|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.
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:
Two Things We Saw
- Wait, why did they keep all that depth? Isn’t a game like tonight’s, when the starting frontcourt is getting schooled by the opposing bigs, the reason the Nuggets kept Mozgov? Isn’t a game like tonight, when Gallinari’s injury was obviously preventing him from playing anywhere near his usual level, the reason the Nuggets kept players like Jordan Hamilton, Anthony Randolph and Evan Fournier? If the point of keeping the roster — the ENTIRE roster — intact at the trade deadline was to give the young players a chance to grow and develop together, then when problems arise in which sending in a bench player or two, tapping into the depth the team boasts (but seldom utilizes), would seem lke a no-brainer solution to most rational people, why is Karl so hell bent on sticking to the regular rotation players? And aren’t his coaching decisions in direct contradiction with the approach to team building Masai Ujiri described in his recent interview? If you want to give the young guys a chance, give them a chance. And if not, what’s the point of keeping them around rather than consolidating them into more potent talent considered worthy of cracking the rotation?
- Where’s the D? There have been some signs in January and February that the Nuggets defense has been improving. Tonight was either a major setback in that process, or a sign that it was illusory in the first place, perhaps more a product of their recent home-heavy schedule than any substantive improvement. It is no longer too soon to say that adding Andre Iguodala may not have been enough. It clearly wasn’t. And now that the trade deadline has passed and, presumably, the front office will turn their attention to improving the roster this summer, bolstering the defense should be a top priority.That said, a lot of this falls directly on George Karl, too. The problems with the Nuggets perimeter defense now are essentially the same as they were in the heyday of the Melo era: too much switching, poor communication about switching and trapping, failing to fight through screens, rotating too slowly or failing to rotate at all, general confusion about who should be where guarding who. All of these are coachable skills, and the fact that Denver’s chronic defensive illness has essentially remained constant over a near-total turnover in the rostter points directly to a failure on Karl’s part. There’s really no other way around that.
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