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.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Rick James (Super Freak): We already talked about McGee’s performance above, but boy was it something to behold. For years the Nuggets have lacked a center with the type of characteristics McGee possess — mainly in that he’s a true center, built with athleticism and a skill set to match. In the NBA, he’s an incredibly valued asset and one the Nuggets are likely going to have to overpay (yet again) to retain. I’ve mentioned before that the Nuggets might be limiting his role and playing time to prevent his price-tag from jumping in the summer. But games like these counteract that plan and prove he’s probably worth most of the money he’ll collect. An under-covered aspect of the last half of the season has been McGee’s development and progress while with the Nuggets. There was the McGee of Washington, and now the McGee of Denver. He seems to be two different players. Thanks to Melvin Hunt’s dedication to working with McGee, we’re now seeing a player that avoids silly, futile mistakes and instead plays fundamental basketball — for the most part. The bottom line though all this: McGee is the type of guy the Nuggets have been searching for for a long time. Nuggets fans should root for his development (and thus, performances like these) to continue, but at the same time realize that retaining him this summer is going to cost a pretty penny. As long as he remains under Melvin Hunt’s wing, it should be worth it.
  2. Oh, Oh, Oh, It’s Magic: The Nuggets won this game with defense, plain and simple. After going back and fourth with the Magic the Nuggets finally locked down on defense, upon which their lead grew and grew and grew. It’s really no secret: When the Nuggets actually play defense, they’re a really tough team to beat. It’s frustrating they don’t play this well on a more consistent basis, but if they can manage to turn it on come playoff time they should at least be able to give their opponent a run for its money, rather than laying down and dying like they do every year.
  3. Hawkeye: All Nuggets fans should be rooting for the Hawks to beat the Mavericks on Thursday. In all likelihood the Nuggets will win at least one of their remaining two road games against Oklahoma City and Minnesota. This would put them at an even record with Dallas who would then own the tiebreaker and receive the sixth seed. However, if the Mavericks lose against the Hawks all Denver has to do is win one of their remaining two games on the road in order to secure the sixth seed, where they’ll likely face the L.A. Lakers. Of course, as long as Denver wins out, the sixth seed will be theirs — which is obviously the ideal situation.
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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.
  • Hawkeye-X

    Solid all-around game. Can’t be disappointed.

    The real test is with Oklahoma City – if the Nuggets can hold or beat Thunders at their turf, then we just might have a chance. Just sayin’…..

  • HD

    McGee’s post game is very very very ugly/awkward…however if we can oop it to him everytime we won’t have a problem. Plus beautiful lefty hook from koufos, very impressive. GO NUGZ!

  • Charlie

    The Nuggets’ starters are really starting to gel. When it comes to the Nuggets, I rarely think about a team that has great chemistry, but the foundation this team is built around is really showing some promise.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

    The most important to keep in mind with McGee is in the first game versus the Magic he could not stay on the floor because he did not/could not grasp the concept that switching screens meant he might have to leave the paint and cover an opponent on the perimeter. The difference between that night roughly three weeks ago and tonight were impressive. McGee not only was able to step out and defend on switches, he also recovered and blocked a couple of shots for good measure.

    The other good news was that players other than Andre are getting the timing down on those pretty lobs that he is so fantastic at converting. Lawson had a couple and Brewer threw a difficult one from the baseline over the basket.

    The bottom line is McGee is proving he is coachable. We all know that physically he has all the tools. If he can continue to progress at this rate it is great news for the Nuggets and validates the trust the front office has in the coaching staff to develop players.

    • Frontrange

      McGee is still a work in progress on the defense end . . while I was LOL on his lob dunks. He did manage to not switch a screen and then rolled right into Andre’s way resulting in a uncontested lay-up for Smith.

      I find it kind of amazing that his mom played pro ball yet he lacks fundmental skills. He is clearly super athletic (strong, quick, tall, ups – all of it), but I am still not sold on what he will become.

      It’s like Birdman on steriods . . . you could certainly win with him being an important part of championship team, but not if he was one of 3 best players.

  • GK4PREZ

    What happened to the Nuggets in these last two games, where is the team that sleepwalks through the 3rd quarter?

  • stevesf47

    Go Nugs! Just throwing this out…It looks like Harden and Artest will be out a few games due to Artests elbow giving Harden a concussion. This is great news for us either way. My guess is Artest is suspended for at least 3-5 games since he’s a repeat offender. He locks down Gallo pretty good so maybe we can sneak a win or 2 while he’s out of the lineup. With Harden, concussions are tricky. He could miss a game or alot more. If we fall to the 7th spot, once again maybe our bench can outperform OKC and we can close them out. Regardless, Go Nugs!

  • legalize denver nuggets

    Gotta love seeing the kind of exchange Ty and javale had after Ty found him for the oop. Looks like this team is liking playing with each other.
    Glad to see gallo drain a couple, just hoe this injury didn’t shake his confidence in driving to the hoop.
    I’m officially quivering with excitement for the playoffs! Go nugs!

  • aaron@calvarybible.com

    Wow, that Laker win was BAD for the Nuggets. We want either the Clips or the Spurs. Both are looking unlikely now.

    Does anyone think Karl will go with some Twin Tower lineups against Gasol and Bynum? How about K2 and McGee? Or McGee and Mozzy? A return of Birdman?

    I know we like to play small and dictate to the other team how to play us. But, I think with the Lakers, it’s time to try something new, just for 5-10 minutes a game.

  • Ernie

    To me what was so different about this JaVale McGee experience was that we finally punished the opposition for going small. With Howard out Stan Van put Big Baby in for most of the game at the 5, and typically GK counters with a small lineup of his own (maybe it was because Harrington was out that it was different last night).

    This time he left McGee in to score on dunks over and over again. Even his post moves were effective against the smaller lineup. And the Magic seemed scared to drive in the lane and get their shots swatted. Hopefully this is not a one-time thing, and McGee will continue to be efficient and engaged.

  • Clutch

    To me it’s looking like the Nuggets will play the Lakers. And I like our chances especially now that JaVale is playing better and better and Artest may not be there to bother Gallo.