Pickaxe Pulse for March 24, 2013

Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend

The Nuggets extended their franchise-record winning streak to 15 games, and the team’s depth was on full display this week as bench players played key roles in all 4 victories.  Wilson Chandler scored a game high 35 points to go with 9 rebounds and 4 assists in an overtime win in Chicago.  Andre Miller celebrated his 37th birthday the next night, helping the Nuggets cruise to a win over the Thunder.  With Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler sitting out with injuries, the Nuggets looked to be on their way to defeat against Philadelphia, but Corey Brewer finished off a career high 29 points with a late three pointer and three free throws to complete a 101-100 comeback victory.  Julyan Stone, in his first NBA game since January, provided a spark on both defense and offense to help the Nuggets get past the Kings.

Record this week: 4-0 (2-0 home, 2-0 road)

Current record and standings: 49-22, third seed in the Western Conference, 0.5 games ahead of the Clippers and 1 game ahead of the Grizzlies

Upcoming games: Monday at New Orleans, Wednesday at San Antonio, Friday vs Brooklyn

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Tom Darrow

Fourth generation Denver native, stay-at-home dad with a masters degree in applied mathematics, and all-around geek with a passion for Nuggets basketball.

Latest posts by Tom Darrow (see all)

  • Matt

    I feel like this upcoming week is going to be another huge test for the Nuggets.

    @New Orleans – could be a trap game with the team looking ahead to San Antonio.

    @San Antonio – We always have trouble against San Antonio especially at their house. If the Nuggets can pull this one out it would be another huge statement, but i feel like both Ty and Wilson need to be back to have a chance at it.

    vs. Brooklyn – Hopefully we are 100% by this point, if we are it would be nice to get a little revenge on the Nets for what happened before the All -Star break.

    The Nuggets also need the Clippers and Memphis to lose sometime soon .

  • Marv

    I’ve heard that Lawson and Chandler will both be healthy to play Monday, should help to keep that streak alive.

  • Ban Johnson

    Next 4 are fairly brutal.

    @Jazz right after the 3 this week, and we all know crazy, unfair things have a tendency to happen in SLC. +Jazz will be on their last playoff legs at that point, fighting for their lives.

    @NO has beaten Boston and Memphis their last 2 games; so that team is clearly no joke either.

    @SA will be a terrific test. Will Duncan carve up our bigs…or have they improved their post D over the course of the season?

    It would be great if the Nugs can come out of next 4 riding a 19 game streak, but odds are against it. 2-2 actually wouldn’t be horrible, all things considered.

    Because the rest of the way, last 7, not a single game the Nuggets won’t be favored to win, including SA at home and @DAL, @MIL.

    It’s all about getting a) home court in 1st round, and b) preferably that 3rd seed.

  • googergieger

    We need to try our hardest to win out to put pressure on OKC. If they lose three games and we win out, we get the second seed. Force OKC to overwork Durant and Westbrook. We have depth, they don’t. If those two are hurt or exhuasted heading into the playoffs and we meet them in the second round with home court? Love our chances then, even with the OKC refs. We’ve shown we can beat OKC three times already even with the refs. So yeah, as unlikely as it is that we win out, we need to try to do it. I like what Karl said in the post game yesterday. No excuses. Ten or so games left? Has to be perfect basketball from here on out.

    • mike

      that’s all you want. Just to win out… No big deal just end the year with the 3rd highest winning streak in THE HISTORY of the game.

      While we’re at it let’s have them win 16 straight in the playoffs too. If Karl doesn’t do both those things lets just fire him. I mean obviously this team has the most talent in the History of the NBA. Or maybe in the history of sports.

      REALISM man. hopefully they go 9-2 and take the 3rd seed.

      • GB

        I think this streak puts to rest the idea that George Karl is getting something special out of a mildly talented group, which seems to be a popular idea here. Our roster is loaded, top to bottom, even the guys that don’t play (JHam, Mozgov, Stone). This team is talented enough to win this many games with different coaches at the helm, and if Karl fucks up again these playoffs, it is ABSOLUTELY his time to get fired. Maybe a streak like this comes from coaching when you play at Duke, but in the NBA, it’s a reflection of talent.

        • Ban Johnson

          It’s a reflection of talent, but the talent fits his system to a T. You could put Doug Collins in charge of this team, running a structured half-court sort of system, and you’d be lucky to win 50 games. You could put D’Antoni in charge, running his system, and the lack of consistent 3-point shooting and lack of emphasis on creating turnovers would really hurt.

