Game preview: Nuggets at Lakers Q&A

The Nuggets have started their 3-game road trip with frustrating losses to Utah and Golden State in which they failed to close out games they had led by 15 or more points. The final leg of the trip doesn’t get any easier as they wind it up in Los Angeles to meet the Lakers for the first time since being eliminated in game seven of the first round of the playoffs last May. While much of the recent news regarding the Lakers has revolved around their struggles with injuries, chemistry and coaching, they remain a dangerous team loaded with All-Star talent.

To get a better informed insight about what to expect from the Lakers, Roundball Mining Company has exchanged questions and answers with Andy Kamenetzky (follow the Kamenetzky Brothers here on twitter) of the ESPN Los Angeles Lakers Index. If you’d like to see my replies to Andy’s questions, you can read them here. And without further ado, the following are his answers to our questions about the Lakers.

 

1. Nobody would have predicted, even taking Steve Nash’s injury into acount, that after acquiring Dwight Howard the Lakers would have a losing record 15 games into the season. Is this slow start something that will shake itself out after they adjust to Mike D’Antoni’s system, or do the problems run deeper than that?

Andy Kamenetzky: A little of both, I think. There’s no question the Lakers have flaws. The starting five is out of a video game, but is collectively old and in the case of Nash and Howard, dealing with the effects of recent injuries. The bench hasn’t rounded into reliable form. It wouldn’t kill them to add another shooter. But there’s also no question these struggles are also due in rather sizable part to the early season chaos (training camp injuries, the coaching carousel), a myriad of new faces, and Nash’s absence. It’s been extremely difficult for the Lakers to consistently form a cohesive unit on either side of the ball. Obviously, they’re not the first team in NBA history to deal with injuries and/or drama. There’s an onus on the Lakers to figure it out as best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt. Still, I figured it would take this process would take a couple of months under the best possible circumstances, and these have flirted with “worst possible” status.

2. Pau Gasol took a lot of heat after his performance in the Lakers’ loss to the Pacers, but D’Antoni came to his defense saying ” he’s a big part of what [the Lakers are] going to do.” How realistic is the prospect that he’ll be able to run in D’Antoni’s system and establish good chemistry with Dwight?

Andy Kamenetzky: I think it’s possible. Gasol isn’t a Utopian fit for D’Antoni — the coach has admitted as much — but we’re talking about one of the most creative offensive minds in basketball joining forces with one of the most multi-skilled players of his generation. I’d like to think the two can develop a positive, productive working relationship. I’ve often wondered if the template might be Boris Diaw’s role in Phoenix: A play-making big man who can create for others, work mismatches off the dribble, run the break off a rebound, etc. It’s not a true apples-to-apples comparison, as Diaw is a better outside shooter and was younger, but I do think there are legitimate commonalities. Plus, Howard is mobile enough to begin sequences in the high post, which will allow Gasol to at least begin some possessions in the mid or low post.

Then again, it’s not a perfect setup, which means Pau bears the responsibility to aggressively seek out a comfort zone, rather than wait for his coach to create it for him. Unfortunately, that kind of assertiveness isn’t Gasol’s strong suit. There’s also always a chance that with Kobe, Howard and eventually Nash alongside him, Pau simply won’t be given enough to do to truly flourish. But for the time being, I’m remaining positive that time, plus Nash’s presence, will eventually create a niche for Pau.

3. After landing  three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, the Lakers are surprisingly just 18th in defensive efficiency. What do they need to do to improve defensively in general, and what approach should we expect to see them taking in defending the Nuggets in this game?

Andy Kamenetzky: Mostly, cohesion. It’s been a nutty two months, which has impeded the team’s ability to get on the same page defensively. This problem is only heightened by Dwight remaining a step or two slow. By his own admission, Howard’s not fully recovered from the back surgery, which prevents him from being the ultimate last line of defense we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. In the latest loss to Indiana, George Hill floated a game-winner off the backboard over Howard, who’d arrived a hair late to either successfully alter the shot or block it. Before the back injury, I’d have bet the house on Howard in that situation. He’s slowly rounding into form, but not yet “Dwight Howard” as we’ve come to know him.

