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.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Straight-A Students: As you can tell by the grades, every starter besides Gallinari received an ‘A’ or better. One of the main storylines of the game was the Nuggets ability to capitalize on their superior matchups with the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix was not able to get 38-year old Steve Nash any help in terms of containing Ty Lawson and even a brilliant 13-assist performance from Nash was not enough to get them within striking distance. At this point in the season, it’s clear the Nuggets starters are beginning to develop some nice chemistry and the game probably wouldn’t have ever been close if George Karl was inclined to stick with his starters for longer.
  2. No Small Frye: Channing Frye went down hard in the first half and left the game with a right shoulder subluxation, which could cause him to miss the final few games of the season. Frye is a role player the Nuggets pursued in free agency back in 2009 and has become a major piece for the Suns as their starting Power Forward. He is rangy four who can draw Faried out of the paint and challenge him to defend the perimeter, which is a big reason Frye’s loss was costly and immediately swung the game in the Nuggets’ favor. With Grant Hill already sitting out due to injury, the Suns were without two key cogs of their rotation and it’s good to see the Nuggets take care of business in a game they had no excuse not to win. Denver is catching another big break tomorrow against Orlando without Dwight Howard and hopefully they’ll be able to capitalize in a similar fashion.
  3. Playing with Pride: This was far from the Nuggets best effort defensively and their struggles defending the three have been well-chronicled at Roundball Mining Company. Phoenix opened the game shooting five of six from three and the Nuggets came dangerously close to allowing another role player like Shannon Brown to beat them from outside. Thankfully, Brown chucked the Suns out of the game with no remorse and the Nuggets were able to tighten up their perimeter defense enough to come away with a comfortable win despite getting limited contributions out of their bench. The defense of Gallinari, Koufos, and Faried was instrumental to securing a win that clinches Denver’s ninth straight playoff birth and it’s becoming more and more clear that Denver does have the personnel and ability to adjust and play good-enough defense when needed.
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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • NuggLove

    Denver to the Finals. We can do it!

  • magster

    That win was just superbly satisfying. The feeling I have now is similar to having just eaten a perfectly grilled t-bone steak and garlic mashed potatoes. Just a ‘life is good’ feeling.

  • Andrew

    Crucial win. I really like K2’s defense down low. Every time I watched him, he seemed to be keeping the Suns bigs off boards and playing tough d. Karl should give him 20 minutes.

    I think Nuggets can wrap up 7th seed with a win against Orlando tomorrow night. Trap game with Howard out. Hopefully, the Nuggets will take it seriously and power past them. 6th seed is not out of the question, but Denver would need Dallas to lose a couple (Bulls today and, I think, Atlanta on road) and then beat at least Minnesota in that last game.

    Keep me honest, did I get that right? GO NUGGS!!

  • Tom

    Unrelated, but Nene is back from injury and was key in the Wizards last win vs the Bucks. His PER with Washington is 23.3, and nothing but praise is lavished on him by their blog:

    I would trade McGee and Chandler straight-up for Nene right now. You’d have to like Denver’s playoff chances better with Nene on the court in crunch-time over the small-ball lineups that most of you guys hate.

    • http://www.swag.com Gerardo

      That’s because nene has only played in a handful of games..

    • deshon

      Nene’s per is only up because he’s on the wizards lol and is the second or third best player on the team.

  • Jim

    I think the nuggets can mathematically get fifth if they win out and Memphis loses out.

    Nuggets looked really good when they play hard. I’m sick of watching every team we play have a shooter who has a career night from three point every game. Every backup guard seems to have their Jeremy Lin moment against the nuggets. Shannon brown and telfair looked like all stars tonight. I wish The nuggets would get mad and knock somebody down once.

    But that’s nitpicky. Suns have been playing well and nugs still beat them soundly on the road. They really have played pretty well for many games in a row. I’m liking the lineups and the shortened rotations. We look good right now.

  • CJP32

    If tonights Ty shows up in the Playoffs, we will be ok. GK has his 9 man rotation set. Gallo took 13 shots to get 13 pts – still looks a little hesitant. McGee picked it up in the 2nd. Brewer is shooting a high FG% over last 5 games – his role is score on fast breaks. Dre was sloppy as hell in the first half. Al was ok. Afflalo was ok.

    Was a good win, but we need to thump orlando tomorrow.

  • Andrew

    Good call on the grades tonight, Charlie. I still think K2 should get 5-10 more minutes, but the Nuggets looked good otherwise. Gallo definitely looked better and more healthy than he has in any other game since he has been back. Hopefully he can round into form within the next week here. He is crucial if the Nuggets want to have any chance of competing in the playoffs.

  • Will

    you can’t just look at one night’s game and conclude that Brewer should get more playing time over Miller. In most games, Brewer doesn’t rebound, he doesn’t create his own shot, and he doesn’t get assists. Everyone has good days – but Miller is normally much more productive..

