Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 111, Portland Trailblazers 109

Denver Nuggets 111 Final

Recap | Box Score

109 Portland Trail Blazers
Kenneth Faried, SF 26 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -8

Faried had a great energy throughout the game but couldn’t really concentrate it properly. He was a bit wild and inconsistent and had trouble defending Aldridge. He did have a few nice assists, which is something you love to see from him (and would like to see more often).

Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 5-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +1

Koufos could have been better. He was solid, but there were many where he missed easy putbacks and other opportunities that would have helped his team out in the long run.

Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 12-22 FG | 6-9 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 30 PTS | +4

Lawson will finish out the month of February averaging 23 points and nine assists per game. It has been the best month of his career thus far. It’s also fitting he finishes February in this fashion — essentially leading the Nuggets to a road victory in one of the toughest arenas in the NBA. His confidence right now is through the roof. He was even talking trash to Wesley Mathews at the end of the game, which is something you rarely see from him.

Wilson Chandler, SG 28 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -3

Not sure I understand Chandler at this point, or any point throughout his tenure with the Nuggets. He’s right up there with Corey Brewer in terms of inconsistency. One night he pours in 23 against the Lakers, the next he manages only seven. His offense can be difficult to grasp as a fan. He has only a select few moves he utilizes and they often come at arbitrary points throughout the game. It would be nice to see him move better without the ball too.

Andre Iguodala, SG 43 MIN | 11-20 FG | 5-10 FT | 7 REB | 8 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 29 PTS | 0

Yep, this was Iguodala’s best game as a Nugget — hands down. His stats were insane. Like Lawson, he was playing with a supreme level of confidence this game. He was just on a totally different level. All that said, his free throw shooting is something else. He was bricking them harder than Dwight Howard. Not sure what’s going on there but it’s kinda ridiculous, to be honest.

Anthony Randolph, PF 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +4

I can’t knock Randolph too hard. The guy was really trying out there. You can tell, he’s super talented. He had several shots than I don’t think any Nugget forward could make other than him. But he also thought he was Magic Johnson kickstarting the fastbreak offense more than once, which he should never do… ever. Overall, he was a little out of control but nothing too bad. A solid outing for a guy who’s been riding pine most of the year.

Corey Brewer, SF 27 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +6

Brewer started off the game with a bang, then disappeared almost entirely. I don’t even remember him in the second half, yet he finished with 28 minutes. That’s never a good sign. He didn’t do anything wrong, but he also didn’t do too much right.

JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +9

McGee was pretty impressive in the first half… then he got in foul trouble. He didn’t see any time in the fourth, which was a bit suspect. Had he kept playing, he might very well have ended up with five-plus blocks… and five-plus fouls.

Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 10 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 5 PTS | -3

As always, it’s tough to hand out a grade here. Miller had 10 assists in only 22 minutes, but he also turned the ball over four times and played half-assed defense most of the night. At one point Damian Lillard pretty much just waltzed from the top of the arc all the way to the rim, with Miller doing absolutely nothing to try and stop him. Don’t get me wrong, he had some incredible alley oops and a clutch late-game basket, but he also spent a lot of his time turning the ball over and choosing to play only when he decided he wanted to.

George Karl

I liked what I saw out of Karl. He was yelling. That’s good. He needs to yell more. He’s too passive most of the time. I think I even saw a few curse words murmured as the camera zoomed in on his face. That passion rubbed off on his team. It was clear. This was a totally different Nuggets team on the road. They were playing like they do at home. Yes, they could have easily lost… but they didn’t. That’s all that matters. He did play too much small ball, overused Chandler at the power forward position and let Miller play defense on the last possession of the game which is insulting to nearly all living things. Other than that, the Nuggets were ready to play and got a much-needed road win. That’s all that matters.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 119 Los Angeles Lakers 108

Los Angeles Lakers 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
119 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, SF 32 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -6

Faried obliterated the Laker bigs on the boards. Earl Clark and Metta World Peace played a combined 54 minutes while grabbing only one defensive rebound. His defensive awareness on the perimeter and in pick and rolls needs a lot of work, but rebounding is what Kenneth does best and when he plays with this kind of energy he can’t be stopped.

