[Note: Our apologies for the delay in the Rapid Reaction tonight. We were having site issues which prevented it from getting posted in a more timely manner. And just so you know, this post was written by new Roundball Mining Company contributor Matt Cianfrone. You can follow him on Twitter at @Matt_Cianfrone. -Joel]
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 38 MIN | 5-11 FG | 5-8 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | -2Gallo was invisible in the first half of this game, partially due to foul trouble, and outside of a spurt in the third quarter and a nice drive late, it continued into most of the second half as well. He did a good job of making things tough on Kevin Durant when he was matched up with him though which raised his grade a bit.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 40 MIN | 7-12 FG | 2-6 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | +5The only thing that kept Faried from getting an A+ for tonight’s game were the two big free throws he missed with just 10 seconds remaining in overtime. It ended up not mattering because Nick Collison picked up a offensive foul on the ensuing inbounds play, but the results could have been disastrous for the Nuggets and that has to be taken into account. But the rest of the night Faried was incredible, his numbers don’t tell anywhere near the story of what he did. He brought great energy from the outset of the game and seemingly frustrated the Thunder bigs into ineffectiveness. It was a fantastic effort from the Manimal, and one that the Nuggets needed to see against a physical front line.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +4While Koufos didn’t have quite the impact that Faried did due to foul trouble, when he was on the floor he was incredibly effective. Koufos had only three offensive rebounds but was able to keep balls alive all night that his teammates then controlled. He also did a great job at flashing to right in front of the rim as his teammates drove and finished most of the opportunities those flashes gave him. The foul trouble limited his minutes and therefore his grade but for the 21 minutes he played Koufos was every bit as important as any Nugget on the floor.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 45 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 11 PTS | +8The nine assists are nice but the rest of Lawson’s night was dreadful, especially his play on the final possession of regulation. Lawson dribbled out the clock and didn’t even get a shot up in time which is the worst play someone could make in a close game. Even if the shot was released in time it was a terrible one, as Lawson seemed to lose track of the time left on the clock and started his drive too late. And that doesn’t even account for his turnover two possessions before. Just not a good night for Ty.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 27 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +6Offensively Iggy struggled again tonight finishing with only nine points but he did a good job on the other end of the floor, where for most of the night he was matched up with Russell Westbrook. While Westbrook had 36, he was only 10 of 26 from the floor, and most of the makes came late in the game when Andre Miller was defending him, not Iguodala. Part of why the Nuggets got Iggy though was to help create offense, and with only 9 points and 3 assists he didn’t do that, and he wasn’t in the game late to help on defense, so its hard to go with much more than a C+.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 34 MIN | 9-17 FG | 5-7 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 26 PTS | -7While Faried’s energy helped frustrate the Thunder bigs, Brewer’s energy helped frustrate the Thunder perimeter players all night. And that doesn’t even take into account his offensive explosion that included three long balls. It was a fantastic night for Brewer who helped guard the trio of Durant, Westbrook, and Kevin Martin and did a pretty good job on all three, minus some dubious calls on Durant throughout the night. A great night from Brewer overall, who was easily the Nuggets best player on the night.|
|JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | 0JaVale’s night started good with a running hook on Serge Ibaka but that was about the best it got for him. He was late on rotations, forced multiple shots from the block and even missed put backs from point blank range. Throw in a goaltend and its safe to say that the 17 minutes were more than enough, if not too many, for McGee on the night.|
|Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -3The Thunder are a really tough matchup for Miller and his specific skill set and it showed in this game. There isn’t really a player that Dre can beat on the offensive end of the floor, which showed in his 4-10 shooting, and defensively there isn’t really a player for him to guard except Thabo Sefolosha. But George Karl continued with his philosophy of playing his two point guards late and Miller got eaten up on both ends of the floor. In fact on Gallo’s drive late in the 4th quarter Miller stood out-of-bounds, taking an already non-threat because he can’t shoot, completely out of the play. Miller wasn’t very good on the night, but Karl didn’t help him by playing him as many minutes as someone who could help more in a game like this such as Iguodala.|
|Wilson Chandler, SG 16 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +4Chandler knocked down the two biggest shots of the game for the Nuggets, the two free-throws that put them up 3 with just 5 seconds left. He continued to be aggressive attacking the basket when he is in the game and helped the Nuggets defend the final couple of Thunder possessions well. The shooting once he gets to the rim should improve as he continues to work rust off too, which will only open up the outside for him more.|
