Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 101, Houston Rockets 86

Houston Rockets 86 FinalRecap | Box Score 101 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 29 MIN | 2-4 FG | 6-7 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +5
Where there’s energy, there’s Kenneth Faried. Though he started out slow, like always, Faried heated up with the action. It’s almost as if you can’t play him less than 25 minutes per game because it takes him so long to build up momentum — but once he does, Faried can change the outcome of the game with his energy, just as he did Sunday against the Rockets.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | +9
Gallinari didn’t stand out in any specific area but he played much better than in the previous game against the Lakers. It was nice to see him avoid forcing up shots when he couldn’t dice through the lane like he’s used to doing. Patience is something Gallo is learning on the fly and judging by his growth between only two games, he’s approaching this this idea with an open mind.
Kosta Koufos, C 20 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | +11
Early on Koufos was one of the few Nuggets who kept his team in the game. He played solid defense and rebounded the ball like he’s capable of doing. As time passed Koufos’ role diminished but it doesn’t take away from the fact that he did his job as well as anyone on the floor.
Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 9-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | +15
It’s truly amazing to watch the evolution of Arron Afflalo. Remember in the beginning of the season when people were throwing out trade scenarios because of his slow start? Look where we are now. Afflalo has been the most consistent player on the team the entire year, is averaging career highs across the board (including points, at 15 per game) and is capable of scoring almost whenever he wants. In the month of April, Afflalo is averaging 20 points, four rebounds and four assists per game on .485 shooting from the field. Simply remarkable.
Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 7-15 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 20 PTS | +11
Lawson rebounded from a pretty horrendous outing in L.A. to put up a nice performance back at home. He was aggressive from the get-go, buzzing around the floor with tremendous speed, and looked to score frequently. In a critical, must-win game, it was nice to see this Ty Lawson show up.
Al Harrington, PF 21 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | +8
These stats are a bit misleading as Harrington didn’t seem to have that bad of a game. Perhaps his shooting was off, but he was everywhere from my point of view. He played good defense on Scola at times and hit a couple big shots. Interesting nonetheless.
Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 11 AST | 6 PTS | +9
Once again Miller was looking to inflict damage from the opening whistle. He was a bit careless with the ball and took some ill-advised shots, but his attitude, mentality and versatility really helped propel the Nuggets to the win.
Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 14 PTS | +5
And Corey Brewer continues to be the model of inconsistency! One game after going scoreless in 19 minutes of action Brewer drops 14 off the bench on 7-12 from the field while acting a primary spark plug for the Nuggets energetic second half of play. This type of Corey Brewer performance is one that can save a team’s ass in the Playoffs; his performance against the Lakers however, is the type that can lose you a game. Karl just needs to be aware of when Brewer is hot and when he isn’t. The biggest maxim we’ve learned: Don’t play him too many minutes either way.
Wilson Chandler, SF 7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -4
Karl didn’t give Chandler a lot of playing time after returning from his injury and it worked out well. He played excellent defense for a short stretch then rested the rest of the game. The Nuggets will need him come playoff time; hopefully he’s ready to contribute heavily by then.
JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +6
It wasn’t an in-your-face type of performance but McGee played very well on Sunday. The most important thing: He committed no mistakes. He had no turnovers and played sound the entire time he was in the game. He had a monster block that led to one of the best sequences of the Nuggets season and grabbed some pretty huge boards too. Like we always say, if McGee can limit his mistakes he’s a huge asset to have. But if he can eliminate them all together like he did tonight, he’s a total game changer.
Jordan Hamilton, G 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0