          Not that you couldn’t run a similar system to Karl with a different coach…one who wouldn’t leave Andre Miller in on crucial crunch-time defensive possessions out of time-outs. My guess, however, is that Karl adds plenty of value beyond just his system, in ways that aren’t really available to fans to figure out. It’s an unselfish team and they play hard; not all loaded teams in NBA history have been either.

        • theo

          Haven’t been here long, but don’t think anybody I’ve read here believes the Nugs are ‘mildly talented.’ Personally, had ‘em winning around 55 at the start of the year, and seems like most Nugs fans here and elsewhere were roughly in that range give or take a few games. If folks thought we’d win in the mid 50 range is a brutal conference and with our ridiculous early sked, clearly people thought we had lots of talent. I think the results speak for themselves that both the coaching staff and the roster have basically performed well, beyond the expectations of many certainly. The real question I’ve seen here and around the NBA world is not whether we have a lot of talent, but whether we’re contenders and whether a team playing this style can win a championship. We’re winning a lot of people over these days, but the jury is still out on those questions, at least in my mind.

          Totally agree with Ban’s comments that the talent fits the system exceptionally well, so Uriri has to get a lot of credit. This team playing a more conventional system would be an average team at best, if for no other reasons than our really poor perimeter and free throw shooting combined with our lack of many solid fundamental defensive players. The system masks those huge conventional problems on both ends as well as some others.

          My position all year has been if the Nugs don’t get to the second round Karl job should be weighed in the balance with a bias toward letting him go, so no real disagreement there, at least theoretically. However, even if we do go out in the first round, chances of that happening are basically zero. Firing Karl–unless you could find a younger coach who ran essentially the same system–would mean restructuring the roster in a major way that would probably take a couple of years. No way Ujiri would do that. The scarier and more likely outcome for folks here that really don’t like Karl is that we get into the second round or further after winning 57 or 58 games. If that happens, Karl and Ujiri will be seen around the league as philosopher/geniuses that created a new way for mid market and small market teams to become legit contenders. The rise of “Karl Ball.’ If you don’t think so, wait and see. In that situation Karl writes his own ticket. As a result I genuinely feel bad for folks like Kalen and others here that are obviously true and committed Nugs fans but truly believe Karl is the issue. If we do badly, another year of suffering for us all. If we do well, ‘wacky’ old George may be around for years.

          • ryanvdonk

            not that i think GK should be fired, but Nate McMillan runs a very similar system and is much younger (played under george in seattle). he has more of an emphasis on defense though, which i don’t think would be a bad thing.

        • Tom2

          Um… most of the greatest teams in NBA history never won 15 in a row! Coaching absolutely matters!

          http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/55089/nba-short-attention-span-power-rankings-the-denver-dunkets

      • googergieger

        It’s called reading comprehension. Hire a tutor.

        • theo

          I think what Ban and I are trying to argue is that talent can’t be evaluated in a vacuum. You argue that many coaches could produce this many wins with this team. Not true. We have plenty of talent, but talent chosen particularly for this scheme.

          Put OKC’s talent into Memphis’ system or vice versa. Any of us would say both teams have far more than ‘mild talent.’ But if Hollins forced Memphis to play like OKC they’d barely make the playoffs. Even with Miami’s tremendous star talent, force them to play like Memphis and no more contention.

          Guess the larger point is that you can’t evaluate team talent in a vacuum without taking into account the scheme. One of the problems I think some posters and bloggers here struggle with is an overemphasis on micro-analysis of in game decisions vs. more emphasis on macro analysis of a team’s schemes and system.

          Or, in other words, might be good to recognize and give more credit to coaches that create powerful systems and GM’s that create very talented rosters that fit those schemes. Almost all the attention here goes to micro analysis of in game decisions even though it’s the scheme and roster that are primarily responsible for our success.

          • googergieger

            “So yeah, as unlikely as it is that we win out, we need to try to do it. “-Me

            “that’s all you want. Just to win out… No big deal just end the year with the 3rd highest winning streak in THE HISTORY of the game.

            While we’re at it let’s have them win 16 straight in the playoffs too. If Karl doesn’t do both those things lets just fire him. I mean obviously this team has the most talent in the History of the NBA. Or maybe in the history of sports.