As for the strategy against Denver, I think the first key is containing Ty Lawson as much as possible, which begins with the defense on ball (Darius Morris or Chris Duhon, unless D’Antoni opts for a defensive cross-match involving Kobe or Metta World Peace over stretches) and ends with Gasol and Howard protecting the rim against inevitable penetration from the speedster. The Lakers will also need to be diligent about getting back in transition, especially as a team that now looks to increase tempo. From there, I think it’s all about keeping Denver, and in particular, Kenneth Faried off the glass to prevent garbage buckets and second chance opportunities. JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos are no slouches on the offensive glass, but Faried is just plain ridiculous (and very entertaining to watch play.) Gasol has struggled at times to keep a body on the Manimal, but needs to find a way to prevent the kid from running roughshod in the paint.

4. Steve Nash’s injury has obviously been a major disappointment and setback for the Lakers after assembling their four future Hall of Famers lineup. How big of an impact will he have in improving the team once he returns from injury?

Andy Kamenetzky: Assuming there aren’t any noticeable effects from the injury, I think Nash will have a pretty big impact. He knows D’Antoni’s system as well as the coach, and no player has ever run it more successfully. With Nash in the fold, the Lakers gain a true floor general, an outside shooting threat, and a player with an unbelievable ability to find teammates in the right spot in the right time. That can only help matters. He’s obviously not a magic bullet, and work will remain at hand after his return. Everyone, Nash included, will have to adjust for the umpeenth time this season. But I do think Nash can make a serious difference. Remember, he was imported from Phoenix well before D’Antoni was in the picture. There were holes to fix, regardless of the coach, and Nash theoretically addresses a lot of those gaps.

5. It seems that many in Lakers Nation are calling for a Gasol trade. But even if — contrary to D’Antoni’s statement — the Lakers did decide to put him on the block, could they get enough talent back in return that on the balance it would improve the team’s chances for a championship?

Andy Kamenetzky: Maybe. Even if Gasol’s trade value has plummeted to the point where he won’t fetch a player close to his caliber of talent — and unless Pau picks up his play, I suspect that will be the case — it’s debatable whether the Lakers even need another A-Lister. One could reasonably argue “Star Player X” swapped for Pau would in turn find himself similarly lacking opportunities, and therefore would be an equally uncomfortable fit. Thus, two or three role players (at least one of which can shoot) to bolster the bench and add depth might actually benefit the Lakers in a more tangible way. And that may be a realistic haul for Pau, even during a down season. The guy’s still a very good player, and we’re not far removed from the London games where he flourished as “el hombre” for Spain.

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Update:  Check out the 5-on-5 previewing the game on ESPN.com.

Reaction: Golden State Warriors 106, Denver Nuggets 105

The Rapid Reaction recap generator is giving me problems… again; therefore, we’re just gonna have to do this one old-fashioned style.

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Nuggets promote D’Alessandro, Bratz

The Denver Nuggets announced Wednesday that both Pete D’Alessandro and Mike Bratz have been promoted. D’Alessandro has now been named the Vice President of Basketball Operations (Ujiri is still the Executive Vice President) and Bratz, Director of Player Personnel. D’Alessandro has been with the Nuggets since 2010 when then-rookie general manager Masai Ujiri hired him as his top advisor. He is seen as one of the brightest “capologists” in the NBA and has often been considered a frontrunner for any and all available general manager positions that have become available in recent months. Bratz has been with the Nuggets since 2009 when he was hired as the team’s scouting director after spending the previous nine years with the Cleveland Cavaliers as Director of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 103 Utah Jazz 105

Denver Nuggets 103 Final
Recap | Box Score
105 Utah Jazz
Danilo Gallinari, SF 28 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | -10

He’s apparently under the weather and still did plenty of great things on offense until the utter collapse in the second half. All things considered, Gallo put a nondescript, decent-enough role player type of performance when the Nuggets were looking for something more, especially after Iguodala’s ejection.

Kenneth Faried, SF 36 MIN | 8-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 21 PTS | +5

Another vintage ‘Manimal’ night from an energy standpoint, but we also saw another big front line post him up and shoot right over the top of the him. Defensively, Faried is solid but gives up too much size in matchups the Nuggets will continue to struggle with.

Kosta Koufos, C 28 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-3 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +5

Too many huge plays out of the Jazz bigs in the second half. Koufos is solid and did plenty to get the Nuggets off to a promising start, but the story of the second half was the Nuggets inability to control the paint they way they did in the first half.

Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 7-17 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 16 PTS | -2

When Ty was aggressive, he got into the paint at will and came through with some crucial second-half drives to keep Denver afloat. Unfortunately, Ty continues to struggle on the court in a more featured role as he did tonight, failing to get the Nuggets a shot attempt with 3 seconds remaining and a chance to tie or take the lead.

Andre Iguodala, SG 25 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 10 PTS | -3

From what I saw, his ejection made no sense. Yes, Iguodala was frustrated and clearly responding poorly to Utah’s pivotal third quarter run, but he showed no contempt or disrespect in what looked like routine mouthing off in a tightly contested game. I guess you have to expect more maturity out of a leader, but it’s really tough to say he legitimately did anything to deserve two technicals and an ejection after disagreeing with a call.

Corey Brewer, SF 30 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +5

A solid thirty minutes for Brew even if it is way more than you’d expect to see him playing on this Nuggets team. He has embraced more of a scoring role this season and is working well off the bench with Andre Miller and McGee.

Timofey Mozgov, C 7 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -5

Mozgov put in some solid first-half work but ended his night with little more than a few scrap minutes of action. Physically, he seems healthy but is clearly on the precipice of not playing whatsoever, having seen his role steadily reduced since arriving in Denver two years ago.

JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-6 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | -7

It’s really a shame McGee was not able to stay on the court as he started out with one of his finest performances all season. JaVale looked dominant at times and utterly lost at others, but the bottom line is his own porous defense and emotional mood swings are the reasons he isn’t seeing more time.

Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 2-7 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +2

Andre is off to a slow start. Physically, he isn’t in shape for an NBA season but that’s nothing new as Miller is known to work himself up to speed throughout the early season. Fatigue looked like it was a factor for Miller, who has not looked great in his chances at extended minutes thus far.

Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | 0

Fournier saw a surprise few minutes following Iguodala’s ejection before foul trouble and a close game led Karl in a different direction. He hit a three and looked fluid in Denver’s offense despite the Nuggets’ woeful second half performance.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Not even getting a shot attempt off on the final possessions hurts. So does the 56.3% free throw shooting in a two point loss, but ultimately the failure to even put up an honest attempt at tying or winning the game falls on Lawson, who mismanaged the clock and ultimately froze in the game-deciding moment.
  2. Andre Miller trying to change his game up at 36 years old to start shooting threes is not a recipe for success. He may have been open and Lawson may have given up his dribble too early, but that’s still a stab in the dark by one of the worst three-point shooters in the NBA.
  3. Another rough loss in which the Nuggets pretty much out-produce their opponent in everything and still manage to lose. These are the games solid teams put to bed no matter how many excuses there are to slip up. This one shouldn’t have been close, but it doesn’t kill the Nuggets’ upcoming trip and serves as a fitting reminder that this team isn’t performing any better than average and still has a long ways to go.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 102, New Orleans Hornets 84

New Orleans Hornets 84 FinalRecap | Box Score 102 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 26 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | +17

This was not Gallo’s most glorious outing of the year but his aggressiveness was still on full display, which is what’s most important for him at this point in time.

Kenneth Faried, SF 27 MIN | 7-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | +23

Faried was Faried. Because he plays with such a high level of energy on a nightly basis, games likes these where he’s doing virtually everything right are bound to come along. He started off scoring, then went to rebounding in the second half to finish with yet another double double.

Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | +34

The only stat that matters here: five blocks. Koufos isn’t a scoring or rebounding machine but his interior paint presence has continued to evolve in a major way. He’s now ranked 19th in blocks per 48 minutes in the NBA.

Ty Lawson, PG 29 MIN | 8-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 17 PTS | +24

Lawson has finally strung together a few vintage performances. The main reason: aggressiveness. Lawson is looking for his shot; not avoiding it. He’s finding open spaces to penetrate then pull up for a mid-range jumper or kick to an open man. He’s utilizing his speed and not sulking when his shot gets blocked. If he continues with this type of play, the Nuggets are a totally different team.

Andre Iguodala, SG 31 MIN | 8-13 FG | 4-7 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 23 PTS | +29

Iguodala was on pace to score 30 in the first half before taking a back seat in the second. This is fine. His mindset on offense is all that matters. He is starting to develop into the “go-to” guy the Nuggets brought him to Denver to be. The value of his 3-point shot cannot be overlooked. When he’s hitting that — like he has been the last several games — the Nuggets offense has another much-needed dimension.

Anthony Randolph, PF 7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -7

This was the first extended glimpse of Randolph that Nuggets fans were able to catch and it was pretty nice. He didn’t score but he played solid. It would be interesting to see what he could do with some more minutes as a backup power forward.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 12 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -4

Hamilton seems like the kind of guy who plays up to his level of competition. I swear, you could put him in the NBA finals and he’d average 18 per contest. Although he finished with a nice stat line, he took a few bad shots and made some questionable decisions — which he doesn’t do nearly as often as when he’s playing with the starting or second unit.

Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | -2

Brewer had a pretty mediocre game. He played with the “C” team for a while which is why he logged 28 minutes, but that still seems like too much. Brewer is best suited as a 20 minutes per night guy where his energy can really shine.

Timofey Mozgov, C 16 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -12

It’s hard to make out what Karl uses Mozgov for. Is it just to combat other, less talented centers? Is it when he’s angry with McGee? Who knows. Mozgov still has hands made of concrete and hardly any polish on offense but his ability to run the floor and play defense holds some value.

JaVale McGee, C 11 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-3 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -4

And then there’s the case of JaVale McGee. What a case it is. This was probably his worst game in terms of mistakes (you know, the ones he’s become famous for), yet he still finished with an impressive stat line in such a limited amount of time. At this point in his career it appears his size, length and athleticism are simply overriding his defects no matter how you slice it.

Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 0-1 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 4 PTS | +1

Miller played good defense and distributed well. Again, this is what his role needs to be. He might be the best creator of his own offense on the entire team but the Nuggets don’t need that. Although his numbers are down, in my eyes Miller has been a much better, more team-oriented player throughout this season.

Evan Fournier, SG 11 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -9

Fournier is so cerebral. He’s calculated. He makes a few “rookie” mistakes but that’s because he is one. You can tell his experience playing pro in France has really prepared him for the NBA. I would really like to see what he could do with 20 minutes per game for a week at some point in the season.

Don’t bogart that ball, McGee – Video scouting report

When JaVale McGee is on the court he uses a big chunk of Denver’s possessions. According to Basketball-Reference.com, among regular rotation players, he has the highest usage rate on the team at 23.9 percent. Despite this, he also has the third lowest assist rate at 3.6 percent. Kosta Koufos has the second lowest, 3.1 percent, and Kenneth Faried the lowest assist rate, 2.0 percent. Naturally, all three of the Nuggets’ main frontcourt players earn their keep around the rim, finishing plays and putting back offensive boards, the big difference between McGee and the other two is that he actually spends a significant amount of time with the ball in his hands.

Compare his usage rate with that of Koufos, lowest among rotation players at 12.4 percent, and Faried, third lowest at 18.6 percent. (A surprising side note here is that Andre Miller is second lowest with a 17.6 percent usage rate that’s very modest considering how much he handles the ball). In short, Kosta and Kenneth should be given a free pass for their low assist rates, because the vast majority of the time, when they get the ball, they’re right there at the rim, and the best thing to do is immediately put it in the basket.

This is not always the case with JaVale, who handles the ball in the post much more than the other two. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 102, Golden State Warriors 91

