|Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 4-5 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | +1Gallo played a great all-around game tonight. His shooting was quite efficient, and he led the Nuggets with 19 points. But perhaps more importantly he played some solid defense, and he did a great job on the glass, pulling down nine rebounds, including four offensive. The only glaring problem with his game tonight was his four turnovers, and that’s what prevents him from getting a solid !.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 30 MIN | 7-12 FG | 3-6 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 17 PTS | +1It would be a mistake to think that it’s necessarily a problem if Faried doesn’t get a double-double. His impact on this game was huge. He downplayed his performance in postgame comments, saying, “I only had seven rebounds. That’s not me at all.” But in fact he was his typically high energy self, attacking the rim and breaking through the Cavs’ paint defense with consistency. Defensively, when he got switched onto perimeter shooters (especially Alonzo Gee in the first quarter), he was sometimes late to rotate, and he had the same turnover problem as Gallo.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +1Koufos was very effective in the first half, scoring eight points, many on putbacks from his five offensive rebounds. One thing that’s probably not said enough about Kosta’s consistency is that often what it means is when some of his teammates are struggling, he’s there to pick up the slack. George Karl decided to go small in this game, and Koufos didn’t play too much or make too big a difference in the second half, but he was a big part of Denver taking the lead into halftime.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 3-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +8Lawson got off to a slow start. Not only was his shot not falling, he somewhat reverted to the less aggressive style of play that limits his effectiveness. Fortunately, he didn’t let that get to his head and he came out in the second half with more determination. While he never really found his shot, he did a better job of pushing the pace, driving, and finding good looks for his teammates. When he was defending Kyrie Irving, he did at least a respectable (if not great) job of it. And unlike most of his teammates, he did a great job of protecting the ball.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 35 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +8This was pretty much the prototype of the kind of game we’d like to see from Iguodala on a regular basis. His playmaking was outstanding (he logged more assists than either point guard), he executed his offense mostly within the flow, letting it come to him rather than trying to force it (with a few exceptions), and when he was assigned to Irving, he did a very good job of containing him and limiting his effectiveness. Alas, like Gallo and Faried, he gets bumped down a half grade for four turnovers.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 6-8 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +3Brewer made such little impact in his first half minutes I hardly noticed he was even on the court. But he found his spark plug in thesecond half, bringing his usual hustle and energy, and making some good fast break and defensive plays. Overall, however, this was not one of those games that he really put his mark on.|
|JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 6-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +7McGee detractors who malign his out of control play (a criticism which admittedly often has merit) and lack of fundamentals may soon find themselves with a rapidly diminishing supply of ammunition. In recent games including this one, he more often than not has been playing level-headed, fundamentally sound basketball. It has taken time, but the work the Nuggets coaching staff (and, perhaps, Hakeem Olajuwon) has done with him is definitely starting to pay dividends. In this game his ability to block and alter shots was huge, including one very impressive block-catch-and-steal which I still do not think was a goaltend. He also shot an extremely efficient six of seven field goals. but once again, the turnover demerit is in effect.|
|Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +2Miller was trying to force things too much when he first came out, resulting in some poor decision making and a couple early turnovers. But he did find a way to play more within the flow after that, and he made a markedly positive impact in the second half with some pretty big shots and assists that helped the Nuggets maintain their lead. And like so many above him, he would have ended up a half grade higher if not for the turnovers.|
|Wilson Chandler, SG 23 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +9Chandler is still finding his way on offense, and hopefully someday soon he’ll get there. But he was deployed in this game primarily for defensive purposes, and he held up that end of his responsibilities well. Like Iguodala, he did a good job on Irving, and he also had a couple nice steals resulting in Nuggets points the other way. Ultimately, however, if he can’t find a way to perform more consistently on offense, it will be hard for Karl to find more minutes for him than the 22 he had tonight.|
|George KarlKarl sent Iguodala out to cover Irving on early possessions. This was a sound strategy, and I am generally in favor of putting Iguodala on the opponent’s best player early and often. What he didn’t have a backup plan for was what Denver would do if another player heated up like Alonzo Gee did. Fortunately the Nuggets weathered his first quarter onslaught (and let’s face it, Gee wasn’t going to stay hot forever — he’s no Sammy Dalembert), recovering in the second quarter to take the lead into halftime. And ultimately the strategy to limit Irving paid off. He finished the game with a fairly quiet 26 points on a fairly inefficient 10 of 24 shooting, and at no point in the game did he ever take control of it. The Nuggets played sloppy, but it’s always hard to discern how much of that is on the players and how much on lack of preparation by the coach, especially when going on the road after a long home stretch. The Cavs are better than their reputation, and this could have been a trap game, but the Nuggets were in control of it the whole game after the first quarter, and there wasn’t much to complain about in terms of matchups and rotations. So in accordance with what we might call Kalen’s Axiom, in which ultimately winning the the thing that matters most, Karl gets an A for a successful start to this road trip, and the Nuggets’ ninth consecutive win.|
Four Things We Saw
- Can’t do that against Boston. In case you missed the drum I was beating all throughout the player grades, the Nuggets turned the ball over 20 times in this game. They were also guilty of some other (mostly defensive) transgressions: slagging off from or rotating too slowly to 3-point shooters, failing to get in front of players attacking the rim, not fighting through screens. Tonight, they got away with this versus Cleveland. Tomorrow, they will not be able to do the same against the Celtics. Not if they want to win, at least. Hopefully they got the road jitters out of their system with this game, and they can hit the ground running and keep the brass tacks knocked down in Boston.
- Slow start for Ty. It’s easier to get energy and aggression up at home. But it’s more important to do so on the road. You have to walk into the other team’s house ready to show them that, tonight, you own it. And of all Nuggets players, Lawson is the one who most needs to take this mentality to heart. Iguodala has said it. Karl has said it. Analysts have said it. And most fans know it. As Lawson rises and falls, so does this team. He really needs to find and embrace his aggression, confidence and drive if the Nuggets are going to have a successful road trip. Going up against Boston, Toronto and Brooklyn, all games are winnable. But it all starts with Ty.
- Generations. The Cavaliers announcers pointed out a great factoid during the game. When Andre Miller was drafted by Cleveland in 1999, Kyrie Irving was just seven years old. The term “old man game” is thrown around a lot regarding Miller, but it’s pretty cool to think of it in those terms. For some more perspective, here is the Basketball-Reference 1999-2000 Nuggets page: http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/DEN/2000.html
- Livingston and Stone. I couldn’t help but think about Julyan Stone’s future when watching Shaun Livingston play in this game. The way he was able to utilize his height to shoot over Lawson, rebound, mix it up in the paint — if Stone can develop into a player who can do even some of those things in addition to his already competent playmaking skills, it’s easy to see how, at least on paper, he could be a perfect complimentary point guard to Lawson in the future, especially if Karl is still around playing two point guard lineups.
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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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