    • Charlie

      Brewer’s minutes are extremely limited when he doesn’t play well, whereas Miller can be horrible and in some cases sees even more time.

      When you look at the whole season, Miller and Brewer have been equally inconsistent, so it’s frustrating to see the no-effort Miller reap all the rewards with no sense of accountability

    • CJP32

      In this offense, Brewer doesn’t need to create his own shot, anyone who knows fast break basketball would realise that Brewer is one of the fasted sprinters, one of the best cutters and one of the better finishes in the open court.

      As long as Brewer limits his outside shooting, then he’s a good energy guy to have on the team – and come Playoff time, we will need every ounce of energy.

      Brewer did not have a defined role when he joined Denver, but over time he has found his niche to be 15-20 mins off the bench and just supply energy. Sometimes its chaotic, most times its effective. But when he scores 9 pts per game in less than 20 mins, and collects some steals, assists and has minimal turnovers – those numbers help your team.

  • Daniel

    Typo on the title guys. Good win Nuggets. I think we are catching fire at the right time, really starting to gain some chemistry. I agree that Gallo is going to have to return to his early season form in order to be successful in the playoffs.

    KK is turning into to a solid 5 that the Nuggets really needed. He does whats asked of him, slid D boxing out on the boards and finishing around the rim. I like Javale coming off the bench with Andre, Brew and Al for some energy. I wish Jham would get some minutes because he would get some much needed scoring into that second unit and hopefully cut down on the ridiculous amount of the two pg crap GK loves.

    Shannon Brown went off tonight mostly while Miller was half-heartedly “contesting” his shots. Oh well, maybe next year when Stone and Ham aren’t rookies anymore they’ll get some burn.

  • Tom

    Because Memphis keeps winning, there’s a chance they could get the 3rd seed. Denver is currently in the 6th seed, so Denver vs Memphis is a possibility. If that happens, then 4vs5 would be LA vs LA. That would be pretty interesting, but I still would rather take the Lakers on.

    • Andrew

      I would rather take on the Lakers too, just because I love to hate them. If the Lakers beat OKC in L.A. tomorrow and Denver beats Orlando, I can see this happening as follows:

      1) OKC would then be down by two games to SA for the 1st seed, meaning SA should clinch by next Tuesday by beating beating two non-playoff teams, meaning it is plausible that OKC would rest its starters for the Denver game (their last game of the year),
      2) Dallas lost today, so Denver is a game up in the loss column.
      3) Assuming Denver beats Orlando at home tomorrow, they would need to either beat BOTH OKC and Minny on the road to gain the 6th seed, or just win 1 and have Dallas lose at Atlanta the last game of the year.
      4) Lakers have the tiebreaker over both Clippers and Grizzlies, and would only have to beat Sacramento to clinch the 3rd seed.

  • Aaron

    I Have A Feeling McGee Wont Even Think About Signing Back With Denver. He Hardly Ever Gets 20 Mins A Game, Looks Like The Nene And McGee Trade Worked Out WAY Better For The Wizards.

    • chris

      mcgee is restricted so he can’t leave unless denver lets him go. There is no doubt Nene is the superior player right now, but he’s also not getting younger, has a big contract, and has missed over half the games since the trade.

    • Adam

      McGee will be back next year. He has a great mini hook shot, and is only 24! He goes hard to the basket, (unlike Nene) and grabs boards. Look, Nene was great to have in Denver, but McGee is the FAR better player, now, and in the future.

  • Eddie

    Orlando lost in overtime. I was hoping for triple overtime.

  • Hernan

    Think about it this way, 2 years from now Nene will be paid 13 million dollars, even if his production is the same as it is now ( which is near impossible) it will still be a waste of money, even if we lose Javale Mcgee this year. Does anyone know if we have enough space to get Chris Kaman in free agency?

  • http://nugznazty.wordpress.com/ Owen

    teams id like to play in order: Clippers, Spurs, Lakers, Thunder. I know the Spurs are amazing this year or whatever, but we match up with them much better than the Lakers, we all know we have nothing except mozgov on Bynum. The reason we lost last year to the Thunder was really a matter of match ups. I thought we could beat any team but them :( unfortunately the opportunity to play in the illustrious CBA took away 3 of our boys .

  • Colin

    I live in Oregon in now (I grew up in Colorado), so I don’t get to watch as much of the Nugshow as I’d like. Today though. That was a treat. That’s the best I’ve seen our fast break in a long time. 26 points out on the break. Maybe it’s because I only get to see a handful of games every year, but they just seemed more efficient with it today than normal. So fun to watch! Plus a playoff-clinching win, in a nationally-televised game. Glad I was finally able to see them play!

    • Aaron

      Ayy if u Really Wanna Watch Nuggets Games Just Look Up Either “First Row Sports” Or “Atdhe.Net” On Google. They Have Links That Work 99% Of The Time.

  • parkhillnative

    Hey Charlie, just wanted to remind you, Ty Lawson has had at least one 30+ point game in his career: