The Rapid Reaction recap generator is giving me problems… again; therefore, we’re just gonna have to do this one old-fashioned style.
What is there to say? A lot, I guess…
This sucked. This is another “bad” loss. There are different types of losses. Sometimes you lose to superior teams. Sometimes you lose because you’re decimated by injuries. Sometimes you just lose by virtue of having an “off” night. The Nuggets haven’t done too much of that type of losing lately. More often than not, their losses are bad ones, inexcusable ones, illogical ones.
In terms of performances, everyone played decent. Gallo nearly had a 20 and 10 game; Lawson finished with 17, nine and four steals; Iguodala had 22, four, four and three steals. Faried’s numbers were down, but his energy was as good as I’ve ever seen it. His two chase-down blocks were some of the best plays I’ve seen in the NBA all year. That’s pure hustle — nothing else. That’s heart, soul and determination. While his team was in the midst of a complete breakdown, Faried was still pouring his guts out on the floor. Someone on Twitter mentioned he might be the Nuggets only indispensable player. I can’t disagree.
Hamilton was another interesting case. He received action in the first half, which was abruptly eliminated after he made a “rookie” mistake, which I think was just a questionable jump shot. To me, this was one of the most frustrating parts of the night. I can’t stand Karl’s leash with Hamilton. If nothing else, it’s just disturbing. It reminds me of J.R. Smith. What is he even gaining from being choked on the floor? He certainly has no breathing room. Corey Brewer can take countless “bad” shots but because he has a quick release, doesn’t think twice and is on Karl’s good side, he’ll see an infinite amount of minutes and even play down the final stretch with the game hanging in the balance. Hamilton does do things that he shouldn’t. He’s a bit wild sometimes; perhaps overzealous. But he’s got talent. And he can play. I feel if Karl loosened his restriction on him and instead of punishing Hamilton, restored some confidence in him, he might approach the game in a more comfortable fashion. But, that’s just the blogger’s opinion. The point of the story is: The Nuggets were rolling with Hamilton in. There was spacing on the floor and he was knocking down shots. He even had the highest plus-minus on the team before he departed from the game, never to return in the second half. After he left, the Nuggets were never the same.
Truth be told, there was weird stuff happening from the very beginning of this game. The apparition known as Anthony Randolph saw meaningful minutes for the first time all season. He was suddenly just there, out of nowhere… In the second quarter the Nuggets offense was clicking like we have yet to see this year. It was incredible. People were actually knocking down 3-pointers! This was by far the pinnacle of the Nuggets offensive execution this season… Then the Nuggets started doubling people. That was weird. Really weird. Who on the Warriors roster needs doubling? I get it; the Nuggets can’t handle David Lee. But how does that require doubling Jarrett Jack? Even if Lee was hot, you have to let him go off and live with the fact that, if he scores 40, that’s OK, just as long as everyone else doesn’t.
As for the topic of discussion, Karl’s coaching…
Let’s not sugar coat it here — it was bad. I haven’t seen a game go so far south in such a gruesome manner in quite a long time. It was, as they say, like watching a train-wreck. You just got the feeling. You knew. Once the third quarter rolled around and Golden State pulled within about eight, it wasn’t getting any better. You could argue Karl missed some chances to call timeouts that would have stifled Golden State’s hot shooting, but from where I was sitting (couch), it was actually Golden State’s defense that altered the outcome of this game. In the second half Mark Jackson had his guys clamp down on defense and the Nuggets froze. They completely froze, dead in their tracks. The ball movement stopped, there were no screens being set, no communication — it was like watching a group of pickup players who had never played together stand and pray that the guy next to them was better than they were. From a fan’s standpoint, it was devastating.
Karl rolled with a small-ball lineup down the stretch that was probably his undoing. He had Corey Brewer in too — for defensive purposes, of course. But here’s the problem: Karl thinks Corey Brewer is the remedy for his entire team’s defensive ineptitude. If Karl is the old man from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then Corey Brewer is his Windex. Anytime something goes wrong, just spray a little Corey Brewer on it. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s the right decision or not — in Karl’s mind it’s the ONLY decision. Corey Brewer has the ability to play some incredible man-to-man defense, but his insertion into the lineup does not instantly change the fact that Karl’s entire defensive scheme is — and has been — a mediocre one. Aside from this, the Nuggets had no interior defensive presence to challenge shots near the rim. Once David Lee got past his first man (which was inevitable), it was then up to the 6-7 Kenneth Faried to challenge shots. For the Warriors, this was like shooting fish in a barrel… with a bazooka… equipped with a scope… and a rocket launcher… You get the point.
Karl’s in-bounds plays were atrocious. That’s all I can say. Somewhere on the free agent market Anthony Cater is cackling in his modest abode. And it’s games like these that sort of remind us just how far the Nuggets really are from challenging for an NBA title. When I was watching the dying moments of the the game I just kept thinking, “Great teams don’t do this. Title contenders don’t do this. Hell, even good teams don’t do this.” If all these thoughts are true, then where do games like this put the Nuggets? It’s a long season and I’m not about to concede that this team has a predetermined destiny to lose, yet again, in the first round of the playoffs; but something has to change. Just like last season when the team went through an ugly stretch in the middle of the year — that told us a lot about who the Nuggets were, inside; what their DNA was like. In the end they finished with a respectable record, but they never really could overcome that drought. They played sub-par basketball for too long. Every team goes through it’s ups and downs, but this team… this team exemplifies polarity.
Thursday, the Nuggets showed some of their true colors. Under George Karl they’re still a fragile squad, just like last year. They have some incredibly concerning flaws. Some of them include: poor free-throw shooting, crafty power forwards, perimeter defense, 3-point shooting, half-court offense and of course, in-bounds plays. There’s still plenty of time to fix these issues but there’s also a thin line to be walked as well. If they wait too long, overcoming their problems may become nearly impossible. After a certain amount of time, their problems could very well turn into their identity.