Kosta Koufos, C 14 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +3

He was bothered by foul trouble and couldn’t really handle Howard’s sheer girth, but Koufos bottled him up about as well as you can in the first half. Koufos is not bruiser and is a great example of how big men can be effective on defense without having to be the most physical guy around. Koufos was constantly moving his feet and fouled when he needed to — he’s been a near-perfect role player which is exactly what the Nuggets have asked him to do.

Ty Lawson, PG 41 MIN | 8-19 FG | 5-7 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | +11

Seven straight games of 20+ point performances speaks for itself. Lawson is playing at a very high level right now which will make this critique difficult for some fans to take. Lawson was tentative and didn’t get to the paint outside of transition. He was also very hesitant to take open shots and didn’t create at the same outstanding level we’ve grown accustomed to. Solid game, but Lawson is capable of much more and should play better against the likes of Nash and Blake.

Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 10-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 23 PTS | +6

Chandler was extremely solid in his first start of the season, shining in a brand new role Nuggets fans haven’t seen him in much since Chandler joined the team. He was asked to space the floor and create on the perimeter a little bit, both of which he did admirably despite having played almost the whole season from a big spot off the bench. Chandler can regularly produce these kinds of numbers in a starting role, which is a fantastic luxury to have behind Gallo.

Andre Iguodala, SG 37 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-5 FT | 4 REB | 12 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +6

Iguodala dominated the game, but not like you would expect. He took only 9 shots, going a perfect 5/5 in the paint and 1/4 on jumpers. He also tallied an outstanding 12 assists to just two turnovers filling in for Gallo as a secondary creator. But Iguodala’s stifling defense seemed to thwart every substantial Lakers push and made even modest leads appear insurmountable for the visiting Lakers. He is a special defensive talent.

Anthony Randolph, PF 6 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +10

Really solid minutes. Randolph ran the court hard and pretty much stayed out of the way on offense. The less he touches the ball and the more he runs the better. Randolph is very active and amazingly quick up the floor for a 7-footer. His energy played a big part, along with Brewer, in terms of getting the pace going.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3

Another very solid performance all things considered. He took one questionable heave from three but otherwise looked good in the Nuggets up-and-down offense. Four minutes isn’t enough to tell too much but it’s safe to say Hamilton is more than capable of contributing when the Nuggets need him to fill in.

Corey Brewer, SF 26 MIN | 6-15 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +17

Brew doesn’t do anything halfway. When he misses, he shoots BRICKS. Two of them were extremely ugly airballs from three, yet Brewer ended up being perhaps the Nuggets’ most valuable offensive contributor on the night. I would love to give Brew a better grade, but 15 shots is kind of a lot for Brewer to take unless he makes more of them.

Timofey Mozgov, C 4 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -6

Incomplete.

JaVale McGee, C 23 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +8

The numbers don’t pop out at you but his defense was game-changing. He continues to produce with monster efficiency on the offensive end while steadily improving his poise and consistency on defense. McGee has earned more minutes and it’s only a matter of time till he starts seeing them. Despite not playing a lot of minutes his production has been eerily consistent this season. Can he continue to do it in bigger role? That’s the million dollar question.

Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 3-4 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +3

Andre’s attitude and demeanor on the floor are markedly improved since the All-Star break. He is a problem match up for LA and exploited it from the opening tip. The Lakers had to adjust, putting Kobe on him for a while and later Metta World Peace in the second half. The Nuggets don’t win this game without Andre and don’t take LA to seven games last year without him either. It’s in these kind of matchups Andre really proves his worth. I would just love to see some consistency.

George Karl

The Nuggets did exactly what they needed to do: dictate the pace and control the boards. Even without Gallo, the Nuggets came out prepared to play to their strengths and execute an offense that would lull the Lakers into a track meet. They did a particularly good job containing penetration and fouling on every layup opportunity. The Lakers just had to work too hard for everything they got and didn’t have the defensive chops to keep up. The Nuggets also played with a swagger and an expectation to win, something that I just haven’t seen much of in big games this season.