Five Things We Saw

  1. Blastoff: This was the biggest game of the season — there was no way around it. It was a game the Nuggets had to win, and not only did they win, they won in an incredibly impressive fashion. This team is so difficult to predict. They are the NBA embodiment of the famous Forrest Gump quote, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna to get.” Thankfully, for at least one night, the team so many fans around the world care about showed up and played phenomenal basketball. It’s times like these when you’re proud to be fan.
  2. 86: I don’t know what it says about the Nuggets when their opponent’s lowest point total of the year comes with only a few games left in the season, but it was good to see. This was a playoff game. It had the atmosphere, intensity and stakes and both teams knew it. At first the game was a seesaw lead change back and fourth between which team played with more energy on defense, but in the second half the Nuggets were the ones who clamped down and it clearly showed in the final score. If the Nuggets play with this type of defensive effort for the rest of the season (including the playoffs), I have no doubt they can make a push for the conference finals — and yes, you heard that correctly.
  3. Karl Credit: Fans don’t hesitate to slam the coach when things aren’t working out (and this includes bloggers), but they need to acknowledge when he gets things firing on all cylinders. That was the case on Sunday. The Nuggets actually played like the team we all know they’re capable of being. You simply have to give Karl credit in this regard. Does he get the team to play like this all the time? No. Not at all in fact. But when he does, for that game only, you need to give credit where it’s due. He obviously gave a good halftime speech and emphasized defense, and when Budinger was going off in the first quarter he put Chandler on him to slow him down, which worked. My only gripe would be why he played the starters for so long when the game was clearly over. But in a win this big, it’s hard to complain too much about anything.
  4. Jet Fuel: The Nuggets remaining games are at Houston, vs the Clippers, at Phoenix, vs Orlando, at Oklahoma City and at Minnesota. While only two of those will be played in the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets still have the ability to beat five of those opponents if they play with the type of zeal they did on Sunday. Moving as far up as they can in the standings must be the Nuggets one and only priority at this point. If the Nuggets can draw the Clippers or Lakers in the first round, they’ll at least have a chance to force an upset.
  5. Houston, We Have a Problem: I’d just like to take a brief moment to point out how much I despise Luis Scola and the Rockets overall approach to taking charges. They play with the same dramatic, flamboyant body language and cheap tactics of a South American soccer team. They don’t play NBA basketball; they play the referees. Instead of playing with dignity, they play like cowards. While everyone in the league flops and takes charges more than they should, the Rockets are doing it like it’s going out of style. At some point, it’s gotta stop. The NBA must address this issue before it turns into a league that average fans are turned off by due to rampant and excessive acting.
The following two tabs change content below.

Kalen Deremo

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.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • CJP32

    Game Ball goes to Corey Brewer – for the 2nd game in a row, his defense was infectious. At the end of the 3rd when he entered, Denver were up by 10, 74-64. Nuggets then went on a 23-11 run, where he had 10 pts, 3 asts and 1 stl, whilst also holding Goran Dragic to 1/4 FGs, 0 asts and 1 TO.

    This is the type of game Brewer is best accustomed to – running and finishing at the rim. He plays best with Andre Miller. Gallo again didn’t play much in the 4th because GK went with the energy guys.

    It was Brewer who helped Denver get to within 91-90 vs the Lakers, then it was his team mates who misfired the rest of the way in that loss. You don’t always need to score points to be effective in a game, and defensively, GK thought he was remarkable.

    With the Playoffs just around the corner, we need more of these types of games from Brewer – Chandler is clearly injured and Gallo’s shot is way off.

  • evan

    Go Nuggets.


  • ryanvdonk

    firey george > calm george

    coach karl for the second night looked like he cared and showed he emotion we thought he lost in the 90s…result was a fired up team with a commitment to both ends of the floor

  • Whimanji

    The beat thing GK did the whole game was putting brewer on dragic. It took Houston out of there gameplan and fired up the transition game. I think the most important thing is to see how they respond to this good win tomorrow. We need miller and Ty to be extra aggressive if we want to win this next one and hopefully guard the 3 better. Overall good energy and fight! Go Nugs!

  • Landry

    All energy team

    Lawsome (He like the energizer bunny, he just keeps going)
    Afflalo (I mean he only plays 40 mins every game)
    Brewer (If he wasn’t here I don’t think the list would make sense)
    Faried (No list in complete without the “Manimal”
    Birdman (I mean what else does meth do???)

