Nuggets center, Chris Andersen, was excused indefinitely from the team today in light of a raid performed on his house Thursday morning by Douglas County sheriffs seeking information on an Internet crimes against children investigation.
Not much is known at this point in time. Details are sure to emerge as times passes. What we do know is that this is just about the worst time for these issues to surface, yet Birdman is still innocent until proven guilty. Obviously things don’t look good, at all, but it’s important to refrain from jumping straight to conclusions until more information is gathered.
Once again I joined Andrew Kamenetzky of ESPNLA.com’s Land O’ Lakers blog to discuss Game 6 and whether the series is going, going, back, back, to Cali, Cali.
I have been chided for being negative and pessimistic. To me the negative is simply providing objective analysis. As far as pessimistic, well, you’ve got me there. I have been a fan of the Nuggets for roughly two and a half decades. My personal conclusion is that Nuggets fan and optimist are mutually exclusive.
However, heading into game six I have objectively found several reasons why Nuggets fans can feel
optimistic encouraged about Denver’s chances to force a game seven.
On Tuesday night the Nuggets did something they haven’t done in three years: play great basketball in the playoffs. Although the team won several games since its historic run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009, there was always something missing in those wins. They were hollow — strictly for the sake of putting a “W” on paper and not one in the hearts of their fans. Tuesday was different. On Tuesday, the Nuggets weren’t playing for a “W”; they were playing for the city of Denver, its fans and the pride of both.
|Kenneth Faried, F 24 MIN | 5-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +8
Throughout the series Faried has slowly but surely improved his defense. Tonight his post defense on Pau Gasol was much improved and he produced at high level on the offensive end as well. He did not miss a shot, was the only starter to grab an offensive rebound and would have easily notched another playoff double double had he not been forced to sit out the entire fourth quarter.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 4-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +4
Gallo is still struggling to find his shooting touch. He has remained aggressive after a breakout shooting performance in game four, but was not able to get the same looks to fall in L.A. Gallo’s inability to space the floor with his three point shooting has led to some poor shot selection and less passing. Despite the fact he’s one of Denver’s best passers and their most complete offensive player, Gallo has managed only 7 assist in five games. Offensively, he just isn’t much of a threat and the Nuggets need more.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +4
Mozgov had a typical Mozgov game, contributing absolutely nothing in 13 minutes of action. It’s worth mentioning he was able to create space for the guards with some solid screens in the second half, but otherwise provided nothing outside of a big body to push Bynum off the block and foul him a lot.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 8-19 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | +1
Afflalo finally played like himself, scoring more in the first half (13 pts) than he has in any game throughout the entire series. He was extremely aggressive from the opening tip and showed a willingness to step up and attack when Denver struggled to find scoring. Afflalo didn’t play his best and still can’t make a three to save his life, but the dramatic turnaround in production was sorely needed, even if it does make Afflalo’s lackluster start to the series even more confusing
|Ty Lawson, PG 29 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | +11
The Nuggets typically won’t compete without Ty Lawson carrying the offense, but tonight they were able to do just that. Despite not being able to find his shot, Lawson was able to get into the paint regularly and make things happen. His passing was a cut above anything else we’ve seen in the series and it seemed he was really able to get the pace going without all the added pressure of having to score a lot just to keep the Nuggets within striking distance.
|Al Harrington, PF 27 MIN | 0-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -1
Harrington looked like he didn’t care and played even worse. Injured or not, Harrington is keeping his teammates off the court and the lack of intensity and hustle in his game was tough to take. I have literally never seen a professional player act so indifferent and disinterested in a playoff atmosphere. The Nuggets are counting on Al’s professionalism and unselfishness to help them win. Injury is not a good enough excuse for whatever Harrington is providing them with right now.
|Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 8-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 24 PTS | -5
Miller’s finest game all year, and it just so happens he saved all of his best performances for the playoffs. Miller has obliterated the matchup with Steve Blake and been a magnificent player for Denver all series long. Miller’s decision making and point guard instincts are top notch. He makes things easier for everyone else on the floor when he’s dialed in and proved why doubting his unorthodox style can come back to bite you.
|Corey Brewer, SF 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -1
Tough to grade Brewer’s performance. He was not much of a factor before catching an inadvertent elbow from JaVale McGee which took him out of commission for much of the second half.
|JaVale McGee, C 33 MIN | 9-12 FG | 3-6 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 21 PTS | -6
Another dominant performance. For the first time all series, I thought Denver looked like a legitimately better team with McGee matched up on the Laker bigs. There is not much more to say about McGee’s performance, his superior length and athleticism created spectacular play after spectacular play and it didn’t seem to matter much what the Lakers did in response. JaVale dominated
I once again joined up with Andrew Kamenetzky of ESPNLA’s Land O’ Lakers blog to chat about Game 4 and what we might see in Game 5. Here is the transcript.