|George KarlI was fully ready to give Karl an A for the night until the final few minutes of regulation, when due to some poor decisions the Thunder came roaring back into the game. First of all why was Andre Igoudala sat in favor of Andre Miller? Miller was getting torched by Russell Westbrook, who had 7 points, two assists and a missed layup in the final 2:50 of the fourth quarter when Miller was the primary defender on him. On the offensive end things weren’t much better in that time, as Miller was blocked on his only shot attempt and literally stood out of bounds on another possession. Then on the final play of overtime Karl drew up an isolation for Lawson and we all know what that brought. Yet in overtime nothing changed as the same group that finished regulation and blew the lead for the Nuggets started the extra period. What Karl did well though was keep his team under control and focused in a game that was terribly officiated, and mostly on the wrong side for the Nuggets. But the late game decisions just don’t allow me to give Karl anything more than an average grade.|
In this latest Roundball Mining Company Film Room installment, we will take a look at how the Nuggets got Wilson Chandler open for a game-winning 3-pointer running their unconventional offensive system.
Prior to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the Denver Nuggets hired new assistant coach Vance Walberg, famous in basketball circles for creating what’s known as the dribble-drive-motion offense. He officially joined the staff after having consulted for Denver the previous season. At that time Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post described how Walberge implemented his innovative system: as a high school and college coach: (more…)
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 5-16 FG | 5-5 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +10Gallo had a pretty solid first half, despite his jumper not falling. Got to the rim quite a few times. He sat for too long in the fourth quarter, and when he finally came in he took several bad shots.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 27 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +12Faried didn’t bring a lot of energy, didn’t finish at the rim, and couldn’t stop anybody on defense late in the game.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +2Koufos was solid for most of the game. He didn’t get credit for any blocked shots, but I counted at least 3 that he altered significantly. Leaving Seraphin alone for an offensive rebound late in the game was a big mistake.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 11-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 29 PTS | -5Ty started out slow and had trouble finishing in the first half, but turned it on in the third quarter with 23 points scored in a variety of ways. He also had a couple of steals and played decent defense for most of the game. A poor decision to drive into traffic hurts his grade here.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 30 MIN | 0-4 FG | 2-6 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -1When your shooting guard shoots this poorly from the field and from the line, it’s going to be hard to win. He did have several nice defensive plays, including stopping a fast break singlehandedly early in the game.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-4 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | -8If the game ended at halftime, I would have given Cold Brew an A- for the game. He was wreaking havoc on the defensive end and hit most of his shots. In the second half he gambled and ended up in the backcourt without possession several times, leading to easy buckets that allowed the Wiz to close the gap. He started missing shots, but at least decided to feed Ty Lawson when he was hot.|
|JaVale McGee, C 14 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -12JaVale was aggressive in the paint to close out the first half. He was exactly the opposite at the start of the fourth quarter.|
|Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 8-10 FG | 1-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | -6By far the hardest player to grade tonight. On the plus side, he was scoring pretty much at will in the fourth quarter. On the minus side, he had several defensive lapses and missed two key free throws.|
|Wilson Chandler, SG 20 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -12He played a lot like Brewer, except he wasn’t hitting shots at any point in the game.|
|George KarlI try not to give out F’s very often, but when you lose a game like this, the coach has to take the blame. The Wizards had several stretches of the game where they were getting everything they wanted on offense. GK took too long to adjust, and the adjustments he made weren’t very effective.|
Last week I posted a brief notification about Corey Brewer’s upcoming role in the major motion picture, Movie 43. I’ve since been able to land an interview with him on this subject, which you can find here. During the interview I was able to ask Brewer about his future with the Nuggets and the possibility of staying in Denver long term, to which he replied:
Oh yeah. I like Denver. I wouldn’t mind staying here. It’s my contract year so we’ll see what happens, but I definitely wouldn’t mind staying here.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 26 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -21
Gallo had trouble defending Durant and that was all she wrote. His impact on the game outside of making a few shots was minimal.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 21 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -24
Faried was almost not even present. As is often the case with more physical and larger power forwards, Faried was swallowed up.
|Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 6-6 FG | 4-6 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -8
Koufos was the best player on the team. That’s all you need to know to figure out the direction this game went. He was great all night on the glass and around the basket. He converted misses as well as entry passes with the execution of a veteran. His defense was also solid, yet again.
|Ty Lawson, PG 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 2 PTS | -14
It’s hard to achieve this stat line in 20 minutes of action. Lawson was clearly stifled by Westbrook, which isn’t a good sign for the playoffs. Lawson relies on his speed, yet Westbrook is one of the few players in the league who’s probably faster than Lawson. He’s also stronger, more athletic and more talented.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 30 MIN | 4-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -17
While Iguodala had one of the better stat lines of the starting unit, it was still pretty bad. He was missing shots by a wide margin too. He got most of his points of easy baskets, meanwhile his defense wasn’t particularly great either.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 16 MIN | 1-6 FG | 6-8 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +5
Randolph was one of the bright spots against the Thunder. He drove the basket and got fouls. He didn’t make a lot of shots, but he was aggressive. He also played pretty well on defense, evident by his three blocks and three steals. This is one player I’d like to see get some more action every now and then, considering the Nuggets don’t really have a backup power forward.
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 9 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +3
What can you say about Hamilton? He clearly didn’t belong with the group he was playing with tonight. He’s a big small forward who can drive, drain threes and score at will. You have to wonder what he’s done wrong in light of Fournier ostensibly moving ahead of him on the depth chart.
|Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 1-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -8
I hardly remember Brewer at all. There were a few sequences where he played solid defense but he was MIA other than that. It would have been nice to see him on Durant more…
|Timofey Mozgov, C 10 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +8
Mozgov logged decent minutes. He missed some pretty easy buckets and got hit in the face with the ball, but he was active, which is always good.
|JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 5-6 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | -19
JaVale finally overcame his slump — or so it appears. He was under control for most of the night and only made one or two “bonehead” plays. Other than that, he played with composure and verve, especially on offense.
|Julyan Stone, PG 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1
I like Stone; always have. I just like the way he quarterbacks the offense. He’s a floor general at heart. He’s always looking to get others involved first and he never forces anything. It would be interesting to see how well he could defend guys like Durant…
|Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -8
Miller’s assists are where he gets his grade. He did do a fine job of sharing the rock, I’ll give him that. But his tunnel vision scares me. I feel like he’s always on the verge of thinking he has to throw his team on his back and score every time down the floor — which should never happen.
|Evan Fournier, SG 15 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +4
Fournier’s stat line is deceiving. For about 10 minutes of his floor time he was turning the ball over and committing awful fouls. He played better as the game progressed, but I still have no idea how he got inserted before Hamilton.
Karl’s team was totally unprepared from the start. They were never in this game — not even in the first few minutes. It was like watching JV vs. Varsity. Durant and Westbrook are two of the best player in the league, but the Nuggets have several of the best defenders in the league. Why was Iguodala not on Westbrook more? Why was Brewer not on Durant more? Instead Westbrook schooled Andre Miller and overpowered Ty Lawson all night, while Durant took Gallo to the hole repeatedly. And it all starts with defense. The Thunder had almost 70 by half and finished with 117. That’s inexcusable. I don’t care if you’re coming off a week of hiking in the Rocky Mountains with little to no sleep — that kind of defensive effort just won’t cut it. I felt like this was a game Karl had no problems conceding from the start. At least, that’s how it looked.
