers that we were flagged for noncompliance.  As a result in order to get back in the good graces of our hosting company I have had to change a couple of comment settings.  In the past, you could comment without registering.  A name and email address was good enough.  Now everyone leaving a comment will have to register and log in.  I apologize for any inconvenience that may cause, but registering is very quick and it is easier than entering your name and email every time you comment.

To register, click on the link in the comments section that says “You must be logged in to post a comment” and then click on “Register” in the next screen below where you enter your username and password.

In addition to that change, every comment with two or more links will be marked with spam and comments will be closed on any post over 30 days old.

We greatly appreciate the time you all spend reading and commenting here.  I hope these changes do not dissuade anyone from continuing to take part in the growing community here are RMC.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 101, Orlando Magic 74

Orlando Magic 74 Final

Recap | Box Score

101 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 30 MIN | 5-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +19
Faried wasn’t overwhelmingly impressive but like always, his energy made a difference. His defense is slowly coming along as well. Now if he could just set more solid screens…
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS | +26
It seemed the Nuggets made a point of getting Gallinari involved early and often. He had numerous isolation plays in the first quarter and didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on his shot. This was the type of game he needed to get back on track. Now that he’s got one under his belt it’s time for him to step up more in the last two games of the season in order to prepare himself properly for the playoffs.
Kosta Koufos, C 15 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +14
Koufos continues to improve. His hands will always be partially made of stone and his movement around the rim never be the quickest, but he’s showing strides in his game that Mozgov simply wasn’t. He showed off a few hook shots on Sunday that were really pretty and was efficient in only 15 minutes of time. If he can keep providing this type of production in limited minutes the Nuggets will be in good shape with their center depth.
Arron Afflalo, SG 37 MIN | 7-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | +19
Once again Afflalo logged the most minutes of any Nugget and quietly dropped 15 points in the process. His game is so professional and sound. He rarely takes a bad shot and lets everything come to him. Nothing is forced. He only missed one 2-point shot the entire night.
Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 10 AST | 13 PTS | +23
It was nice to see Lawson get aggressive, if only for a few plays. There are times (usually when coming off a big performance in the previous game) that Lawson has a tendency to take a back seat in a major way. He was heading that direction before kicking it into gear in the second quarter. He took advantage of open lanes and gave the Nuggets a dimension to their offense they desperately needed: speed.
Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 11 AST | 6 PTS | -1
This was one of Miller’s best games in while. It doesn’t matter that he only scored six points on 3-10 shooting from the field; what matters is that he was engaged with his teammates, talking and dishing out some excellent assists, mostly to JaVale McGee who he’s developing some great chemistry with. The Nuggets are at their best when Miller is distributing first and scoring second, which is what he did on Sunday.
Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +14
Brewer won’t wow you with his stat line but his energy was certainly palpable. He still took too many outside shots, and in the playoffs that might cost the Nuggets, but against the Howard-less Magic, it can be overlooked. As long as he keeps getting out on the break and playing good defense a few bad shots can be tolerated.
Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -2
Mozgov is tough to grade. He didn’t do much offensively — in fact, he was pretty awful — but he did play solid defense when called upon. For that he deserves credit.
JaVale McGee, C 24 MIN | 8-11 FG | 1-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +7
Story of the game. One of the best performances I’ve seen from a Nugget big man in a really, really long time. Nene was able to put up impressive numbers from time to time but there was always one key aspect missing from his game: He never actually played like a big. On Sunday, McGee played like a big man is supposed to play. He took his fair share of isolation shots, showed a variety of different moves and most importantly, finished around the rim with authority and power. That’s what a true big man does, and when it’s done properly, it’s a thing of beauty. This was without question McGee’s best performance in a Nuggets uniform and one of the more encouraging performances we’ve seen from any Nugget this season. As I tweeted during the game, it was pure, unfiltered, sexy athleticism. Chocolate Thunder would be proud.
Julyan Stone, G 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +8
Stone showed a desire to set up plays instead of run recklessly, and for that I salute him.
Jordan Hamilton, G 2 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +8
Hamilton was pretty productive in two minutes time. Should Harrington not be able to go in the next several games, he might be called upon again.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 118 Phoenix Suns 107