There was nothing more surprising in Game 4 than how easily the Lakers won. Not easy as in, playing the Charlotte Bobcats easy… but rather, easy as in… they played slow, uninspired basketball for about 46 minutes and still ended up winning without doing anything special. Some may say the Nuggets handed the victory to the Lakers, but I see it differently. Usually when a team hands over the game to its opponent, there is visible frustration or a dazed glare in the player’s eyes as if they’re in disbelief of what’s happening. On Sunday, the Nuggets didn’t show any of these signs. It was as if they didn’t even realize what was actually going on until the game had finally concluded — something eerily similar to what we’ve seen all season long.
|Kenneth Faried, F 32 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -1
You have two options with Faried: either look at his stat line and excuse it as inexperience and being outmatched, or argue that it’s simply not good enough regardless of whether he’s a rookie or 10-year pro. I chose the latter. Faried showed in Game 3 that he’s more than capable of hitting the glass hard in a playoff game against much taller opponents. In Game 4 he was nowhere to be found. Seven boards are routine; six points is even worse. Faried did play good defense on Gasol but this was largely overshadowed by the fact that he was in terrible position to rebound the entire night. Faried must prove himself again in Game 5.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 9-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | -11
If not for the flop that essentially ended the game, Gallinari likely would have received an A-plus. For the most part Gallinari was spectacular. He hit one jump shot after another and outside of Andre Miller was the only guy looking to score in an aggressive manner. His defense on Kobe should not be overlooked either. He played a large role in limiting Kobe down the stretch and keeping the game close as a result.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -7
How are you supposed to grade Mozgov? Somebody inform me. He played solid post defense — like always — but was pretty unstable in every other aspect of the game. When he remained in for about five minutes to start the second half the Lakers immediately climbed their way back into the game which ended up being a huge momentum swing. While Mozgov does play better against the Lakers, I still think Koufos is a more reliable option, all things considered.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 32 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | +1
After scoring over 15 points in all but one game during the month of April, Afflalo has now failed to score over 11 this entire series. It’s clear that guarding Kobe is taking a toll on him. His legs are probably tired, and as a result, prevent him from knocking down shots or being aggressive the way he usually is. He is 2-11 from downtown this series which is keeping the Nuggets from hitting momentum-changing 3-pointers like the Lakers — who aren’t a good outside shooting team — have in several games already. The bottom line is that Afflalo is an essential part of the Nuggets core, and without his given 15-plus points per game, the Nuggets are a different, much worse team.
|Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 11 PTS | +1
While he’s still averaging 17 points per game in the series as a whole, Lawson’s inconsistency is bothersome. Even if he had scored five more points this game, it would have been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Nuggets. Though he wasn’t exactly timid, he also wasn’t the definition of “threatening” either. If Lawson can bounce back in Game 5 and somehow lead the Nuggets to victory, his weaker performances can be overlooked — after all, inconsistency is a part of basketball. But if he has yet another sub-par outing, it will likely be back to the Trading Machine for Nuggets fans across the globe.
|Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -4
Harrington hit one big 3-pointer but otherwise spent most of his time being abuse by Bynum or Gasol in the post. That’s not really his fault however. Even against the most talented power forward-center duo in the league Karl continues to play Harrington out of position. There’s just not much he can do against Gasol and Bynum defensively. He tries, but he just isn’t effective. On offense, he couldn’t get his shot to fall either. It would have been nice to see him take a few less shots but none were atrocious in terms of location or selection. In the end, Big Al still deserves a round of applause for fighting through a broken nose and still giving it his all for Nuggets Nation.
|Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -1
We’ve been critical of Miller for his selfish style of play, but in games like these it can really pay off. While most of his teammates stood around kicking the dirt with their hands in their pockets, Miller got to work from the start and never let up. Not once did he hesitate to take advantage of a smaller defender in the post and was quick to get any sort of offense going once the Nuggets made it past halfcourt. Had he waited just a fraction of a second longer for the tip-in that was called a goaltend, the outcome of this game could have been different.
|Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -3
Brewer was energetic, hit some unbelievable shots and played stingy defense on whoever he was guarding. His hands, especially, were like little mini tornadoes. They were constantly moving in a flurry, and whenever the ball came near, it seemed to get deflected out of his opponent’s hands in some way or another. Brewer should have received more than 13 minutes as he was playing extremely well and just seemed to be having “one of those nights.”