To preface, let me just say that I’m working with merely a two-game sample size thus far. As more information comes in, which is to say as more games are played, this picture will come into sharper focus.
That said, what has quickly come abundantly clear since Wilson Chandler’s recent return to action is that Karl intends to deploy him heavily in the regular rotation. At least in the ballpark, that is, of players such as Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee. He’s unquestionably in the mix.
For those Nuggets fans who were looking forward to seeing increased minutes from the likes of Jordan Hamilton, Evan Fournier and Julyan Stone as the season deepened and their development progressed, I’m afraid you (we) may have to put those hopes to rest. It would appear that Karl has his guys. (more…)
|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.
According to Fox Sports’ Chris Tomasson, the Nuggets are looking to deal center Timofey Mozgov. One team Tomasson suggests could be in the running is the Miami Heat. While the Heat don’t have a bevy of assets to offer, Tomasson highlights a first-round pick owed to the Heat from the 76ers as a possible trade chip. In all likelihood the Nuggets will have to include additional assets in order to successfully complete a deal with the Heat alone. With the Nuggets still in much need of a deep threat, two players to keep an eye on are sharpshooters James Jones and Rashard Lewis, both of whom currently remain outside the nightly rotation in Miami.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 7-12 FG | 4-6 FT | 8 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | +17Gallo had a very effective night, helping in almost every aspect of the game and coming up big in the second half. He had 15 second half points and a big three that put the Nuggets up 11 late and virtually sealed the game. Gallo also posted eight rebounds, including a couple of big offensive boards, and six assists, which were nice additions to his scoring and helped him post the highest plus/minus on the team for the night, with a +17.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 30 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +2While Faried put the exclamation point on the Nuggets fourth quarter run with a dunk and a block, his night was average at best. A continuing problem, Faried struggled with David Lee, allowing Lee to post 23 points , 13 rebounds , and 6 assists. Faried also left his guards out to dry at points, as he played to far underneath screens to help, allowing Steph Curry to bomb away. With the Warriors looming as a potential playoff opponent, the Nuggets need to figure out a way to get around Faried’s struggles with stretch fours.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +2Kofous was solid but unspectacular in his 20 minutes. His first half, where he scored 6 points and had 4 offensive rebounds, helped the Nuggets stay close but he only played 9 minutes in the second half; as the Nuggets went small with Gallo and Chandler both seeing time at the four, and most of the remaining center minutes went to JaVale.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 33 MIN | 6-14 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | 0Lawson was the other main reason the game was close at halftime, as he got off to a scorching start scoring 16 first half points. While those 16 points were as many as the rest of the starters combined, he let Steph Curry catch fire and added just four points and three assists in the second half. Still without his energy and scoring punch in the first half who knows where the Nuggets would have been at halftime.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 32 MIN | 4-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -3Iguodala was another Nugget who only really appeared for a half, but he gets a half grade edge over Lawson because of his defensive effort. The game seemed to swing after Iggy stole a pass away from Klay Thompson for an easy dunk then forced Thompson to throw the pass out of bounds giving the Nuggets back the ball, and continuing Thompson’s miserable night. But as good as his second half was Iguodala seemed to sleepwalk a bit offensively in the first half as he went 1-6 from the field, including 0-4 from behind the line. For someone who is expected to be aggressive and help create offense for teammates it was an ugly, passive half.|
|Anthony Randolph, PF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | 0Inconclusive.|
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Inconclusive.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +10Brewer really showed up in the second half, scoring 9 of his 13 points and along with Miller and Iguodala really turned up the pressure on the Warriors guards. That defensive intensity really swung the game and allowed the Nuggets to make their run so it was no surprise that Brewer posted a +10 for the night.|
|JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 2-3 FG | 5-8 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +10JaVale wasn’t spectacular tonight but he was effective, and he made his foul shots, which allowed him to stay on the floor late in the game. But as impressive as the 5-8 from the line was, the one rebound (which was offensive) wasn’t. Simply put as a seven footer with incredible athleticism McGee needs to grab more rebounds when he is on the floor, especially on the defensive end.|
|Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +12Miller was fantastic tonight. Offensively he was in control and attacking the basket and his ball pressure defensively, along with Iguodala and Brewer, helped change the game. His strip of Jarrett Jack and ensuing layup came right in the middle of a big Nuggets run that gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter. Add 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists to that defense and it was hard to find a problem with his game.|
|Evan Fournier, SG 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Inconclusive.|
|Wilson Chandler, SG 21 MIN | 6-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +5Chandler was great in his return, and for a while was one of the only Nuggets playing well offensively. He attacked the basket when available, knocked down a couple threes and made some steals defensively. There were a couple of questionable shots, but that could be expected due to some rust that was sure to be there. For a while I wondered if Karl would use him to close the game, instead of Faried, but it turned out to not be a problem. The addition of Chandler to the bench as another versatile athlete and scoring threat should really help the Nuggets.|
|George KarlThe Nuggets game plan of pressuring the Warriors guards and trapping side pick-and-rolls was great, and unexpected. While it took so long into the season to start to see, the defensive effort has to be attributed some to Karl. Now the real question is, will it last? Chandler should help some as the Nuggets now gain another bench body to use, and a versatile, athletic one at that. The combinations that will start to be seen should be interesting and for Nuggets fans after tonight, exciting.|
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 31 MIN | 8-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 23 PTS | +8Gallinari started making some big plays in the third quarter that got the Nuggets back in the game. Funny how that usually seems to happen when he starts driving more aggressively to the basket. It really was his work on the offensive end that started breaking down what had been a very effective Cavaliers paint defense, and it enabled Denver to get back into their style of play and start making a comeback.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 33 MIN | 6-7 FG | 5-7 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +3This was among the worst of Faried’s defensive performances of the season. In the first half he was getting abused by Tristan Thompson and… Luke Walton. Luke Walton? He was better on the offensive end, but wasn’t really his usual explosive self for much of the game. He did come out with more energy and focus in the second half, though, and his rebounding and offensive efficiency went a long way in offsetting his defensive liability.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 35 MIN | 10-17 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 21 PTS | +12Since the entire team deserved an F for the first half, I really did not want to give any players an A for this game. But Koufos truly outdid himself tonight. He scored a new career high with 21 points in what is surely his best game of the season, if not career. On the rebounding and blocking front, the stat sheet may not look too impressive, but this was one of the most active, energetic performances we’ve seen from Kosta this season. Running the floor, battling in the paint, moving off the ball — in the second half he seemed to be everywhere he needed to be, doing all the right things. Maybe he stole what Corey Brewer usually drinks before games to get juiced up. Whatever it was, he gets the game ball.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 3-11 FG | 7-10 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 13 PTS | +10Lawson really needs to come out of the gates with aggression rather than waiting for the second, third or fourth quarter to turn it on. When he starts off sluggish it sets a weak tone for the entire team, and they have a hard time finding their groove. But fortunately, he did finally find a way to flip that switch in the fourth quarter, and his dribble penetration got the Nuggets some badly needed layups and helped to keep the defense honest. Because of that it’s tempting to grade him higher, but the six turnovers and the lackluster first half just can’t be overlooked.