Denver Nuggets 118 Final
Recap | Box Score
107 Phoenix Suns
Kenneth Faried, F 27 MIN | 9-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 13 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | +22

There’s not much to explain here. Faried dominated the game and yet he only played 26 minutes! Offensively, he continues to get better and better as a legitimate post scorer as well as a guy who can chip in double-digit hustle points any given night. Faried had a great first half in which he still struggled to rebound and stay in front of the Phoenix bigs on pick and rolls, two problems he clearly addressed in the second half to finish with one of his finest performances all season.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 13 PTS | +21

Gallo was better than he has been, but let’s not keep kidding ourselves – Gallinari just isn’t the game-changing force he was earlier in the season. What I found particularly interesting was the fact Gallo missed a ton of easy shots and managed to throw in some lucky ones. It needs to be noted that Gallo was still great defensively, where he completely neutralized Jared Dudley and finished with two steals, two blocks and only one personal foul. With that kind of balance, the lack of scoring output isn’t so bad.

Kosta Koufos, C 15 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +16

It wasn’t a big stats game for Koufos, but his play was brilliant in a crucial third quarter surge that essentially put the game away before Phoenix could get anything going. Koufos was a big part of a starting five that so thoroughly out played Phoenix, he finished the game a +16 in only 15 minutes of action. That’s giving your team high-quality minutes.

Arron Afflalo, SG 38 MIN | 6-10 FG | 7-7 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 19 PTS | +13

Afflalo started extremely slow, taking only two shots in a first half he only managed to score three points. Once he picked things up in the second half, Phoenix did not stand a chance as Afflalo made a play that summed up the game by attacking Nash in transition and smacking him in the face for the and-one layup that essentially became the dagger.

Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 10-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 10 AST | 29 PTS | +7

One of the finest games of Ty Lawson’s career, who could have easily had his first 30-point scoring game had he not decided to throw in in ten assists to only one turnover for good measure. Phoenix simply could not match up with him and Lawson torched the Suns’ defense from start to finish. When Lawson is aggressive and shoots the ball like he’s capable of, he’s nearly impossible to stop.

Al Harrington, PF 23 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -13

Harrington did his best to carry a bench rotation that just could not build on the momentum created by the starters. It wasn’t the bench’s finest performance despite Harrington’s respectable shooting and his admirable hustle on both sides of the ball, where Harrington gave much better effort than some of his bench counterparts. Big Al wasn’t bad, but expect him and the bench to bounce back in the final three games of the season and start looking a bit more like themselves.

Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | -6

The Nuggets were fighting Andre Miller just as much as they were the Phoenix Suns. The story of the game was the starters’ complete domination followed by Andre Miller’s lackadaisical efforts to give everything back. As esteemed reader TJ McBride pointed out to me earlier, Miller accounted for five of the Nuggets’ nine turnovers and needed his teammates to carry him through a game he could not manage an honest effort towards winning.

Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +4

Any game in which Brewer scores double-digits while taking fewer than ten shots is a successful one. I loved Brewer’s defensive energy and his ability to pressure the ball, which only makes his extremely limited minutes more frustrating when the ineffective Andre Miller produces less in almost double the playing time. When Brewer has it going like he did against Phoenix, he’s a very disruptive force and someone the Nuggets should not be afraid to ride for longer stretches.

JaVale McGee, C 19 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -9

McGee had a very solid finish after a poor first half. One of the things he really struggled with was Phoenix’s pick and roll game with Nash, which is no doubt one of the reasons George Karl is reluctant to trust him with significant minutes. McGee’s post defense was solid and he made much better decisions in the second half, where his awareness in the pick and roll led to a much improved defensive performance in the deciding third quarter.

5-on-5: Pre-Playoff edition

It the latest edition of Roundball Mining Company’s 5-on-5 series we explore which potential playoff scenarios could benefit or hinder the Nuggets success in the postseason. Fellow readers T.J. McBride and Mitchell Carroll have been selected to participate this time around. If you’d like to contribute next time, be sure and follow Charlie, Jeremey and Kalen on Twitter. As always, please feel free to leave your answers to these questions in the comments section below.

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Rapid Reaction: Los Angeles Clippers 104, Denver Nuggets 98

Los Angeles Clippers 104 Final

Recap | Box Score

98 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 25 MIN | 4-6 FG | 4-7 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -10
We all love to praise Faried. For a rookie taken 22nd in the 2011 NBA Draft, he’s been impressive. But it’s games like these where Faried’s inexperience really shows. He was passive, perhaps intimidated, and failed to inject himself into the heart of the action. Like many Nuggets, Faried must figure out a way to be more aggressive on a consistent basis, especially on the glass. Six rebounds in 25 minutes just won’t cut it — not with his motor. He needs to establish better positioning under the rim and not hesitate to get physical with his counterparts.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 28 MIN | 0-7 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -4
What is going on with Gallinari? It’s as if he’s still injured. He’s not attacking — rather taking nothing but jump shots — and doesn’t appear to show any signs of wanting to be “The Man” he was in the beginning of the season. It’s as if he’s reverted back to the jump-shooting perimeter player prior he was prior to coming to Denver. If he’s still injured, then he needs to sit out; otherwise, he needs to start asserting himself in order to help the team win games. Had he been in attack mode on Wednesday, the Nuggets likely would have won.
Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -11
Koufos was fantastic. In only 23 minutes he came up one rebound shy of a double-double. He also got it done on defense, blocking two of his opponent’s shots. He was always in the right spot at the right time to make the right play. Faried should take note.
Arron Afflalo, SG 38 MIN | 5-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -17
This was the first time Afflalo scored less than 15 points since March 23 — almost a month ago. He hit some big shots, but for whatever reason wasn’t as affective as he has been of late. Look for him to bounce back with a vintage performance on Saturday against the Suns.
Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 9-14 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 24 PTS | 0
Lawson was furious in his attempt to “out-speed” Chris Paul and he did a good job of it for the most part. I mentioned to one of my friends at the game how I don’t mind the Chris Paul-Ty Lawson match-up should the Nuggets face the Clippers in the first round and Wednesday was corroboration to that theory. Lawson likely won’t out-perform Paul every night, but if he can contain him and counter with his own flurry of points and assists, the Nuggets should be just fine.
Al Harrington, PF 32 MIN | 4-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +8
Harrington didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but he finished with a nice stat line overall. It’s clear that heading into the playoffs Harrington’s going to have to play a key role for the Nuggets off the bench, just as he has all year long. The fact that he’s doing it on a torn meniscus is all the more reason Nuggets fans should avoid blaming him for any sort of the team’s downfalls. The fact is: dude’s been in a Nuggets jersey for two years yet he already bleeds blue and yellow.
Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 12 PTS | +4
For whatever reason I don’t remember much of Miller’s performance. I know he attacked the basket — like usual — and threw a few lob passes but other than that he seemed somewhat quiet. Nevertheless, putting up 12 points and eight assists on 50 percent shooting from the field as a backup is always beneficial to the team.
Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -5
Just like he’s done all season, Brewer followed up a great performance with a complete dud. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone as wildly inconsistent as Brewer. He goes from savior to village goat on a nightly basis. Why he can’t find more stability in his performance is beyond me.
JaVale McGee, C 15 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +5
McGee deserves more time. Period. There’s just no reason he should be seeing 15 minutes in a game where the Nuggets desperately need a win. He can’t do anything in that amount of time — nobody can. Should he have had more production on the glass? Absolutely. But even so, it’s too difficult to judge somebody when they only receive a sparing minutes here and there in a highly competitive atmosphere.

Recent Realizations About the Denver Nuggets

Since a disappointing loss in New Orleans that left many fans fearing the Denver Nuggets would be sitting at home when the playoffs began the Nuggets have won five of seven games and solidified their position as a playoff team.  The biggest of those five victories came in Houston at the expense of a desperate Rockets team who were playing for their season.

