As the Rapid Reaction generator does not appear to be working, this will be a regular recap of tonight’s game. Denver shared the ball beautifully, scored in the paint at will and won with relative ease versus Charlotte, increasing their home court record to a league-best 8-1, and improving to 15-13 (.536) overall.
With seven players in double figures, no one player jumps off the box score as the player of the game, but most who watched should agree that that honor should go to Kosta Koufos, who did a wonderful job scoring around and defending the rim. His season high 16 points, as well as five blocks, led the Nuggets, but neither tell the whole story. “Energy” and “hustle” are words generally reserved for Kenneth Faried and Corey Brewer, but Koufos’ activity level in the paint tonight was, perhaps, the biggest factor in Denver taking an 18-point lead into halftime and keeping the pedal on the gas from there.
Ty Lawson and Andre Miller combined for zero points in this game, which has got to be a first, but that is far overshadowed by the fact that the team as a whole dished out a season-high 36 assists. Lawson played only the first half, leaving the game after that due to concern over a possible Achilles injury (we’ll update you when more details are released). He had five assists in his 17 minutes, and did a great job of pushing the pace and initiating good ball movement. Miller and Andre Iguodala both added eight assists, Brewer had six, and Faried had a career-high four. It was a great display of unselfish basketball all around, including on several fast breaks and end-of-shot-clock situations where we’ve often seen players keep the ball for the worse shot rather than find another for a better look.
After shooting a historically bad 0-22 from the 3-point line in Thursday’s game against Portland, Denver missed another five to open this game before Jordan Hamilton finally broke the streak with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter. The team still didn’t shoot as well from the arc as one would hope, finishing the game 6-20 (30 percent), but the good news was that Danilo Gallinari was able to find his shot again, hitting some big 3-pointers which helped to stiff arm the Bobcats and prevent them from seriously challenging Denver’s lead.
This may have been the best collective performance by all five starters we may have seen this season. Lawson and Gallo were relatively quiet but effective while Koufos was beasting. Faried really set the tone in the first quarter with his energy, making some big dunks and rebounds that helped establish Denver as the owners of the paint. And Andre Iguodala played with more energy and focus than perhaps he has all season. He really seems to finally be discovering his comfort zone and role on this team which is so different from his former 76ers. When he doesn’t play aggressive as he did tonight, his impact on the court seems to completely disappear, and it really hurts the Nuggets. The Iguodala who showed up in this game – and especially his playmaking and defense – is the guy Denver needs to be there every night to have a successful season.
As the Nuggets coasted through a 20+ point lead, the bench players got extensive play in this game, and for the most part made the most of it. JaVale McGee was nearly perfect until missing his final shot, going 7-8. He actually played alongside Koufos for a good stretch of the game to very favorable results. Expect to see Karl employing that tandem more often.
Corey Brewer had what by now we could call a typical “good Corey Brewer game.” A little too 3-point happy, perhaps, but aggressive as ever on defense, constantly running the floor hard for easy cuts and cherry picks, cranking up the energy to 11. It was mentioned before, but it does merit repeating that he had six assists in this game, which was great to see.
Jordan Hamilton’s game has some erratic and reckless tendencies, and it seems like nearly everything he does is really good or really bad, with not much neutral between. He makes a pretty big impact on the game nearly every time he sets foot on the court, and it’s never clear on the balance how much it will help or harm his team. Tonight he struggled with his outside shot, but put his athleticism to great effect with a nice variety of drives and floaters in the paint. He made a great chase-down defensive stop that will hopefully earn Karl’s trust so he can get the minutes he needs to develop his skills and learn to reduce his mistakes.
Evan Fournier seemed to do a little of everything tonight. With Lawson out, he was called upon as the reserve point guard. The dichotomy between he and J-Ham is really interesting. Hamilton probably has more natural skill and athleticism, but it’s so far less refined. Fournier’s pro experience really shows in his feel for the game, his court vision and his decision making. He did a great job of facilitating, and would have had more than two turnovers if his 3rd-stringer associates had done a better job of knocking down the easy looks he set up for them. Like Hamilton, he’s a player who really needs more burn, and there simply aren’t enough minutes to go around.
The same could be said for Anthony Randolph, who could probably play backup power forward on some teams in the NBA. If this were the standard Rapid Reaction, he’d get a B. He didn’t do anything exceptionally great or poorly, he was just pretty solid all around, and played hard including on the defensive end.
Quincy Miller really needs to get sent back to the D-League. It’s unclear why he was brought back up in the first place (injury insurance with Wilson Chandler out?) but he is clearly quite lost out there. Part of that is understandable, as he hasn’t had the same amount of time to spend with the coaches and players, but nonetheless, he just needs more time to develop before he’s truly NBA-ready. The game just seems to pass him by.
The Nuggets will close out 2012 with a 4-in-5, three games of which are on the road, including the next one on Christmas at the Los Angeles Clippers. The next day, it’s back to Denver against the Lakers, followed by a day off and then a back-to-back at Dallas and Memphis. If they can split these four games, they’ll finish the opening stretch of the season 17-15 (.531) which, considering the brutality of the schedule thus far, is not an entirely unrespectable place to be.
Have a great holiday season, everybody! Stay safe and warm, and enjoy spending time with your family and friends.