|Kenneth Faried, F 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -12
Faried struggled defending Gasol early on but was still effective in nearly all other aspects of the game. He saw only a few minutes in the second half, which is a bit perplexing given how strong the “Manimal” has been playing lately.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 27 MIN | 2-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -14
Gallinari was terrible. There’s no other way around it. I was shocked to look at the box score and see that he logged 27 minutes, as he was only visible for about three of those. He refused to drive, took nothing but pull-up jump shots and didn’t find any ways to contribute otherwise. It’s hard to pinpoint his problem was, but something was up. I can’t remember Gallinari having a game this bad in a really long time.
|Kosta Koufos, C 8 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -7
Koufos may have gotten injured as he didn’t see any time after he was yanked in the first quarter. During his eight minutes he was getting thoroughly abused by Bynum but Koufos is better than he showed and might have been able to improve as the game progressed.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 39 MIN | 7-15 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 18 PTS | +1
This was a mixed bag for Afflalo. He missed a key technical free throw, the last two shots of the game and saw Matt Barnes go off for a season high 24 points. However he still had some great offensive possessions and finished the night with an impressive stat line.
|Ty Lawson, PG 29 MIN | 4-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | -8
I hate to give Ty such a low grade, but I have no choice. This is the exact type of game where Lawson must step up — and he didn’t. He’s one of the Nuggets best two players (maybe the best) and was nowhere to be seen. So what if you’re having a bad shooting night or are intimidated by the Lakers big men, you still have to find a way to put you imprint on the game and pose as a threat, otherwise you’re useless. This might be the most disappointing performance Lawson has had all year given what was at stake.
|Al Harrington, PF 27 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | +2
Harrington deserves nothing short of an A. Even with a torn meniscus he was out there battling as hard as anybody, playing with passion and enthusiasm that’s been sorely lacking for the Nuggets all year. He made a number of big shots down the stretch and had his offensive repertoire on full display throughout the evening. Truly a gusty performance by the veteran.
|Andre Miller, PG 32 MIN | 9-18 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 20 PTS | +5
This is Miller’s first A+ since the beginning of the season. He was a wrecking ball on offense, not backing down from anybody. While most of the Nuggets were AWOL, Miller was on the front line bravely attacking anyone and everyone who was in his way. If he played with this type of verve every night the Nuggets would probably be sitting about three spots higher in the standings. Nonetheless, this was a spectacular showing from Miller in a very important game.
|Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 PTS | +2
Another tough grade. Brewer played great defense most of the night — his hands were constantly disrupting the Lakers offense, his hustle was admirable — but he still finished with zero points in 19 minutes of action and missed countless opportunities that would have given the Nuggets the momentum needed to finally take the lead. Brewer’s inability to score the rock has become a big problem lately. Even if he plays solid defense it’s just not worth having him in the game if he can’t even score a few points.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -7
People were praising Mozgov for his defense on Bynum in the late second and early third quarter. While his defense was superb, it’s important to note that the Lakers lead grew by over 10 with him in the game (with all the other starters playing alongside him, mind you), and this was after the Nuggets had pulled within three to close the first half. So while it was nice to see Mozgov get some run, it’s important we analyze both sides of the coin with his performance.
|JaVale McGee, C 28 MIN | 7-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | +8
McGee played really well, all things considered. It would have been nice if to see him play better one-on-one defense against Bynum, but it’s not as if he got bulldozed by him either. On offense McGee displayed a great short game inside the paint and collected a team-high 10 boards in the process. His frustrating moments will undoubtedly continue, but it seems as if he’s limiting them as much as possible, which is a credit to the excellent coaching job of Melvin Hunt.
A lot happened in this game. I tweeted before it started how it was very winnable without Kobe Bryant, but the Lakers came out and played great as a team — you can’t take that away from them.
What jumped out most from the start was the Lakers defense in contrast with the Nuggets effort on that same side of the floor. All game long the Lakers played with a high focus and energy level on defense, while the Nuggets only did so for about one quarter. Again, this has become THE story of the Nuggets season. Yes, injuries haven’t been kind, but like I’ve always said, every team has to deal with injuries — that’s just part of the game. If the Nuggets actually came prepared with a solid defensive scheme every night, injuries could be overcome; instead, everything must be perfectly aligned for the Nuggets to be successful.
One embarrassing aspect of the Nuggets already embarrassing defense is their half-hearted attempt to double players that don’t need to be doubled. Remember in Austin Powers when Fat Bastard confesses, “I eat because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because I eat”? That type of vicious cycle can be applied to the Nuggets defense. They don’t play good man-to-man defense, and thus, can’t defend the opponent’s best player — so they decide to double. But when they double they eliminate the point of doubling by not truly cutting off the outlet passing lane, which leads to the opponent kicking the ball out to a wide open teammate who usually scores anyways. In the end, the opponent ends up scoring no matter what and it all comes back to the Nuggets inability to come prepared with a solid defensive scheme and play one-on-one defense.
By doubling, nothing gets solved. In fact, it actually exacerbates the Nuggets problems even more as the opponent almost always ends up with a clean look, which in turn demoralizes the Nuggets confidence on the defensive side of the ball. At one point during the game the Nuggets actually quadruple-teamed Andrew Bynum which I’ve never seen before in the NBA. Yes, Bynum was playing great on Friday but let’s keep in mind, this is only Andrew Bynum were talking about. He’s a good player, but one you simply have to live with if he decides to go off. Instead of doubling, keep fresh bodies on him, try to get him frustrated (which Bynum usually will) and make it absolutely paramount to deny him the ball in the post. Easier said than done perhaps, but still a much less risky plan that doubling.
As always when the Nuggets lose, Karl is the topic of conversation. Against the Lakers he made his fair share of perplexing decisions, most obviously benching Faried and Gallo for much of the second half. Here’s the problem with that: Faried and Gallinari are without question two of the best players on the Nuggets roster. They’re to the Nuggets what Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are to the Spurs. These are guys you simply must have in during the closing minutes of the game no matter how badly they’ve played up to that point. Gallinari’s minutes were given to Brewer, who played good defense but couldn’t do anything on offense, which virtually made his presence on the floor a wash. And that’s what’s difficult to grasp: Faried and Gallinari are also two of the Nuggets better defenders. Having them in the game is a win-win situation no matter what. The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla tweeted about this after the game.
Where Karl undoubtedly deserves credit is with his passion. Honestly, and this is no exaggeration, in the third quarter when he received a technical for jumping off the bench and nearly biting the referee’s head off — that was the most enthusiasm I’ve seen from Karl during his entire tenure with the Nuggets. I truly thought he was going to get thrown out of the game. Though Karl’s decision-making and micromanagement skills can drive you up a wall at times, what’s always got under my skin is his nonchalant, no-urgency, “I’m fine with losing” attitude. You see and hear it during press conferences, in interviews and in games as well, when he’ll do nothing but put his head in his hands or seem to accept losing as inevitable. If he coached every game with as much animation as he did on Friday, fans would be about a million times more lenient with him than they currently are because at least they know he cares about winning as much as they do.
Overall, while this game was winnable, it’s tough to knock the Nuggets too hard. The Lakers played great and so did the Nuggets for most of the second half. People were really trying, especially on defense, and made a point of running when they could. It’s imperative the Nuggets win as many games as possible from here on out as avoiding the Spurs and Thunder should be atop the priority list.