    • HD

      Birdman = Heroin, not meth… :)

      • Landry

        true true

  • Ryan

    I think the Rockets almost have to flop to be honest. They aren’t very athletic or talented, so I give them some credit for being where they are in the standings with so little talent, but I agree that it’s not very fun to watch a team that plays that way. My question is this: Why are the Spurs praised by pretty much everyone when they play the same way? While they are better players, Ginobili and Parker are two of the most egregious floppers in the league and no one can match Duncan when it comes to eye-bulging and complaints to the ref. As we all have seen from previous playoff matchups with the Spurs, no one gets more dubious calls than them. Perhaps the Rockets are mimicking their in-state rivals?

  • Landry

    The all anti-trustance team

    The Stone-missile
    J-Ham ( I’m blind to you Haterz!!!)
    Mozgov Cocktail( 1 shot vodka 3 shots disappointment…)
    Birdman ( sadly his knees couldn’t hold out)
    Faried ( I mean how does he get 20 DNP-Coach Decision???)

  • Desean

    This was a disgusting performance tonight. Fire George karl and clean house. This roster is one big bunch of no-good cry-baby losers… Except kenny, he can stay

    • stevesf47

      Youre Fired!

    • Blair

      I’d like to see you do better at spotting potential

  • al68

    Con la calidad que tenemos los partidos hay que ganarlos en defensa, como hoy.

    Brewer muy bien junto con Faried contagian energia al resto del equipo.

    Koufos es el center mas fiable del equipo, necesitamos mucho mas de Mcgee aunque creo que nunca lo va a dar.

    No entiendo porque ahora el ataque 5×5 es tan malo se quedan botando el balon AAA y Gallo 15 cada vez. ¿ es que GK no se acuerda que los mejores partidos de comienzo de temporada se consiguieron moviendo el balon y encontrando tiros faciles?.

    Otro año fuera en 1º ronda.

  • stevesf47

    COME ON BOYS…if we can pull off another win tonight we are in the drivers seat for 7th. Dallas has a tough schedule remaining also similar to us so we can battle for the 6th. LET’S GO NUGS!

    • Ernie

      Actually I think if Dallas loses at Utah tonight the Nuggets would be in sole posession of 6th with a win. And Dallas has one more meeting with Houston, so one of them has to lose one more as well.

  • DH

    I agree, Kalen. Karl should get credit where credit is due. I think he did a fairly good job against the Lakers, under the circumstances. And I think he did well last night. To me, he seems to be stepping up his game. He’s more fiery. He’s holding players accountable – at least more than he was previously – in his comments and in his substitutions. He’s (miraculously) keeping a center on the floor more often. He’s making better in-game adjustments. It’s a small sample size, but I’ll take any improvement we can get from GK.

    On the other hand, I was just as as perplexed as you about why he had starters in the game so late. Can you imagine if Ty had gotten hurt? I didn’t understand that at all.

    On the subject of Houston’s flopping, I know how you feel, because I felt that way about Utah for years. It was as if Sloan started every training camp with a week’s worth of Flopping 101. For such a good coach, and a guy who had a reputation as a tough-as-nails player, it was despicable to me. I am convinced to this day that in 1994, when the Nugs beat Seattle in the playoffs, we would have also beaten Utah if the refs hadn’t been completely duped by their flopping. The league needs to find a way to get it out of the game.

    Big game tonight. If we win, we can breathe a little easier. If we lose, we’re right back to fighting for our lives, with a tough remaining schedule. Go Nugs!

    • GK4Prez

      The first thing that needs to be done to get rid of flopping is to remove the charge circle in the lane. Getting rid of it would cause the refs to watch the ball/player instead of watching their feet.

      • TheWolfman

        I would be one to argue going the other way and say making the charge circle larger would help cut down on NBA’s floppyness.

  • http://espn Gary

    Think at the end of the day, the Nuggets really are who they are. Their inconsistency is the only thing consistent about them and hoping or that to change at this stage is a bit fool-hardy. Talent wise they are just above the bubble, where they can beat teams like Houston, who’s probably the definition of average, but don’t stand a chance against top 4 in the West, irrespective of thier energy levels or injuries. The Clippers are the only shot (outside) for a possible first round upset, but we need to overtake the Mavs for that and that’s unlikely.
    Karl still needs to go and the core needs to get younger, more talented and bigger. In other words there are some good foundation pieces (Lawson, Gallo, Faried), but this team is still 2 solid off-seasons away from being close to a real contendor. And for any of that to even happen, regretfully GK has to depart.