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 41 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 11 REB | 4 AST | 13 PTS | +9For the Nuggets defense late in the game, it was Iguodala who really made the difference by slowing down and frustrating a seemingly unstoppable Kyrie Irving. I was tempted to dock him a notch in the grading for a very poor decision he made late in the game by taking an out-of-sync corner 3-pointer with a lot of time left at a moment when Denver should have been chewing clock and looking for a higher percentage shot. But his overall game was solid, and as usual he was doing a little of everything that needed to be done.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 PTS | -6Brewer was absolutely worthless in the first half. And then he was almost as bad in the second, save for one steal that opened up a fast break, and maybe another play or two. This was a clear case of Karl overestimating “his guys.” At a time when the entire team’s shooting is ice cold, why not give Jordan Hamilton some run to see if he can make an impact? Only Karl knows.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 8 MIN | 0-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | +2Karl sent in Mozzie to enforce the paint to good effect in this game. He had three blocks in eight minutes, and had a sort of dislodging effect on the Cavs’ paint packing strategy. If Koufos hadn’t suddenly blown up, he may have gotten more minutes, but he did a good job in the little time he played.|
|JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 0-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -5McGee missed at least three or four dunks in this game. Somehow his ability to finish just evaporated. But he made a more spirited, energetic effort than most of his teammates through the first three quarters, blocking and altering shots and contesting for rebounds (he had seven in just 12 minutes). His inability to knock down his shots and connect on his dunks dampened his net impact in this game, but at least his heart and his effort were in it from the start, which is more than most of his teammates can say.|
|Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 8 PTS | +5Firstly, Andre Miller needs to stop taking 3-pointers. It seems to be a recent trend that he takes one or two a game, and it needs to be put to rest. With that out of the way, some of both the good and bad Miller were on display tonight. He did a fairly good job of finding his midrange jumper, as well as a fairly good amount of dribbling into traffic and turning it over, and giving Cleveland’s perimeter shooters open looks. It’s not enough to bump him up into B territory, but it should be noted that, against all odds, he made a huge offensive rebound down low late in the game that resulted in a Lawson layup that decisively shifted the advantage to the Nuggets.|
|Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -3Fournier is fearless, a decent decision maker given his professional experience in Europe, and a spirited defender. So it’s easy to understand why Karl likes him. But he struggles to find a way to be effective outside of garbage time, and based on their respective performances this season, it’s not clear why he has come to emerge ahead of J-Ham in the rotation. He accomplished nothing tonight.|
|George KarlIn the Rapid Reaction for the last game against the Magic, Kalen discussed how the Nuggets always come out flat in games. Another thing they always do is play down to inferior opponents. In post-game comments, Bill Hanzlik talked about how frustrating and disappointing such things must be to Karl. The only problem with that, however, is that these problems date back years. They were hallmarks of the Melo era. And now, with only one Nuggets player remaining from that time (or two depending on how you look at i) and 13 new players on a roster that has almost entirely turned over, it’s the same old crap. It’s easy to point a finger at the players — and they do surely deserve some of the blame — and criticize their lack of effort. But this goes beyond that. It’s structurally endemic to the Nuggets culture, and the architect of that culture is George Karl. From an outside perspective, it’s hard to evaluate coaches since so much of coaching goes on behind the scenes, and we’re largely limited to rotational decisions, interactions with the refs, timeout usage, and scattered, often vague anecdotes from beat reporters. There’s a continuum of shared responsibility between the players and coaching staff, and when things go wrong it’s not always easy to discern who carries the larger burden of responsibility. Tonight, the Nuggets dodged a bullet and eked out a win against a team they should have dominated. But to say they came out flat would be an understatement. They came out utterly deflated, and given the upcoming schedule which features GSW, a surging POR, OKC twice and HOU twice in the next nine games, that’s inexcusable. Cleveland came out with a clear game plan which they pretty much executed to perfection in the first half. The scouting reports were in, their playeers were all on the same page, they knew exactly what they were doing. The Nuggets looked lost and confused, totally unprepared. They should have been up for this game, and they were not. At all. And that’s on Karl, whose team won in spite of it.|