Tonight, the Denver Nuggets went into the house of one of the league’s elite teams on the second night of a back-to-back in what most Nuggets fans and NBA observers thought would likely be a scheduled loss. But they defied expectations, extending their winning streak to an NBA franchise record 13 games, in their most impressive victory of the season.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 33 MIN | 4-17 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | +13
It seems that Gallinari has found his way back into a shooting slump at the worst possible time. Fortunately his teammates (especially Wilson Chandler) have thus far been able to pick up the slack in offensive production, but it will be extremely difficult for the Nuggets to get out of the first round if he can’t get back his mojo. On the plus side of the scale, Kevin Durant’s 34 points seemed very quiet and contained. He’s always going to get his to a certain extent, but he never really seemed a threat to take over the game, and Gallinari played an important role in that, as evidenced by the fact he was +13 despite some very poor shooting.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 34 MIN | 5-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 15 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +5
Faried’s rebounding was key in this win. And while he’s more well known for his offensive rebounding, it was his work on the defensive glass in the second half that really paid off bigger in this game. His energy and physicality were a spark for the Nuggets that helped them weather the Thunder’s attempts to cut back into the lead Denver had most of the game..
|Kosta Koufos, C 16 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +7
Koufos largely redeemed his pretty-bad first half with more focused and energized play in the second. He was struggling to finish at the rim most of the night, but he did at least find a way later in the game to be more effective in the defense and rebounding departments.
|Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 8-13 FG | 7-7 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 25 PTS | +12
Lawson carried his team through much of this game, even if it was in a slightly understated manner. He played a measured, controlled game that seemed to create a levelheaded, no panic temperament for his team. He only had four assists, but he also had no turnovers. In a game where early on it looked like sloppy and mistaken play could cost Denver the game, Ty’s ability to limit the errors was crucial.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 36 MIN | 5-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +17
Iguodala has the green light to shoot 3-pointers at will, but it remains unclear why George Karl considers this a good thing (desperation go-ahead three in Chicago notwithstanding). He’s incredibly efficient at the rim and as a playmaker, so much like Andre Miller, when there’s time on the clock and he gets the ball at the arc, passing, driving and posting up should really be his only options. With that little rant out of the way, the good news tonight, as usual, was his defense. He captained an excellent team defensive effort that resulted in just 38 second half points for the Thunder, and similarly to Gallo had a high +/- (the highest, in fact) despite his poor shooting.
|Corey Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 5-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | -6
Brewer also got in on the poor 3-point shooting tonight, but that was offset to a point by his four steals that helped disrupt the flow of the Thunder’s offense and keep them off balance. Beyond that, however, he really had a minimal impact on either side of the floor in this game.
|JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | 0
Like Koufos, McGee got off to a pretty bad start in this game. He did less than Kosta, however, in making up for it later in the game, as some sloppy offensive play and defensive lapses had an erasing effect on his positive contributions.
|Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 6-11 FG | 8-9 FT | 7 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +4
On his 37th birthday, Andre Miller decided to take control of the game in the fourth quarter, making big shot after big shot, and sealing up the win at the free throw line. In an interview after the game, Kenneth Faried described an inspirational pre-game speech that Miller gave the team, telling them they had no excuses to lose this game. He took his own message to heart at the end of the game, and although I’d prefer to see the ball in other players’ hands more often when a big game is on the line, it was nice to see Dre shine tonight as he completed his 37th revolution around the Sun.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 23 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +3
Wilson cooled off after his huge 35-point outing in Chicago the night before. He was efficient in this game, but his production was rather limited. His defense was solid, however, and the impact he did have on the game was a net positive. Unfortunately, Chandler suffered a left shoulder separation late in the game and did not return. Hopefully his unjury will not prove to be too serious.
The Denver Nuggets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back after a very exhausting overtime game in Chicago, and extended their win streak to a franchise record 13. Against odds that were dauntingly stacked against them, they got the job done. Mentally the Nuggets were in this game from buzzer to buzzer, not intimidated in any way, clearly confident they can not only hang with but beat the best of them. They were completely prepared to win this game, and they executed. This is just one of those cases where nitpicking rotations, time outs, inbound plays and the like just gets outshined by the results.In looking at the box score, it almost might be inferred that Karl’s game plan was essentially to let Durant and Westbrook get theirs but put a stranglehold on the production of the rest of the team. Only one other Thunder player — Kevin Martin with 14 points — scored in double figures. It’s almost as if Karl wanted to take away Oklahoma City’s “teamness.”
Koufos and McGee only played 16 minutes apiece, which meant we saw a whole lot of small ball in this game. And Denver allowed 50 points in the paint. But they scored 72 of their own, and Miller’s play in the fourth makes Karl look smart no matter where you come down on the tactical question of how much small ball is too much.
The only additional comment about Karl I’d like to make is that he took a technical foul to defend his players in the second quarter, after Westbrook had been politicking the zebras the entire game. It was good for George to show he had his guys’ backs, and surprisingly, the officiating down the stretch was not nearly as superstar-favored as one might expect.