|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +1Danilo sometimes kind of disappears for stretches of games, but he sure has a knack at times for finding ways to come up with some big plays at key moments. That was on display tonight, when a couple of big 3-pointers and, most dramatically, a pass to himself off the backboard for a dunk put the kibosh on Memphis extending leads, and got the crowd pumped up.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +6Kenneth for the most part was mostly a non-factor in this game. Sure, he had ten rebounds, but he really couldn’t get anything going offensively, and he really couldn’t compete with the Z-Bo/Gasol combo on the glass very well. He played great against Minnesota, but he’s only had 2 double doubles in his last 10 games, and he needs to find a way to bring out the Manimal more consistently.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 1-3 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +1As is usually the case when Kosta has a good game, the stat line doesn’t tell the story of how well he played, aside from his four blocks. Look instead to Marc Gasol’s 2-10 shooting. Koufos played admirably well against a frontcourt that has the potential to dominate him, and was a big contributor to Denver’s solid defensive performance.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 13 PTS | +5We’d still like to see more aggression from Lawson. When he’s not shooting, he’s not doing enough to keep defenses honest and prevent them from packing the paint. That said, this was one of his best defensive performances of the season. Mike Conley did get off a couple three pointers, but he was kept ineffective most of the game, held to 5-14 shooting with only four assists. Ty still needs to work on not turning the ball over, however.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 8-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 20 PTS | +10this is the Andre Iguodala the Nuggets need to see more often. Tonight he played with an intensity and aggression that has far too often been missing from his game this season, and it really paid off. As with Lawson, turnovers are still a problem, but it was great to see him running the court harder, disrupting the Grizzlies offense with the kind of scrappy defense his reputation is built on, and above all operate within the flow of his team in a comfortable way. If he can genuintely find his comfort zone, it’ll be great news for Denver.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -1This was a quiet performance from Brewer, mostly solid, but relatively understated compared to his recent play. He didn’t make too big of an impact on this game, but he was serviceable in the minutes he played, allowing Gallo and Dala some brief respite without much dropoff.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -11The five minutes Mozgov played in this game were probably his worst of the season. Karl sent him in after Koufos picked up his second foul, and should be credited with recognizing that tonight was clearly not Timo’s night, and pulling him out of the game quickly.|
|JaVale McGee, C 24 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | +13Tonight’s JaVale McGee is George Karl’s dream JaVale McGee. His defensive presence set the tone for the entire team. He didn’t try to do too much or force things on offense. He played a fundamentally sound game, making few mistakes and, like Koufos, played great against one of the league’s best 4/5 duos. And man, he just blocked the hell out of that ball. There are four on the stat sheet, but easily more than two or three times that were altered because of his presence in the paint. And his block-catch was reminiscent of LaPhonso Ellis’ classic play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVFSfRVzQ8s|
|Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 6-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 18 PTS | +1Miller continues to struggle defensively at times, but at least the effort is there this season. Like most Nuggets fans, I’m not a big supporter of the two point guard lineup, but I can empathize with wanting to have your best players on the floor when the game is on the line, and Dre probably gets some undeserved runoff from that fan frustration. But if the “crafty veteran” tag seems cliche, that’s not because it isn’t true. His handle on the game and his ability to post up have been among the most consistently reliable pluses for the Nuggets this season. A Marc Gasol and-1 brought Memphis within one point with 0:53 remaining, but four made free throws by Miller sealed the game for Denver.|
One Thing We Saw
- This was truly a team victory for the Nuggets, defined by their very solid team defense through all four quarters of the game. It’s always a kind of coup for Denver when they win a slow-paced, hard-fought defensive battle, so this was a satisfying win. Turnovers continue to be problematic — there were 19 in this game — but the good news tonight was that Denver’s free throws were falling. They shot what by now is a nearly unrecognizable 88.5% from the charity strip tonight, going 23-26. Hopefully they can use this game to build on some positives — tougher defense, better play by Iguodala and McGee, not allowing opponent runs to get out of hand — to put together a strong close to their December schedule, in which five of this year’s remaining eight games are on the road. They are currently 12-12. If they can find a way to go into the new year with a winning record and some positive momentum, then January, when only three of fifteen games are away from the Pepsi Center, will be a great opportunity to get this season on the right track after all their early struggles.
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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
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