|JaVale McGee, C 27 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +5
McGee is another tough grade to dish out. On one hand, his paint presence alone means so much the Nuggets. He’s young, still maturing and learning every step of the way. At the same time, four rebounds in 27 minutes of action is extremely weak for a center as tall and athletic as McGee. The Lakers killed the Nuggets on the glass in Game 4, creating 10 extra possessions as a result. Had the Nuggets cut that number in half, this game would have been a different story. His paint presence — as evident by the four blocks — is a fantastic asset to have, but without rebounding it’s never going to be utilized the way it should be.
Yesterday I caught up with ESPNLA’s Andy Kamenetzky to talk Nuggets-Lakers and how JaVale McGee is surprisingly similar to Wilt Chamberlain. Yes, you heard that correctly. Weird. Follow the link for further details.
|Kenneth Faried, F 36 MIN | 6-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | +5
What Faried has managed to accomplish as a rookie is incredible. He couldn’t sniff garbage minutes at the beginning of the season and is now being marketed as the face of the team. While Faried is still physically overmatched, he’s made strides on the defensive end and established himself as a rebounding force. When the game got close and the Nuggets found themselves struggling to execute, the Nuggets relied on Faried’s energy to pull out a gritty win.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -1
Another mediocre offensive performance from Gallo, who still has not been able to leave his mark on the series. While Gallo didn’t make plays or shoot well, he started to find his game in the fourth quarter and managed to end his night on a high note. Gallo made several big free throws and grabbed some crucial rebounds late, all while having to guard Kobe Bryant for a majority of his time on the floor. Gallo was solid on Kobe, but is still a non-factor offensively.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -8
Karl’s decision to start Mozgov paid off as the Lakers were not able to establish their paint defense as easily as they were in L.A. Unfortunately, Mozgov wasn’t able to contain Bynum into the second half and unraveled. His presence was an effective deterrent for Bynum early, but he was awful with the ball in his hands and completely overshadowed by McGee and Faried in a rough second half.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 25 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +4
Afflalo’s play continues to decline. His ineffectiveness has reached a point where George Karl decided to bench him for the entirety of the pivotal fourth quarter. There’s no nice way to put it — Afflalo, who was a premier player for the Nuggets heading into the series, has been reduced to a barely visible role player. His defense is unremarkable and he continues to force offense with poor results. Afflalo appears to have lost some confidence and is no longer playing his game.
|Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 9-19 FG | 6-7 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 25 PTS | +23
Lawson proved he can carry the Nuggets for stretches and a game like this proves just how important he is in this series. Denver’s offense was unstoppable when Lawson was at his best and the Lakers quickly got right back in the game when his aggressiveness tapered off. Lawson was amazing, but too unselfish in the second half, where he scored only 7 points and deferred to Andre Miller. Even with all his faults, Lawson produced at a superstar level throughout the first half and the Lakers had no answer.
|Al Harrington, PF 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 7 PTS | +1
Harrington was off to a decent start before catching a vicious elbow from Andrew Bynum in the third quarter. Harrington appeared dizzy and unable to get up and down the floor for a good two possessions before play was finally stopped and he was able to be examined. Harrington broke his nose and will have to wear a mask if he’s able to go in game four.
|Andre Miller, PG 32 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 13 PTS | +17
Miller’s offense certainly wasn’t pretty, but he continues to be very effective off the bench. Andre has played with a lot of confidence in this series and seems to know he can generate good looks against the Lakers reserves. Andre made a huge three-pointer to seal the win and was distributing effectively despite the fact he took some ill-advised shots. The Nuggets need confident decision makers on offense and right now Miller is one of the few consistent options.
|Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +4
Brewer had a very sub-par night in terms of production, but I feel he was a positive on defense and a better offensive player than his awful shooting performance indicates. This was Brewer’s worst game of the series, but his hands were all over the place defensively and his trademark energy was a key ingredient in the Nuggets eventually gutting out a win.
|JaVale McGee, C 28 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-2 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | +30
Wow. While I’m still in awe of how thoroughly McGee dominated inside, I can’t say it was totally unexpected. The Nuggets have nothing to lose by throwing McGee out there over Koufos and Mozgov just to see what the kid is made of. McGee played over 25 minutes for the first time in ten games and responded with a Bynum-like performance of 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. It was a resounding statement game for McGee, who became the first big off the bench and proved he needs a significant role for Denver to have any chance of getting back in this series.