For the second game in a row our Rapid Reaction generator isn’t working for me. One of our writers might be able to get something up later, but in the meantime, here are some of the key things I noticed in the Nuggets season-opening loss to the Sixers…
— For as much grief as he gets, Ty Lawson sure finds a way to come through more often than not. During the first half, people were hitting me up on Twitter asking where he was and why he was playing so bad, yet he was the only Nugget who finished with more than 15 points. He also had five rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Ty did his job. It was the rest of the team that went AWOL.
— My old soccer coach used to always say, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” This phrase was exemplified by the Nuggets on Wednesday night. After a lackluster preseason wrought with turnovers and sloppy offense, it appeared the Nuggets thought they could just show up and win because of how talented they are. Well, in the NBA — and in any sport at any level — you will quickly realize just how erroneous this notion is once the clock starts ticking. The Nuggets got out-hustled most of the contest and while they were busy getting back into the flow of the NBA game, Philadelphia was already prepared before the it even started. This simple lack of preparation, execution and focus was the primary reason the Nuggets lost their season opener.
— If you want to point to another big reason why the Nuggets lost, look no further than Philadelphia’s stifling defense and cerebral gameplan. Coach Doug Collins simply outsmarted George Karl and the Nuggets for much of the game. Philly controlled the pace, played better defense and won nearly every single timeout, even when George Karl was the one who called it. Collins knew the Nuggets were only playing with one big man at a time. He knew the Nuggets wanted to attack the paint. And he knew that without Gallinari the Nuggets really didn’t have a 3-point threat on the floor for most of the game. So what did Collins do? He clogged the paint. And it worked like magic. I cannot tell you how many possessions the Nuggets had where Philadelphia simply contracted into the paint, which resulted in the Nuggets taking horrible shots, turning the ball over and being completely dumbfounded in general.
— My last big gripe of this game was the rotations. What the hell were those? Guys were moving in and out of the lineup so often, if you looked away you might have missed a substitution. I understand that in the early parts of the season you’re going to be experimenting with different rotations, but you have to have some kind of a foundation to start from. As much as I like Koufos, should he really have been playing 30 minutes, especially when Faried only saw 17? Why even start Jordan Hamilton if he’s only going to play 13 minutes the entire game, especially given how well he played throughout the preseason? But most importantly: How the hell does Fournier finish the game when he didn’t even see a minute of action before the fourth quarter??? This is a rookie we’re talking about! Remember — Karl HATES rookies! But now Fournier, of all people, is changing Karl’s entire disposition regarding his disdain for first-year players that he’s manifested his entire career? Sure, Fournier had a few good plays when he came in, but he also turned the ball over twice, got his shot blocked and missed a 3-pointer all in the final three minutes of the game! Karl was clearly using this contest as a template to mess with lineups, which should have been done in the preseason! Pretty inexcusable if you ask me.
Other things I noticed:
— Philly’s defense won this game — not the fact that the Nuggets couldn’t score; however, if Denver would have been able to match the Sixers’ effort on the defensive side of the ball, we would have had a totally different game as Philadelphia isn’t the most potent offensive team in the league either.
— Why can’t Koufos and McGee play together? I swear, Karl has something against big lineups. Without Bynum the Nuggets should have capitalized on Philly’s small lineup with Spencer Hawes being the only big body down low. Instead, the man with the mullet torched the Nuggets, and was perhaps the best player on either team Wednesday night.
— McGee’s paint presence cannot be overlooked. Yes, he makes the occasional bonehead play. Who doesn’t? He is nowhere near the player he was in Washington which is why I still don’t understand how his role is being limited. When he’s in the game, people think twice about entering the paint. His intimidation alone is worth 20 minutes per game.
— Lawson doesn’t need to be a scorer; he just needs to be aggressive. There’s a huge difference. In order for Lawson to take that next step, he needs to have a healthy combination of assertiveness and visionary passing skills. Lawson gets his assists, but it’s rare that he makes a Rondo-like pass. Moving forward it’s vital that he works on his distribution skills just as much as his penetration skills. If he combines the two, he’ll become a force to be reckoned with.