Golden State Warriors 91 Final

Recap | Box Score

102 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 8-20 FG | 4-6 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | +6After a rocky start to the season, Gallinari has finally emerged as the consistent, reliable player the Nuggets need him to be. Although he went cold from the arc, going 0-5, the real story is that he continued his recent return to driving and attacking the rim. His two assists and six trips to the line belie how effective he was at getting into the paint and sharing the ball. And while David Lee did get the best of him at times, his defense overall was pretty solid in this game.
Kenneth Faried, SF 36 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-5 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | +14It’s going to be difficult this season to say new, original things about how Faried played. His energy was, as usual, explosive and infectious, and his teammates always seem to ratchet up their play a notch when he’s on the court. He did struggle defensively at times, but he played tough and led the team in rebounds.
Kosta Koufos, C 19 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +7Koufos was a bit of a mixed bag in this game. Early foul trouble sent him to the bench early in the first quarter, and in the third quarter he got downright abused by Carl Landry. Kosta simply couldn’t stop him from scoring around the rim, a fact which Golden State quickly recognized and exploited to its fullest. On the offensive end he was steady as usual, but also made little impact.
Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 7-13 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 9 AST | 18 PTS | +8Lawson started off tentatively again. In the first half he dribbled around too much on the perimeter, hesitating too much to drive to the basket, and fearing too much to take wide open 3-pointers. But once again, he woke up midway through the third quarter to rediscover his aggressive streak, most especially at the defining stretch of the game, when the Nuggets opened the third quarter with a big run to convert a 6-point halftime deficit to a 9-point lead in just 4 1/2 minutes.
Andre Iguodala, SG 39 MIN | 11-19 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 29 PTS | +13The Rapid Reaction code doesn’t allow for it, which is the only reason Iguodala does not get the A+++. This was the game that seemed to truly signify: “Andre Iguodala is now officially a Denver Nugget.” His threes were falling, he made some great defensive plays, and threw in a couple highlight reel dunks for good measure. Above all, it looked like he really understood his role out there, and was having a fun time making the most of it. With both ‘Dala and Gallo at the top of their games, this will be a tough team to beat.
Jordan Hamilton, SF 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -3The good news is that J-Ham shot 100% from the arc. The bad news is that it was only one shot, and that’s about all he did. He looked pretty lost defensively, and continues to make some rookie mistakes (which may be forgivable given that, having been benched all last season, this effectively is his first year). If he can’t start making a bigger and better impact when he gets chances, he’ll have a hard time earning the minutes we’re hoping he’ll eventually get.
Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | +6Like Gallinari, Brewer went scoreless from the arc (0-3). After starting the season shooting so well, it’s hard to grade Brewer now. Is it “bad” that he’s regressing to his career mean? For the purposes of this game however, he had four steals and gave the Warriors some headaches with an energetic performance on both sides of the court, which is what Denver needed from him, and therefore what mattered most.
JaVale McGee, C 25 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +2McGee’s stat line doesn’t really tell the story of his game tonight. Yes, he missed a few careless shots from the post, as has become typical. But his three blocks and many more altered shots outweighed that. He was fed some big dunks, and got more pumped up than we’ve seen him all season. And most importantly, when Landry was scoring repeatedly on Koufos in the third quarter, helping the Warriors eat back into the lead the Nuggets had just regained, JaVale was sent in to stop the bleeding, and did a very effective job of shutting Landry’s one-man run down.
Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 6 PTS | +2Miller didn’t have a huge impact on this game, but the impact he had was positive. As usual, he found ways here and there to get a basket just when Denver needed one, but didn’t do much remarkable tonight. George Karl seemed dedicated in this game to keep Lawson on the floor, as Andre’s minutes were fewer than usual.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 101 Minnesota Timberwolves 94

Denver Nuggets 101 Final
Recap | Box Score
94 Minnesota Timberwolves
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 6-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 19 PTS | +6

It wasn’t pretty, but Gallo put forth a pretty epic display of all-out effort when it mattered most. He finally got to the line in some huge moments and battled hard under the basket when he needed to. He played his most solid ball when the Nuggets needed it most and was huge on the defensive end against Kevin Love.

Kenneth Faried, SF 35 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +14

He fouled out and had 4 turnovers in a sloppy offensive showing, but the Manimal was relentless on the glass and forced the Timberwolves to adjust by pulling Nikola Pekovic out of the game. His hustle changes games in a pretty special way no matter what the stat sheet says.

Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +17

His ability to change and alter shots was a major reason why the Nuggets weren’t down 40 in a pretty awful first-half performance. Koufos got into it with Kevin Love in the second half and has really picked up his defense after a slow start to the season.

Ty Lawson, PG 33 MIN | 5-12 FG | 6-8 FT | 2 REB | 9 AST | 18 PTS | 0

A C-minus effort through three quarters and an A through the most important one is what lands Lawson here. Ty hit shots and free throws when the Nuggets needed them, but came out dazed and confused for a good two and a half quarters to start the game. The good news is Lawson’s shooting is starting to come around.

Andre Iguodala, SG 36 MIN | 7-16 FG | 1-1 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | +1

It’s really tough to grade Iguodala after two night and day halves like that. He looked like a completely different player following halftime and showcased a creative side to his offense we haven’t yet seen in him as a Nugget. Iguodala has been smooth and steady in every close game the Nuggets have been in, regardless of how well he’s played personally. It’s not necessarily conventional, but that is leadership.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 19 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | 0

Karl actually brought Hamilton off the bench early and stuck with him through a pretty dismal stretch in which the Nuggets couldn’t get anything right. Hamilton stayed with it and responded with a few timely threes and a smooth twelve points in his bench scoring role.

Corey Brewer, SF 17 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +3

He did some admirable dirty work on cleanups and putbacks, but Brewer seems to have regressed after a hot shooting start and is unsurprisingly starting to come back down to earth. Brewer probably played a few too many minutes for how erratic his play been as of late.

JaVale McGee, C 15 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -13

Ugh. This was looking like the good old JaVale as he started things off with a near-airball 20 footer and a quick pull up jumper in transition. He eventually recovered to play some better basketball in the second half but not by much. This was a chance JaVale had to come in early and earn some trust but he wasn’t able to capitalize.

Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 4-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 11 PTS | +7

He just Lebrons people in the fourth quarter out of nowhere. I have no idea how or why, but he can turn it on in a way no other Nuggets player seems to able to. Miller got some key runs going in the second half and was clutch with a few crafty and-ones over the Timberwolves defense

Three Things We Saw

  1. Something is clearly not right with Ty Lawson, but his second half may have been proof his abnormally poor play isn’t sustainable. Ty’s fighting his way through it and if he can just avoid losing total control of the game as much as he does, I have no doubt we’ll see a game-changing Ty Lawson on the floor much more frequently.
  2. The Nuggets finally made some shots in the second half and with credible shooting on the floor, showed how dangerous of an offense they can be. Denver can score in bunches with good spacing present as evidenced by a rare 30-point quarter to close the game. Regression to the mean feels nice.
  3. It’s still not great basketball, but the Nuggets have started to get into some semblance of rhythm and flow throughout two tough road games against quality teams. They are getting much better at filling in the gaps defensively and holding their own against absolutely brutal front lines in both Memphis and Minnesota. It wasn’t pretty, but you can’t help but come away pretty damn impressed.

#NuggetsRank No. 2: Ty Lawson

Coming into the season Nuggets fans had enormous hopes for Ty Lawson. He averaged career highs across the board in his first (kind of) full year as a starter. Then in the playoffs against the Lakers he took his game to the next level, averaging 19 points and six assists per game. After receiving a $48 million extension just prior to the 2012-13 season, it seemed the groundwork had been laid for Lawson to finally emerge as the team’s clear-cut best player. But 11 games into the season, it’s become apparent that Lawson still has other things on his mind. (more…)

Can Gallo get his groove back? (Ctd)

Ten days ago, Danilo Gallinari’s 21 point outing versus Golden State, including some big plays down the stretch, was the difference maker in the Nuggets’ victory. At that time it was his best game of the season. And on its heels we explored the possibility that it might mark the beginning of a turnaround to what had up to that point been a fairly dreadful season for the Rooster.

With last night’s win at Memphis, Denver now has played ten games in the 2012-13 season. This is a small sample size to be sure, but nonetheless it may provide at least enough information to sketch a rough outline of Gallo’s current trajectory. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 97, Memphis Grizzlies 92

Denver Nuggets 97 Final

Recap | Box Score

92 Memphis Grizzlies
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 7-15 FG | 10-11 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 26 PTS | -5

Gallo becomes the first Nugget to score over 25 points this season — and it just so happens the Nuggets get a much-needed win. This is not a coincidence. Gallo finally drove to the hole and drew fouls. His game is so much more expansive than he has let on the last few weeks. This Gallo must show up more often for the Nuggets to reach their full potential.

Kenneth Faried, SF 29 MIN | 5-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -4

Faried struggled mightily against the much bulkier Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. He still has a hard time defending crafty post players and it showed tonight. Faried might never be an elite defender but he needs to continue adding muscle, especially on his lower body, to combat more physical power forwards like Randolph.

Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +2

I don’t know how Koufos ended up with nine boards but he did. This is a quality stat line from Koufos. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his role; however, 26 minutes is still to much time for him considering what he brings to the table.

Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 4-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | +4

Lawson started out aggressive — then he got his shot blocked, and that was all she wrote. Ty is clearly not a big fan of getting swatted. Once it happens he retreats to the perimeter like a scolded puppy. I understand not wanting to get swatted as often as he is but Ty can make up for it with his speed and shooting. Right now he’s not using either.

Andre Iguodala, SG 35 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -1

Non existent. Iguodala was nowhere tonight. He played solid defense, but that’s to be expected. He can’t be this laid back. He’s way too important to the Nuggets overall success to be putting it in cruise control like this.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +3

Hard to make anything out of Hamilton’s performance. He’s still not getting enough time to really prove what he can do. He’s also being too timid. Hamilton has to let go and just play ball. Unfortunately by the time he figures this out there’s a really good chance he’ll be relegated to the bench once again to make room for Wilson Chandler.

Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 3-7 FG | 3-6 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -1

Brewer was a key spark for the Nuggets on multiple different occasions. He was playing his patented lock-down defense for much of the night, however it was his offensive mindset that really stood out. He was on a mission to be aggressive and it payed off with a few huge buckets.

Timofey Mozgov, C 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | 0

I don’t understand what the point is here. Two minutes? Could he even have done enough wrong to get yanked in such a short amount of time? What exactly was Karl looking for here?

JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 7-12 FG | 1-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 15 PTS | +13

McGee was once again one of the best player on the floor. This is not an anomaly; it’s a trend. The numbers don’t lie and neither does his play. He is a flat-out monster presence in the paint and makes a world of difference when he’s in the game. And now, McGee is getting more comfortable on offense. He’s starting to make shots. He’s developing an offensive game — which of course makes his mere 18 minutes of playing time ALL THE MORE INEXPLICABLE!!! Seriously, what does this guy have to do to catch a break with Karl? It’s freaking ridiculous.

Andre Miller, PG 30 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 6 PTS | +14

This was not Miller’s best performance. He had a few good moves in the post but wasn’t very effective overall. His eight assists and three steals are respectable, however he made a couple bad turnovers too.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 100 San Antonio Spurs 126

Denver Nuggets 100 Final
Recap | Box Score
126 San Antonio Spurs
Danilo Gallinari, SF 29 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | -2

It’s a shame Gallo’s best overall effort yet had to come in such a lousy game. Gallo was attacking early and looking to be aggressive while the rest of the team seem to lay down as quick as possible. This should be a normal so-so night for Gallo, not one of his best offensive outings of the year. Defensively, Gallo was the only starter to approach a respectable level of pride and effort so he gets a pass.

Kenneth Faried, SF 27 MIN | 5-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | -15

He got into foul trouble and really couldn’t get a hold on DeJuan Blair early. At some point the Nuggets will have to be competitive in a game without a double-double from their fourth scoring option. Faried had another efficient 14 points and has been the Nuggets’ best offensive player this season.

Kosta Koufos, C 19 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -21

Awful. There’s just no two ways about it. He got off to a horrendous start and played most of the first quarter anyway, setting the tone for Denver’s laughable paint defense the rest of the night. He was slow to loose balls and looked just plain out of it most of the night.

Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 13 PTS | -29

Ty played 35 minutes again and scored this time, so if it’s progress you’re looking for there you go. Ty also had 5 turnovers, bricked his first two free throw attempts and just sort of padded his stats in garbage time while racking up a -29

Andre Iguodala, SG 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -13

A truly invisible game out of Iguodala, who was not looking to get involved on either end and grew increasingly disinterested as the beating got worse. Iguodala has to show more poise and leadership in difficult circumstances like tonight.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -10

Consider this grade an incomplete, because he played about 6 scoreless minutes in the first half before being benched and never returning again til extended garbage time. The Nuggets just can’t seem decide if they want to play him or not while they try to fix their rotation.

Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 4-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | 0

Brew put up solid numbers but wasn’t able to hit his rhythm when the Nuggets could have made it a competitive contest. He gambles a ton on defense and his inability to stay solid on that end of the floor makes him difficult to play when the Nuggets need to catch up or protect a lead.

Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -22

Mozgov came in early after Faried picked up two fouls. Physically he was moving around much better than we’ve seen since training camp started, but Denver’s defense did not improve with him on the floor. It’s really tough to blame Mozgov for not being all over it in his first meaningful game of the year, but the Nuggets’ frontcourt desperately needed him while Koufos struggled through his worst game yet.

JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -1

If there’s a bright spot in these losses it’s JaVale’s improving play off the bench. The last few games he’s come into pretty horrible situations and been able to do some positive things. McGee’s earned his minutes and looks ready for a little more run with the Nuggets’ top lineups.

Andre Miller, PG 19 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 4 PTS | -14

Let’s be honest, he doesn’t look very in shape yet and will throw up a dud every once in a while as he gets ready to play the season. After a poor start to the first half Miller saw essentially all of his minutes in garbage time.

Evan Fournier, SG 8 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | -3

The Nuggets trailed by 20 most of the night but didn’t insert Fournier till midway through the fourth, where Evan proceeded to pour in 10 quick points in the only quarter Denver managed to win. Evan could get a chance to earn minutes going forward with the Nuggets lineup currently in a state of utter disarray.

One Thing We Saw

  1. It’s hard to learn anything about the Nuggets when they don’t show up and compete with a professional attitude. This is a game in which they got behind early and just decided to pack it in at the first sign of trouble. A bad team showed up to a play good one tonight and the Nuggets honestly didn’t look like they belonged on the same floor. It’s no longer a matter of lineups and potential with this team — it’s about survival. Two tough road games remain on this trip before the Nuggets return home against GSW the day after Thanksgiving.