Remaining schedule breakdown: The Nuggets will define themselves on the road

Starting with tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets have 25 games left in their regular season schedule. Here we’ll take a look at how the final stretch breaks down, what we might expect to see if Denver continues on its current trajectory, and the critical importance of improving their performance in road games.

The overall schedule picture looks (more…)

Digging Deeper: Danilo Gallinari and his role in the Nuggets offense.

The other night in my grades for the Nuggets/Celtics game, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure Danilo Gallinari could carry the Nuggets offense for long stretches if the need arose.

As expected the comment received a lot of hate, so I decided to take a deeper look into the numbers and see if my hunch was correct.

But before I get into those numbers there is a short disclaimer that needs to be mentioned. Gallo is a very important part of the Nuggets offense. He is the player that most consistently knocks down open shots, especially three pointers, and in an offense so reliant on points in the paint that floor spacing is very important. The fact that the Nuggets offense is 8.2 points better offensively when he is on the court than when he is off it proves that.

But that wasn’t what my comment was about. My comment was that Gallo was very reliant on the other players on the court with him to create that offense, and that unlike a lot of Nugget fans I am not so sure an offense built around Gallo taking 20 shots a night right now is what the Nuggets need to do to make the jump to an elite team. The numbers I am about to show prove why.

The first worrisome part for me about Gallo creating his own offense is the breakdown of the types of possessions that he has used in each of the past two seasons. Almost exactly 40 percent of Gallinari’s shots have come in either transition or off of spot-up opportunities in each of those two seasons according to Synergy data.  That means the rest of the possession types they track, isolation,pick-and-roll ball handler and roll man, post-ups, cuts, off screens, hand offs, and offensive rebounds make up the other 60 percent of his possessions; with isolation taking up another 22 percent of possession this season.

On the bright side the points per possession numbers for almost every type of possession are good, but would they be able to stay that high with more repetitions? For a player who isn’t particularly fast for his position I wonder,e specially because he tends to finish a lot of drives fading away from the basket or twisting and turning away from contact. While the contorting helps draw fouls in some situations, it also makes life very difficult in others, especially in the playoffs when the games become more physical. The other part of it is Gallo’s passing. He makes the right pass often and the flashy one every once and a while, but Gallo isn’t a great passer. The 2.4 assists he averages a game would need to rise dramatically if he wants to be a number one option. For comparison, of the 30 players that average more points per game than Gallinari at the moment only Brook Lopez, Al Jefferson and Chris Bosh average less than the 2.4 assists.

But the answers become very worrisome when you look at the difference in Gallo’s numbers when he is on the floor with either Andre Iguodala or Ty Lawson and his numbers when one of those two, the Nuggets two best playmakers, are off the floor.

With Lawson on the floor Gallinari averages per 36 minutes are: 19.5 points on 14.7 field goal attempts and 43 percent shooting. Of those 14.7 attempts 6.3 are from behind the arc where Gallo is shooting 38 percent and getting to the line 5.5 times.

With Lawson off the floor all of those numbers drop, and five of them do so by more than 10 percent. The points drop down to 14.6 on 11.8 attempts and 41 percent shooting. The three point attempts drop to 4.3 and the percentage to 31 percent. And the free throw attempts drop down to 4.7, again all per 36 minutes.

Unfortunately for the Nuggets though those drops aren’t just attributed to Lawson since the results stay the same without Iguodala on the floor.

Playing with Iggy, Gallo’s averages per 36 are: 19.5 points on 14.6 shots and 44 percent shooting. He attempts 6.2 threes and shoots 38 percent from behind the arc while getting to the line 5.4 times.

And just like when Lawson leaves the floor, when Iguodala leaves Gallo’s numbers take a significant hit, again five of the totals drop by more than 10 percent. He scores 15 points on 12.5 shots on 37 percent shooting. The three point attempts drop to 4.9 attempts and the percentage to 32 percent shooting. On the bright side the free throw attempts stay similar at 5 attempts.