    • Ernie

      To get the 5 spot they need to pass Memphis, which would be a tall order. Memphis has the tie-break.

      • http://espn Gary

        Oh, that’s right. Getting past the Mavs only guarantees a date with the suky Lakers. No chance either way….enjoy the 4 game post-season while it lasts I guess.

      • Blair

        Memphis lost to the Hornets… think about that for a minute..

        • Ernie

          So did we. Twice. It still means making up 3 games with 6 left to play. Memphis would have to go 3-3 just to give the Nuggets a chance.

    • bdmacl

      Ever since Ty came to the Nuggets, I have been a fan. But now, I am questioning my own loyalty. I think that in order to make that next jump to a better team, we need a taller PG who will consistently attack the basket and open things up for everyone else. We can’t have “Ty played great” one night and “where was Ty?” the next night. And when Ty appears to be aggressiveness, it looks like it is because of the bigs in the middle. So a taller, consistently aggressive PG is necessary in my opinion. Ty should have used this year to cement himself as floor general. He has not.

      • SmokinNugs

        If you’re referencing Ty disappearing against the Lakers because of their 7 footers I’d like to remind you of this.


        Yea that’s Ty dunking on one of their 7 footers. Ty isn’t scared to go to the hole against anyone, he just needs to feel motivated to do it. There have been a lot of shorter PG’s who have done just fine in the league.

      • SmokinNugs

        Also how can Ty cement himself as floor general with GK playing Andre with him for half the game? First there was Chauncey, then there was Felton, now there is Andre. If you really want to see Ty take off, get these backseat drivers out of here!

  • Tom

    Lawson is in the 10-15 range of best PGs.
    Afflalo is in the 10-15 range of best SGs.
    Gallinari is in the 5-10 range of best SFs.
    Faried is in the 10-15 range of best PFs.
    Koufos/Mozgov/McGee are in the 20-30 range of best Cs.
    The bench, when healthy, is probably top 5.

    Put it all together and the Nuggets are about the 10-15th best team in the league talent-wise, and lo!, they have the 13th best record in the NBA. I’d say they are playing to expectations. Sure, when healthy, they have the potential to be top 10, but I’m pretty happy with 13th given all of the injuries they’ve had. If they get relatively healthy for the playoffs, then they should be a tough 1st-round match-up no matter who they’re playing.

    • Kalen

      That’s an interesting way of looking at it but remember, Denver also has by far the best bench in the league. Considering bench players can account for more minutes than some starters, the Nuggets really have more combined talent than a lot of teams with a few “stars.” As long as the Nuggets play defense and play the right way, there is plenty of offensive talent to carry the team when needed. Imagine what Popovich could do with this Nuggets squad…

      • evan

        You forgot to mention Andre Miller and All Harrington. Two 6th man of the year candidates. Teams are typically lucky to have just one. And Wilson Chandler too would be in the discussion if he was with them all season. So, that’s 3.


  • Ryan

    Tonight’s game is HUGE because a win would give us the tiebreaker over Houston. If we lose, the season series would be tied, but Houston would get the tiebreaker because of a better conference record. Let’s hope the Nuggets are adequately motivated by that tonight.
    Side note: I’m not happy about Karl saying the last 7 games of the season is like a playoff series and we need to win 4 games. Winning 4 games doesn’t guarantee anything! We should be desperate to win all 7 to avoid the Thunder/Spurs! Will the low expectations ever stop??

    • jim

      he’s saying without those four games we can’t think about making the playoffs, not that we should only try to win four. he’s not being delusional or having low expectations. i agree with above comments – gk’s been the go to leader the last couple of games he’s been looking for all year. that’s a good thing.

      and speaking of low expectations, why play to avoid the spurs/thunder? if the nuggets play hard on both sides of the court, they can play with anybody. if they don’t, well, let’s watch those recent losses to the warriors and hornets again.

      i don’t trust the nuggets yet. my pipe dream is that this year with all the crazy lineups ends now and we solidify and come together the way we can play. there’s no more playing down to opponents level anyway. if they can do that, remains to be seen. can they learn from last year playoffs? odds are against us. go nugs!

