|Danilo Gallinari, SF 42 MIN | 8-14 FG | 6-8 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 25 PTS | -1
What I loved most about this game was how efficiently Gallo scored. He didn’t force anything. He mixed long-range shots with drives and put-backs. I know Gallo has been playing very well lately, but consider this: In his last 10 games he’s averaging 20 points (on nearly 49 percent shooting from the floor), six boards and 2.5 assists per game. If Gallo keeps letting the game come to him, we’ll likely see this spike in production continue the rest of the season.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 31 MIN | 9-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +7
As is often the case, Faried was the heart of his team’s performance for much of the night. At half he was on pace for a 30-point, 15-rebound game and while he didn’t achieve that feat he still put up a 20-and-10 night to go with an incredible enthusiasm that none of his opponents could match. If Faried doesn’t come out and play like the true Manimal that he is, there’s a good chance the Nuggets get caught sleeping and lose this game.
|Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +15
We can’t always be hypnotized by numbers. There are many nights when players affect the game in ways that numbers cannot show. This was one of those nights for Koufos. He played solid defense throughout the game and did many little things that helped the Nuggets win.
|Ty Lawson, PG 40 MIN | 10-19 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +7
This was one of the best games I’ve ever seen from Lawson. He’s put up these types of numbers before, but the way in which he did it was remarkable. He started the game off on a tear, cooled down, then experienced a resurgence in the fourth quarter that essentially won the game for the Nuggets. In the last four minutes of the fourth quarter he scored eight points and then continued his damage in overtime. What stood out to me most is how he got his shot blocked at the rim on several occasions but kept pounding it inside (with great success) until the final whistle. He displayed great resiliency and a will to win that only the truest of leaders possess.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 41 MIN | 4-16 FG | 0-3 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +9
This may seem like a harsh grade, but let’s be completely honest: How many big games has Iguodala either showed up in, or better yet, won for the Nuggets? He’s had quite a few impressive outings but they never seem to come when the Nuggets need them most. Defense alone won’t cut it either. The Nuggets (and the fans) expect him to be much more than just Tony Allen. He’s paid about $10 million more per year than Tony Allen and if the Nuggets plan on retaining him that figure likely won’t drop much. This is only one game, of course, but Iguodala needs to start showing up when his team needs him, and not just when he decides to.
|Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -4
I thought Brewer’s defense was some of the best he’s played all year. The Nuggets got a huge spark from their defense in the second half and Brewer was the often catalyst, as far as I could tell. It’s an absolute joy watching him play when he puts so much effort into stopping his opponent. Truly, an absolute joy.
|JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -9
McGee has hit a rough patch. That much is clear. He’s having some problems on the court which seem to have finally driven him crazy. He’s over-thinking and yet, not thinking at all. He’s not relaxed. He’s not composed. It’s as if he’s nervous about making mistakes, which is naturally causing him to make mistakes. Now, I don’t know that this is exactly the case. I’m no psychologist. This is just a guess. But we’ve seen this before with guys Karl keeps on short leashes. Instead of being themselves (which entails making more mistakes than they probably should) they retreat to this frenetic, neurotic, bad-decision making that just compounds the problem. McGee had a few huge plays down the stretch but spent most of the game wondering about in his own mind.
|Andre Miller, PG 30 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -4
Miller seemed bound determined he was going to score tonight, which he totally did not do. He took countless bad shots and had tunnel vision the whole game — yet he still got to play meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter. If not for the several minutes of solid defense in crunch time, he’d likely be flirting with an F.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 19 MIN | 5-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | 0
This is a tough performance to grade. Throughout the middle of the game Chandler took one contested jump shot after another. His defense was great, but his offense was perplexing at times. Then, Chandler hit what was basically a game-winning 3-pointer and all was immediately forgiven. Overall, he’s been fantastic since coming back from surgery; much better than I expected. If he can limit his bad shots, drive to the hoop more and continue to play lock-down defense, the Nuggets will get a huge spark from his return to the rotation.
Karl gets the grade he does because the Nuggets won. No matter how awful we may think he is at times, winning cannot be denied. That said… Karl did many things against the Blazers that also jeopardized the Nuggets chances of winning.
First, the Nuggets lost every timeout throughout the game. Every single one. After the Nuggets fought to gain a lead, the Blazers would immediately call a timeout and proceed to pound the Nuggets into submission. What does this mean? I’m not sure, really. Do Karl’s players listen when he is talking during timeouts? Is he being as fiery as he needs to be? Again, I don’t know. I’m not in the huddle so I can’t say. Nevertheless, this has been a problem all year and will likely continue into the postseason, sadly.
Next, Karl’s absolutely inexplicable reluctance to adapt to his opponents tactics, yet again, nearly cost the Nuggets the game. After playing McGee in the fourth quarter and building up a nine-point lead with nearly four minutes to go, Karl (again!) baffled every Nugget fan with an ounce of brain power by deciding to play Faried at center and Andre Miller at shooting guard down the stretch. The Blazers then casually went inside time after time with great success only to fully erase the Nuggets once nine-point lead and send the game into overtime. While Karl admitted his mistake and played McGee in overtime, the fact remains: IT NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED!!! We’ve seen this entirely too many times already and we’re only halfway through the season!!! Why does Karl not understand that every scenario in the NBA is going to be different!?! He cannot simply trot out the same small-ball gameplan and expect to succeed when each team has different players and different strategies! He really, REALLY needs to adapt to different situations so that Nuggets Nation can continue to keep the remaining hair they have and not pull every single last strand out of their skulls!
All that said, I liked Karl’s defensive schemes and lineups throughout most of the game. Portland only scored 41 points combined in the second and third quarters, which I thought were some of the best defensive quarters the Nuggets have had all year in terms of activity and commitment to stifling their opponent.
Three Things We Saw
- Home Cookin': The Nuggets have now won six games in a row and eight of their last 10. They are one game back from Golden State for the fifth seed in the West and two games back from Memphis for the fourth seed. I truly cannot express how important it is to get homecourt advantage in the playoffs for this team. That is everything. That is all that matters in the world that is the Nuggets success in the postseason.
- B2B: The Nuggets will face Oklahoma City on the road Wednesday. Playing a back-to-back against anybody is tough. But OKC? If the Nuggets could somehow pull a win out against the Thunder, I will be the first to write off any and every problem they had through the first half of the season. No matte what, how this team comes out and performs will say a lot about the amount of heart and zeal they possess.
- Downtown Disaster: At some point the Nuggets must address their 3-point defensive issues. They rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to percentage, but the Nuggets are the second worst team in the league (behind only the Bobcats) at defending the amount of threes made by their opponent. People simply aren’t closing out and rotating fast enough. If the Nuggets can shore up this issue, they should be in good shape.