The most troubling part of the numbers is the shot attempts drops. Ten percent drops in just attempts for Gallo shows what I thought I saw while I watched games. A lot of Gallo’s offense comes after Lawson or Iguodala attack the lane and kick out to him. Gallo then does an excellent job of reading the reacting defense and doing what it gives him, either the open three or a drive to the basket. But asking him to just create offense for himself or teammates is difficult and he struggles.

Now some people will claim the drops are due to defense paying more attention to Gallo when one of the other two Nuggets weapons are not on the floor but that claim holds no weight when explaining the drops when it is compared to other combinations in the league. It doesn’t happen with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard who both see increases in many stats. Or Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Even lesser top options than the Lakers and Thunder duos don’t see such a stark drop. Not Al Horford and Josh Smith. Or Paul George and David West.  The drops don’t even happen with his Nuggets teammates Lawson and Iguodala.  Or to either of the two when Gallo leaves the floor.

Again, none of this is meant to say Gallo isn’t an important piece of the puzzle for the Nuggets. I explained above that he is. What it is meant to show is that Gallo isn’t quite ready to be the creator for the Nuggets that some fans think he should be. Leave that to Lawson who is doing it terrifically, especially in the last month or so, and use Iguodala as a secondary creation option. Meanwhile, let Gallo be a terrific safety valve and spot up shooter, who reads the defense and decides if he should drive or not.

One day Gallinari may get to the point of being a great creator, a first option that can make teammates better, but right now he is just to reliant on Lawson and Iguodala to ask him to be that.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 113, Charlotte Bobcats 99

Denver Nuggets 113 Final

Recap | Box Score

99 Charlotte Bobcats
Danilo Gallinari, SF 15 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +2

Gallo saw limited action tonight between foul trouble early in the game and a reaggravated injury early in the second half. When he was on the court he was fairly effective both offensively and defensively. Overall grade incomplete.

Kenneth Faried, SF 27 MIN | 7-9 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +14

Faried got off to a slow start tonight and wasn’t ever able to take control of the glass. He also got lost a couple of times defensively. On the plus side, he got to the rim several times and showed a nice touch on a couple of makes from the right block. His energy level increased as the game went on, and two nice defensive plays late in the third helped keep the Nuggets firmly in the lead.

Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +10

Kosta was quietly effective tonight. He was active on putback attempts, though they mostly weren’t falling. His defense started out shaky but improved as the game went on.

Ty Lawson, PG 40 MIN | 6-15 FG | 7-9 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +13

Like most of the other Nuggets starters, Ty was unspectacular early this game. He opened with two turnovers and some lazy defense, and deferred far too much on offense. When Gallinari left the game and Iguodala sat with foul trouble, the light seemed to go on and Ty became a whole different player, getting to the rim and to the line. Even though he got his shot blocked several times, he stayed aggressive and kept the pressure on the defense.

Andre Iguodala, SG 30 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 10 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +15

Iggy was on his way to a great game when he was derailed by foul trouble in the third quarter. He was passing the ball as well as I’ve seen from any Nugget this year, setting up several McGee dunks and a Lawson triple. His defensive activity led to several easy buckets, including his own breakaway dunk off of a steal. Were it not for a dumb fourth foul, he would have shared the highest grade of the game.

Anthony Randolph, PF 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | -2

Of the players who came in at the end of the game, Randolph had by far the most opportunity, but made very little of it, turning the ball over on a silly foul and missing one of his two free throws.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 2 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2

Incomplete.

Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 5-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +8

Brewer is often the hardest player to grade, because he does so many good things and so many bad things over the course of a game. Tonight, the bad came out a little ahead. He created two Nuggets layups with his defense, but I counted seven major defensive blunders as well. He twice pulled down tough rebounds in traffic, but also blew a layup and messed up a 2 on 1 fast break. He started off making his three pointers, but then took a couple of heat check type shots with defenders in his face.

JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 8-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | +6

JaVale held his own personal dunk contest tonight, using the Bobcats front line as props. On one occasion when he didn’t have a dunk available, he made a nice pass to set up a Brewer layup. He also blocked or altered several Bobcats shots (and goaltended one.) He seemed to singlehandedly deflate the Bobcats crowd on more than one occasion.

Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 8 PTS | +3

Andre made a couple of very nice passes, and a handful of ill-advised passes, such as trying to find Kosta Koufos in the middle of four defenders. His defensive effort was considerably better tonight than in some recent games. I was pleased by his efforts to get to the rim, though he wasn’t always able to finish.

Evan Fournier, SG 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2

Incomplete.

Wilson Chandler, SG 29 MIN | 4-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +5

I continue to be impressed by Wilson Chandler’s defensive versatility. One play he’ll be fighting a big in the post, the next he’ll cause a turnover on the perimeter, and the next he’ll pull down a tough rebound in traffic. His impact on that end of the floor was good this game. His offense was also solid, aside from one terrible shot from the baseline. He gets a downgrade for being a little foul-happy (though one was a good foul in an end of quarter, foul to give situation.)

George Karl

There was a stretch early in the third quarter, after Gallinari got hurt and Iguodala picked up his fourth foul, that the Nuggets offense stagnated with poor spacing. This was the only part of the game where I thought Karl needed to make a substitution that he didn’t. For most of the game, he played the players who were being effective. He even stood up for his players, yelling at the officials quite a bit after a series of questionable calls in the second period and taking a tech late in the fourth after another bad series.

Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 113, Wizards 119

Denver Nuggets 113 Final

Recap | Box Score

119 Washington Wizards
Danilo Gallinari, SF 28 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -14 

Due to the fact that he was struggling with an injury through most of this game, it wouldn’t be too fair to be overly critical of Gallo’s performance. If anything, he deserves props for nobly trying to help his team by playing through the pain. All of that said, he really wasn’t able to do a whole lot on either end of the court, though it’s probably more on Karl for sending him out when it may have been better not to.

Kenneth Faried, SF 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -7 

The entire Nuggets frontcourt was a disappointment tonight, and unfortunately Faried was a big part of the reason for that. He’s usually one of the guys who jump starts his team with infectious energy, but in this game he was more like the invisible man. And nowhere was that more apparent than on defense, where is rebounding was frankly inept (only four for the game), and more often than not he was either slow or confused when rotating after switches. It’s easy to love the Manimal, but perhaps a little too easy, and whether he can find a way to improve defensively will be a huge factor in whether he can get his game to the next level going forward.

Kosta Koufos, C 18 MIN | 1-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -9 

Koufos was only slighly less disappointing than Faried. He got off to a shaky start, leading Karl to put in McGee earlier than he usually would. But seemingly frustrated with his own play, he found his spark plug in the second quarter and started playing with more energy and fight. He wasn’t able to sustain that through the second half, however, and Emeka Okafor pretty much abused Kosta and Kenneth all night long.

Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 8-20 FG | 11-12 FT | 4 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 27 PTS | -10 

As he often has been in recent losses, Lawson was one of the brighter silver linings in this game. He tends to start games off slow and find his groove as the game progresses, but that was not the case tonight. He was determined to make plays from the get go, scoring with a combination of drives and mid-range jumpers, and doing a great job of finding his teammates. While Ty can’t completely be exempted from Denver’s bad defensive outing, he did a respectable job of containing John Wall. In the good news/bad news department, he hit 11 of his 12 free throws, but missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

Andre Iguodala, SG 34 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-2 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 8 PTS | -8 

This is a hard game to judge Iguodala on. I actually prefer when he stays with a more restrained offensive role as he did tonight. His eight points were modest but, for him, relatively efficient. And there were times in the game where he was making some good individual defensive plays, on Beal and Wall in particular. But like Lawson, he can’t be excused for his part of the Nuggets terrible perimeter defense. And his propensity for dribbling the ball into the teeth of the defense and turning it over ihas really become frustrating to watch.

Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +8 

Brewer quietly had a pretty good game. After the Nuggets flatlined coming out of halftime, going scoreless for over five minutes and allowing the Wizards to go on a 13-0 run, Brewer helped to put the brakes on defensively and get Denver back in the game. Like Lawson, he missed all of the 3-pointers, but he did infuse a sluggish team with energy, and while he didn’t do anything spectacular, he played the role he’s supposed to.

JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 3-5 FG | 3-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -4 

JaVale was the least disappointing of his frontcourt peers, but that’s still not saying too much. His defensive effort and impact was there, and Karl should have played him more, especially considering that not only was he playing better than Faried or Koufos, he was also playing on the home court of his former team. Where he really got outplayed was on the glass. It’s great that he worked with Hakeem on his post moves last summer, but it would be even better this summeer if he could work on boxing out.

Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 7-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | +3 

If this game had ended at halftime, I may have given Miller an A+. He has taken a lot of heat lately at RMC — most of it well placed, in my opinion — but he sure came out blasting in the second quarter. He shot a perfect 5 of 5 in the first half, including a long 3-pointer, and pretty much single handedly got the Nuggets back into the game when they were slipping. Unfortunately, he also pretty much single handedly took the Nuggets out of the game, too, with yet another late game pretty-selfish-and-not-so-smart-for-a-wily-veteran play when he ran the full court solo on a fast break at attempted to score by running straight into two defenders, resulting in a block, turnover, and three points on the other end to put Denver down six with under two minutes remaining, when they could have been down just one or tied. How many times must this happen for George Karl to learn? Doesn’t matter: Karl doesn’t learn. Downgraded for that one play, and for his part in the porous defense.

Wilson Chandler, SG 28 MIN | 8-15 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 22 PTS | +11 

Chandler was the Nuggets’ best player tonight. He was the only player who was truly effective on both offense and defense, and he really found a way to step up on a night when Gallo was struggling. 28 minutes is well above his average, but he should have gotten even more, with Danilo sitting the game out with his injury. If he can start to play at this level more consistently, it should give the Nuggets a real boost down the final stretch of the season.

George Karl 

Instead of writing a new paragraph in this space every time, perhaps a “George Karl checklist” would simplify our task, as we so often encounter the same phenomena:
-Going into the first game of a road trip completely unprepared?
–Check
–Allowing the opponent to go on huge runs without calling a timeout to stop the bleeding?
–Check.
-Overplaying favorites and underplaying better in-game performers, especially in crucial moments of the game?
–Check.
-Closing out the game with small ball even when they’re getting badly outrebounded?
–Check.

Two Things We Saw (more…)

Excerpts from Masai Ujiri’s post-deadline interview with ESPN Denver’s Les and Nalen

Les Shapiro and Tom Nalen of ESPN Denver 102.3 & 105.5 FM (check their audio archive here and find them on Twitter here) had a great interview with Nuggets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri after Denver chose to stand pat at the NBA trade deadline. Below are some key takeaways from the interview, but you should definitely also listen to it in its entirety here.

 

Masai Ujiri, on why the Nuggets didn’t make any moves: (more…)

Trade deadline rumors

Leading up to Thursday’s 1 p.m. (MST) trade deadline, not all is quiet on the Nuggets front. While it’s certainly wise to take Adrian Wojnarowski at his word when he recently said the Nuggets would stand pat at the deadline (I mean, really, when was the last time this guy was wrong about a trade rumor?), it’s equally unwise to support the notion that the Nuggets won’t even consider a minor move, especially given how much Timofey Mozgov’s name has been thrown about lately. Whatever the case may be, rumors will remain rumors and we’d all be lying through our teeth if we said we don’t eat them up with a voracious appetite. So, to satisfy your trade-rumor cravings, here is a short list of what people are talking about right now.