#NuggetsRank No. 3: Danilo Gallinari

After a lengthy delay, coming in at number three in our #NuggetsRank series is starting small forward Danilo Gallinari. Despite possessing perhaps the best combination of skill and athleticism on the Nuggets’ entire roster, Gallo trailed behind the top two in our #NuggetsRank voting and ends up as the popular pick for third-best player on the team.
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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 93 Miami Heat 98

Miami Heat 98 FinalRecap | Box Score 93 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 31 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -9
Here’s a fun fact: Gallo’s only shot attempt in the fourth was a J.R. Smith-esque airball from three with the Nuggets down by one and only 1:05 left on the clock. It was a momentum-killing mistake that resulted in a dagger three at the other end. Gallo was the highest scoring starter and had one of his more efficient games thus far, but he was tentative the entire second half and essentially chucked away Denver’s best chance at a lead without playing much of a part in the comeback. It’s too tough to give him a pass.
Kenneth Faried, SF 36 MIN | 5-16 FG | 6-10 FT | 20 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -8
Another beastly night from the Manimal, who notched a career high 20 boards despite a rough night shooting the ball. Faried was everywhere and looked like the only fresh player the Nuggets had in a totally flat first half performance. Faried seems to be graduating towards heavy starters minutes with the all-out effort he’s giving each night.
Kosta Koufos, C 14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -10
Koufos turned in a so-so performance in the “14-minute starter” role Mozgov occupied last season. He did have a nice block on LeBron and seems to improving his defense around the rim, but Koufos wasn’t on the floor when this game was competitive.
Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 8 AST | 0 PTS | -11
This isn’t fun for anyone, but I haven’t seen a worse game out of Lawson or any decent starting PG in recent memory for that matter. While he did have 8 assists to just 2 turnovers, Lawson went scoreless in 36 minutes which just shouldn’t ever happen to a capable starter in Denver’s system. The Nuggets did the right thing and stuck by Lawson to the bitter end, but this was nothing short of embarrassing. The Heat owned Lawson and he just wasn’t able to adjust or respond in time
Andre Iguodala, SG 36 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | -11
He’s been playing well lately and just didn’t seem to have another big offensive night in him. Shot selection was good but Denver just looked slow and out-of-sync to start this game. I have to admit it’s a little upsetting Iguodala’s defense didn’t get a chance to be more of a factor after the Nuggets made one too many costly mistakes in the final minute
Jordan Hamilton, SF 21 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -2
A really solid performance from Hamilton, who was one of the Nuggets hardest workers in the offseason and has yet to see a real shot at keeping a role in the rotation. Once again, he gets out of control off the dribble a lot and gets a little too loose with his shooting, but he’s the best floor-spacer on the team and is almost guaranteed to put up points with more minutes. That’s something Denver’s having a lot of trouble finding consistently.
Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 1-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +6
A sub-par game, but one of the few Brewer’s had all season. While Brewer is not often going to hurt you in 19 minutes of play, you have to wonder if he’s being miscast as a sixth man scorer he’s really not. We saw some of the old Corey tonight – turnovers, ugly shooting, and overzealous defense galore.
JaVale McGee, C 21 MIN | 9-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 18 PTS | +14
You can’t expect a bench player to do much better in 21 minutes of action. McGee has had his struggles in training camp and early season games, but the Nuggets are playing a dangerous game by keeping a tight leash intact even after JaVale has started to settle down and improve. Bottom line, the Nuggets are sending the wrong message by sitting the hot hand down while the wholly ineffective Gallo and Lawson played the closing stretch.
Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 7-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 19 PTS | +6
He can be tough to watch, like the first half where Miller’s patented spin move to turnover made another early appearance. Then again, Miller has a way of delivering unbelievable efforts like this where he’ll basically spearhead a Nuggets run by himself. Miller played a lot in the second half where at times he looked like the best player on the floor at 36 years of age. The Nuggets made a lot of their comeback with LeBron James on the bench but Andre Miller was phenomenal regardless.

Nuggets assign Quincy Miller to D-League

In a move that should surprise nobody, the Nuggets have announced that Quincy Miller has been assigned to the D-League’s Iowa Energy. Miller has not seen a minute of court time with the Nuggets this year. In fact, I’m not even sure if he’s dressed for a game up to this point. Every cut away I’ve seen with Miller in it, he’s usually wearing a suit. Regardless, this is a good move by the Nuggets. It will be interesting seeing how Miller reacts to this opportunity. If nothing else, he should view this as a growing experience and unexpected confidence builder. Stay tuned as RMC will keep you updated on his status throughout his campaign in Iowa.

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