I have been very realistic, some would say pessimistic, about the Nuggets ability to be competitive come playoff time.  With the Nuggets finally fielding a healthy team they are doing their best to prove me wrong.  Here are several observations I have  made recently that are making think Denver could possibly be more than a speed bump in the postseason.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 105 Houston Rockets 102

Denver Nuggets 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
102 Houston Rockets
Kenneth Faried, F 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | 0

Even in a pretty forgettable overall performance, Faried still produced four or five of the most memorable highlight plays of the night. While you can make a case Faried’s outstanding hustle and energy swung the game’s momentum in several critical moments, much of his 22-minute stint consisted of uninspiring filler. Faried can no longer afford to fade into the background as the role-playing energy guy chipping in 4 points and 4 boards in limited minutes. He needs to stay on the court and produce what’s expected of him, especially on the defensive end where Faried needs to develop some consistency.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | +12

The numbers paint a very misleading picture of how valuable Gallo was, especially in the second and third quarters where the Nuggets found themselves dangerously close to letting the Rockets seize total control. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but Gallo’s passing, decision making, and excellent shot selection have had the Nuggets offense looking more and more like one of the most dangerous in the NBA.

Kosta Koufos, C 14 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -3

Koufos has more or less been invisible since his move from the bench to the starting lineup. While Koufos has been far from bad, you can’t say he’s made the most of his new opportunity as his minutes have remained the same while his production has dipped across the board. I’ve noticed him struggling against the more physical bruisers down low and Sam Dalembert proved to be no exception.

Arron Afflalo, SG 42 MIN | 10-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 26 PTS | +11

Another solid all-around effort out of Afflalo, who flat out carried the Nuggets through a trying first half. Afflalo was the one player who I thought embraced the challenge of winning this game and was completely unfazed by the pressure. It was business as usual for Arron, who has turned a rough start to the season into the best campaign of his young career.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 9-15 FG | 5-8 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 25 PTS | -12

Lawson really controlled the game down the stretch. It was far from pretty, but Ty got it done when it mattered most. We saw a much more balanced scoring attack out of Lawson along with a more aggressive attitude and an Afflalo-like approach in terms of effort. Lawson hit a huge three pointer down the stretch and also helped carry the offense with his penetration and ability to get to the line.

Al Harrington, PF 28 MIN | 4-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | +7

After a quiet start to his night, Harrington came alive during a crucial third quarter stretch that culminated in the Nuggets taking their first honest lead of the game and eventually closing it out with a win. Torn menisucs and all, Harrington is proving he can still be a dangerous offensive threat off the bench. In many ways, Harrington’s shooting and scoring is what opens things up the Nuggets offense, which is heavily reliant on the bench.

Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 13 AST | 4 PTS | +2

Lethargic is the only word to describe Andre Miller’s first-half performance. It was almost surreal seeing him carelessly throw away possessions and casually jog back up the floor in a game with so much at stake for both teams. Eventually, Miller got this act together and provided a steady hand of leadership down the stretch, but it has to be noted that Miller only showed up for the second half and was nowhere to be seen in the first.

Corey Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +8

It’s been tough for Brewer to find an appropriate role, as he was starting a good portion of the season for the injured Gallinari and never worked himself into a comfortable groove with the rest of his teammates. Brewer basically found the perfect role backing up Gallo, and turned in the finest 18 minutes of his Nuggets career,. Offensively, Brewer took a good balance of inside and outside shots and showed much better focus in terms of defending the perimeter.

Timofey Mozgov, C 4 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -7

The Nuggets were struggling to find answers for Sam Dalembert and Mozgov got a brief 4-minute opportunity in the second half. There wasn’t a lot to judge his performance by in four minutes, but it’s safe to say Mozgov didn’t particularly stand out.

JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -3

McGee once again stayed solid for the duration of his limited time on the floor. Without Marcus Camby available for much of the past two contests, Denver was able to get away playing heavy amounts of small ball and McGee hasn’t been relied on for much. JaVale continues to be a hard worker who shows flashes of tremendous athletic ability. It should be interesting to see how he is brought along as the playoffs draw near and the Nuggets face tougher competition inside.

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