  • Evan S

    Why does everyone want to play the lakers in the first round? IMO we would be much better off against San Antonio. We have always had trouble against their size and now Bynums playing like an all star. They just beat us w/o Kobe. SA is old and if we can fastbreak on them I think we would have a legitimate shot at beating them.

    • Ernie

      San Antonio and OKC just have the Nuggets number. Their PGs have outplayed Ty, and Ty dominating is IMHO the key to advancing in any series. Would be shocking to me if they could go more than 5 games.

      The Lakers would probably be a loss as you suggest, but Ty has a big advantage against Sessions and the team has had success playing tough against the Lakers in the past. More likely to be a tough series where a few bounces could make it fun.

    • DH

      I think we would have a tough time against either team. But let me add some thoughts to the discussion…

      1. We might have a better chance against LA with Kobe. The less they play through their bigs, the better it would be for us.

      2. I think it’s a mistake to think of SA as being “old”. Duncan is old, but he’s only averaging 28 min/game. Manu is old, but he seems to be just about as effective as he’s always been. Parker is only 29, although it seems like he’s been around forever. And SA is getting significant contributions from Kawhi Leonard (20), DeJuan Blair (22), Patty Mills (23), Danny Green (24), Tiago Splitter (27), and Gary Neal (27). Most of them average over 20 min/game.

      LA, on the other hand, gets a lot of their production from 5 players who are all over 30 (Kobe, Gasol, MWP, Barnes, and Blake).

      3. SA has Gregg Popovich. To get an idea of how good of a coach he is, look at that list of players I mentioned who are getting significant minutes (and keep in mind that Manu was out for half the year), then look at their record. It’s just amazing, if you ask me.

      • jim

        gotta agree popovich is incredible. coy.

      • Tom

        Now that Phil Jackson is “retired”, Popovich is probably the best coach in the league (though, Thibodeau and GK are pretty good too). However, Duncan is a HoFer. Ginobili and Parker, while they may not make the HoF, are definitely solid all-star quality players. All three of those guys (when healthy) are top 5 in the NBA at their positions and better than anyone on the Nuggets. The role players are about as good as the role players on the Nuggets. The Nuggets bench is better, but not significantly. The Spurs are simply a better team with a better coach, and they’ve been that way for most of the past decade.

        (PS — I agree that if the Nuggets got LA in the 1st round, it would be better for them if Kobe played.)

  • Hawkeye-X

    NBA has to come up with a new rule for floppers like Scola.

    First flop, a technical
    Second flop, ejection (automatic)
    Third and subsequent flops – one game suspension.

    Make it painful.

  • Evan S

    Tough either way but I feel like it would be tough to beat the lakers 4 times. There was one game this year where we blew out the spurs the whole game (also happened the other way around) and also that werid game at the beginning of the season when Danny Green couldn’t miss and was pretty close. What the spurs lack is athleticism which is why I think they would be an easier matchup for us because we fast and have a couple leapers. IF the nuggets focus and play disciplined they can win. If not the spurs are so fundamentally sound they will always make the right play and make the open shot.

  • Ryan

    I agree with Ernie, OKC is the worst matchup because Ty can’t guard Westbrook (not that anyone else in the league can either, but still), plus the Nuggets horrible perimeter defense plays into the hands of Durant and Harden, while Perkins and Ibaka bully around our bugs. Perfect storm of sorts.
    We have a punchers chance against the Spurs, but the Spurs seem to know exactly how to keep the Nuggets from scoring in transition and exploit mismatches. It would take 4 nearly perfect games to beat them, which isn’t likely.
    Best case scenario: A rusty/injured Kobe jacks up 30 jumpers a game allowing for long rebounds that the Nuggets can fast break with, negating Bynum and Gasol. Also, GK and Mike Brown both have curious substitution patterns and strategies, so that’s a wash. In short, shoot for no. 6 seed!!