|Danilo Gallinari, SF 29 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -8After exploding for a career-high 39 points against the Mavericks last night, the Rooster laid an egg in this one, shooting two of seven and getting to the free line just twice. When Gallo settles for contested long range jumpers and fails to attack the basket, his consistency and effectiveness suffer, and tonight was a perfect example. On defense, he could do nothing to slow down Rudy Gay’s onslaught in the 4th quarter which ultimately sealed the victory for memphis.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 5-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -7Faried’s energy was a bright spot once again, as he started the game off strong with hustle and effort. But it was quickly dimmed as he got himself into quick foul trouble, limiting his minutes, and restraining the impact he could have as he held himself back to avoid fouling out. He did a good job on both ends of the floor, but ultimately had he avoided a few mental mistakes, he could have made a much bigger difference.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -1In the first quarter, Koufos couldn’t muster up any ability to stop Zach Randolph on defense. He played better over the course of the game, but the larger problem, for which he and Faried share much of the blame, was a lack of defensive rebounding. The Grizzlies beat the Nuggets 17 to 10 on the offensive glass, and scored a bunch of easy second- and third-chance points as a result. Koufos ended up fouling out midway through the fourth quarter, and as the Nuggets were fairly fatigued and Faried was also in foul trouble, this proved to be somewhat costly.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 28 MIN | 1-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -7Lawson was virtually invisible in this game, and when that happens it’s a pretty sure key to a Nuggets loss. Three points and one assist is simply an unacceptable performance from Ty, excuses about fatigue and a road-heavy schedule be damned. When he disappears, so do the Nuggets’ chances of winning.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 41 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 12 PTS | -12If the game had ended after the first half, Iguodala would have received an A. He opened up the game continuing his aggressive play, driving to the basket and creating easy scoring opportunities for teammates. (He was a better point guard than both Lawson and Miller in this game). But some very costly turnovers and otherwise head-scratchingly sloppy plays (360-degree pivot in the corner as he launches a wild, contested 3-pointer) down the stretch knock his grade down a few notches. But he did at least play with effort the entire time, and it’s good to see him putting that in more consistently of late.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 30 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | -7Brewer is another player who might have earned a higher grade if not for some careless turnovers. He did make a few big shots at some key points in the game to keep it close, and defended well throughout, but he really only thrives when the Nuggets are getting up and down the court, and this was not that game. He was mostly a positive, but had a fairly limited impact.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -5Mozgov was pretty good on defense and pretty bad on offense, where he looked pretty much lost. It may be a function of not always being in the rotation, but he doesn’t seem to really know how to fit into the offensive flow. It was unfortunate to see that in this game, because one would expect Timo to be one of the Nuggets players more adaptable to its slow-paced, half court style of play. There are rumors he is on the block, and it will not be in the least bit surprising if Mozzie is gone by the trade deadline.|
|JaVale McGee, C 22 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +1McGee was arguably the best Nuggets player tonight. True, some of the “bad JaVale” was on display, with some wild shots and errant passes. But his defense and rebounding were at the center of Denver keeping the game close for as long as they did. He has six blocks on the stat sheet, but his presence in the paint altered many more, and really took a dimension away from the Grizzlies offense. It was a good example of why he needs more minutes, yet he had only 22 in this game despite both Koufos and Faried being in foul trouble.|
|Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 7 PTS | +1The question is not if Andre Miller took bong hits at halftime, but how many. I’m sure from a Memphis perspective, Rudy Gay single handedly won the game for them in clutch time. From a Denver perspective, it can be said that Miller single handedly lost it (in more ways than one). He was just laughing and chuckling away as, at the most critical juncture of the game, he started inexplicably throwing the ball away again and again. This could have been the 9th game in 10 days, and there would still be no excuse for that, and it canceled out every bit of good he might have done earlier in the game.|
|George KarlI was fully prepared to give Karl a good grade for this game until the fourth quarter, when things fell apart. His biggest transgression was when he all but conceded the game with 0:46 remaining and the Nuggets down by eight after a missed 3-pointer by Gallo. With a judicious use of fouling and timeouts an eight point deficit is not insurmountable in 46 seconds, but Karl did not have his players foul at all, instead allowing Memphis to wind down nearly the entire shot clock until Wayne Ellington connected on a 3-pointer to seal the game. It was Z-Bo who grabbed the defensive rebound after Gallinari’s miss. Had George instructed his players during the timeout to immediately foul the rebounder if they miss their shot, Denver may have had an opportunity, perhaps unlikely but at least extant, to contend for the win, or a chance to go into overtime. Instead, he waved the white flag. Another fourth quarter mistake was leaving Faried in when the fact he had five fouls was clearly inhibiting his effectiveness on the court. What makes Faried valuable is that he’s always full throttle, so when he’s afraid to step on the gas, he should be sitting on the bench. I also thought Evan Fournier should have been sent in, given how ineffective both point guards were. He’d at least have been a pair of fresh legs, and perhaps a spark of energy off the bench. All of that said, it should be noted that Karl did manage the game fairly well for the first three quarters. Specifically, he went big to good effect. But if mistakes cost the game in the end, the importance of any early game positives fades away.|
Four Things We Saw
- In good standing. The Nuggets finish the year, and the most difficult two months of their schedule, with a record of 17-15 (.531), including a league-best 9-1 home record. They are second in the Northwest Division, and if the playoffs started tomorrow they would be the seventh seed and meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. Considering how badly many of the individual players and the team as a whole have played at times, and how rough the opening schedule has been, this a a relatively respectable position to be in at this point. And given the very friendly January schedule with only three road games, this team could really be poised to surge, even if tonight’s game did not make them look like it.
- The Nuggets’ true identity soon will be revealed. This last 4-in-5 has been a picture perfect microcosm of the entire Nuggets season. Two fantastic wins sandwiched by a horrible loss and an ugly loss, with Denver alternately looking like two completely different teams. January will be a pivotal month, as the long home stretches will be proving grounds for questions about consistency, chemistry and slumps. If they cannot find stability and focus, or start meshing together more consistently despite having so many games at the Pepsi Center, we may expect Masai Ujiri to start getting busy and shaking up the roster some.
- How low can you go? The Nuggets’ 72 points were the fewest they have scored in a game this season, lower than the 75 they scored in their Halloween loss to the 76ers. Denver is now 4-7 (.363) in games in which they score 100 points or fewer, and 13-7 (.650) in games in which they score more than 100 points.
- Have a very safe and happy New Year’s, everybody! Let’s hope the Nuggets can start 2013 off on the right foot with a revenge win against the Clippers.on New Year’s Day.
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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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