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It’s not all sunshine and roses with Andre Miller

There’s a disturbing narrative surrounding the Andre Miller situation in the Denver Nuggets media.
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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 97 – Boston Celtics 90

Boston Celtics 90 Final

Recap | Box Score

97 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 39 MIN | 7-17 FG | 8-11 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 26 PTS | +20

Gallo did what Gallo does, and it helped the Nuggets get the win tonight. He knocked down some open threes and was able to make his free throws, and many of his points came at spots the Nuggets really needed them. The only problem I have with Gallo is how much his offense is tied into what his teammates are doing. Almost everything he does comes after he gets a pass from Lawson or Iguodala with no one around him. Gallo does a great job of finding spaces to spot up and a good job of reading closing out defenders and deciding if he should drive or shoot, but I worry if he can create offense if the Nuggets ever need him to for long stretches.

Kenneth Faried, SF 35 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-4 FT | 16 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +6

The Nuggets probably do not win this game without the Manimal’s energy. Not only did it get them multiple offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter but it drained Kevin Garnett to the point that he was very unproductive late in the game. Faried’s recovery to Garnett late in the fourth was probably the dagger as it caused KG to rush things and miss badly. But like a couple other times this year Faried has to at least split late free throws when the Nuggets are locked in a tight game. Again it lowered his grade a half of a grade when he missed both.

Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -1

I’m not sure that there is a player Nuggets fans underrate the importance of more than Koufos. Tonight he made life incredibly difficult for KG by never leaving his feet and forcing Garnett to play over the top of him in the post. He also continues to help keep the paint spread for Lawson and Iguodala and made 5 of his 6 shots on the night. The rebounding has to improve, but with the way Faried rebounded tonight it makes sense the number was low for Koufos in 22 minutes.

Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 8-13 FG | 8-10 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 26 PTS | +4

As has been the case recently, Lawson was incredible tonight. He started the game 6-6 from the field and created for his teammates more than his assist numbers show. Add in the huge late offensive rebound and the fact that he had no turnovers and I am not sure what more the Nuggets could have asked for. If Lawson can continue to play this way the Nuggets ceiling definitely rises a bit.

Andre Iguodala, SG 29 MIN | 0-7 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | -2

The offense was dreadful tonight for Iguodala, an air-balled foul shot and an air-balled three were the low-lights, but offense wasn’t the reason the Nuggets brought in Iggy. They brought him in for the other end of the court and tonight he delivered, helping forcing Paul Pierce into a dreadful 2-14 night. Iggy also contested a Bradley layup late and forced the Celtic’s youngster into a miss that probably will get overlooked. The seven assists were a nice addition too.

Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +3

Like Iguodala Brewer’s offensive numbers don’t look great but Brewer had a couple of important buckets late and his energy helped the Nuggets stay in the game in the first half, when for the most part they weren’t good.

JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +4

There was the good for JaVale tonight, the two dunks, one of which was a three point play, and the bad for JaVale tonight, getting sealed by Jason Collins and the two goaltends. The two rebounds also aren’t good for JaVale as he mostly plays with lineups not featuring Faried so the Koufos reasons don’t apply to him. Against a bad rebounding team he needs more than two rebounds.

Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +2

Much like Iguodala and Brewer’s grades reflect the defensive end so does Miller’s. I am not sure I have seen a player who refuses to fight through screens as consistently as Miller. And in a game like tonight when Boston killed the Nuggets by creating switches and forcing help, Miller’s slow feet were a large part of that. The 11 points were nice, but on the other end of the floor Miller helped give them all back plus some.

Wilson Chandler, SG 18 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1

0-7 from the field is never good for someone who is expected to come off the bench and bring with them some shooting and scoring punch. Chandler did well on the glass with 7 rebounds but he also was one of the guys who spent time on Jeff Green and allowed him to pour in 20 points, way to much for such an average player.

George Karl

I know the Nuggets won, but if you follow me on Twitter you know that I was not a fan at all of Karl’s decision making tonight. Boston really had no player on their roster that should have been able to beat the Nuggets off the dribble to the basket or any option in the post. But the Nuggets continued their switch on everything ways and got caught trying to run out to wide open shooters all night. If any game was built for staying home and on your matchups this was it, the personnel matched perfectly. Instead the Nuggets ended up in a battle that they shouldn’t have.

Home Sweet Home

ESPN Stats and info wrote up a small preview post for the Nuggets vs. Celtics clash tonight and in it was some interesting, and honestly for the Nuggets and their fans, frightening information.

“Since 2000-01, the Nuggets have won nearly 68 percent of their home games but only 38 percent of their road games. No team has seen a higher increase in winning percentage from road to home games than the Nuggets.”

We all know that the Nuggets are better at home than on the road but that drop off in winning percentage is staggering, and is the reason that it is hard to see the Nuggets advancing much farther than into the second round this year. Without a top 2 seed the Nuggets won’t have home court advantage in the second round of the playoffs, and realistically looking at the schedule it seems impossible that they catch the Thunder or Spurs for that second seed. That means a team that only wins 38 percent of the time they play on the road would have to win a game, or more likely multiple games on the road to move on to the Western Conference finals. Now take into account that the 38 percent number includes games against the worst team in the league that the playoffs won’t, and things become even bleaker.

On the bright side the problems with this year’s team seems fixable. As the post says the Nuggets offensive and defensive efficiency are both much better at home than on the road, about 7 points better offensively and 6 points better defensively. The offensive drop makes sense. The Nuggets don’t shoot the ball well from the outside, and at an unfamiliar arena with travel the night before a team’s shooting can take a hit; that just happens. Defensively things can partially be explained by teams coming into Denver and struggling with the altitude and shooting but a 6 point difference is an awful lot, and has to at least partially come down to some effort. With the way the Nuggets have defended at times this year the fix seems there, but it is easier said than done. Bring more defensive intensity.

In the end how far the Nuggets will go is all dependent on how they play on the road and judging by recent history that doesn’t bode well for them. But unlike some years in the past where the team relied more on offensive firepower to carry them through struggles, this Nuggets team has a chance to change some of those problems around with a greater defensive intensity. What they choose to do will determine their success.

Roundball Mining Company is now on Facebook!

We are very pleased to announce that Roundball Mining Company has just launched our brand new Facebook page, which you can find right here.

We are really looking forward to expanding to Facebook, so that Nuggets fans who use it will now have another way to access our content. But beyond that, we are even more excited about the opportunities this will create for a richer, more interactive experience for RMC readers and contributors alike. (more…)

5-on-5: Trade deadline

Well everyone, it’s that time of year. Late February. And you know exactly what that means. It means the NBA trade deadline is approaching; therefore, all our wildest dream scenarios about acquiring LeBron James for pennies on the dollar are on the brink of coming to fruition. OK, so maybe that’s not exactly correct. Maybe it’s the furthest thing from the truth. But here at RMC we’ll be damned to be robbed of our totally unrealistic trade fantasies. So despite Adrian Wojnarowski’s recent tweet about the Nuggets being “unlikely to make a deal,” we’ve decided to ride on into the blue and yellow sunset with visionary trade talk firmly on our minds, which we’re happy to share with you in our latest 5-on-5.

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Woj: “Nuggets unlikely to make deal”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.com has posted a report on Twitter which will likely, if it turns out to be accurate, disappoint Nuggets fans hoping for some action by the Feb. 21 trade deadline:

Many trying to lure Denver into talks with all the talented, versatile assets Masai Ujiri has gathered, but Nuggets unlikely to make deal.

It may be worth asking what exactly the value of all those “talented, versatile assets” might be if Ujiri doesn’t utilize them to improve the roster of a team which most would agree is not yet legitimate contender material. But for now, all we can do is sit back and wait to see if, as Woj suggests, Denver sits this one out, or if they end up making some deadline noise after all.

Stay tuned to Roundball Mining Company for all the latest news and rumor updates…

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Manimal drops 40 points in Rising Stars Challenge, wins MVP

Big congratulations to Kenneth Faried, who scored a game high 40 points on 18 of 22 shooting to help lift Team Chuck to victory in the All-Star Weekend Rising Stars Challenge game. He also pulled down 10 rebounds, and his superlative performance earned him the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

For a nice breakdown of the game, including some quotes from the Manimal, check out Justin Verrier’s recap at ESPN.com here.

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