            REALISM man. hopefully they go 9-2 and take the 3rd seed.”-Him

            The more you know…

  • A.D.

    With the playoffs a few weeks away the biggest test should be 4/4 thru 4/10. We have the Texas Triangle (DAL,HOU,SA) in 3 consecutive home games.

    Our last loss to a playoff team in the West was Jan. 16 @OKC. Though its the most repetitive note we’re given, our depth can’t be overstated on this back stretch.

  • Ckwizard

    Because of injuries Nuggs might lose but hey can and probably will win the next three, This team is different than the teams of the past and I think they will head into he spurs game with that much needed chip on their shoulder I posted about after the trade deadline. I think that Miller is coming around to believing this team can contend with out a media coronated superstar and coming to peace with his abilities in regards to the team ie not being the starter. Nuggets are learning how to regain focus and buckle down when needed, which is important to the growth of this team. I said it before and I will say it again nuggets may drop one or two more games but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if try don’t lose again this regular season. Keep getting better Nuggets and the Pepsi Center will be rocking like never before!

    • Evan Woodruff

      To be fair, a point guard who as a very storied career (Andre Miller) was only complaining about starting when Ty was playing horrible and the team was loseing. Since then he has shut up.

      • Stephen

        “I want more minutes,” Miller said. “If we were losing I would really be complaining. But it’s going as it goes.”

        “You can’t win a championship. I don’t even think you can even advance in the playoffs without that marquee player.”

        Feb 6, 2013 – after win #7 in our 9 game streak. Nuggets 31-18 at the time.

  • Tom2

    It sure would surprise me if the Nuggets won the rest of their games to make their streak 26 straight wins. I guess it’s a possibility, but they’ve already had a few almost losses during the streak, a missed FT here, a lucky bounce there, refs making/blowing calls, etc. The Nuggets are actually really fortunate to have won 15 straight.

    • michael

      True. But you could say that about ANY team, thats EVER won 15 straight games

  • http://espn herpderpnuggets

    nuggets should definetley go 2-1 in the next 3…lets just hope ty can bring back some stellar play

  • Andrew

    Nice, concise article. I am just stating the obvious, but the real value of the depth of quality players on the Nugget roster is twofold (and has been discussed above):

    1) The ability to sustain some injuries and still play quality basketball while resting/recuperating some people, and
    2) The flexibility it gives the team/Karl to play some different players and combos on those nights where one or more players is having a bad night.

    That means Karl can afford to give his starters a bit more of a breather and (especially at home) really gas the other team, and that he can also reach to his bench to find a player with the hot hand on any given night.

    It’s crazy, but Karl could turn around a lot of the criticism of him in this post season and produce an NBA finalist, dare I say “Champion”, by simply not letting himself get caught in the rut of relying too much on players/combos he likes when they are not having a good game and to keep giving out meaningful minutes to the worthy bench players. I mean the other main criticism people have about him is not having set plays to run in crunch time, etc, but that is not something he will change. That’s not part of his system.

    I know I am a homer, and I just guzzled a gallon of Denver Koolaid, but I honestly think this team could catch lightning in a bottle if Karl just maintains his advantage in flexibility and doesn’t let the pressure cooker get to him and fall back on old/bad habits. Can he? Absolutely. Will he? Remains to be seen. Maybe the vagaries of life have loosened Karl up enough to let him throw caution to the wind. You know we will ALL be glued to our screens this post season!

    GO NUGGETS!

  • googergieger

    This Florida GC team is a lot like our team. Wonder how many guys on that team would be able to find success here. I like their point guard.

    • dynamo.joe

      Truthiness

    • Joel

      I watched half of the Flordia GCU game last night, and I was thinking the same thing. This is the college Nuggets, and why haven’t we heard about them before now? A disciplined team could take advantage of their defensive lapses, but man are they scary athletically. And they even have a guy who looks/runs/jumps/smiles just like Faried

  • googergieger

    Brett Comer might be the white Ricky Rubio.

    • al68

      white? you are stupid.

      • googergieger

        Go back under the bridge, troll. No one was talking to you.

        • http://espn herpderpnuggets

          I dont know that was pretty stupid

          • googergieger

            I’m a Mexican with white complexion. Way whiter than Rubio. No one would ever call me white. No one would ever say I look white. What is it no longer PC to call white American’s white and Hispanics not white?

            It it not PC? Or is the younger generation that literal?

            Cause honestly majority of people would never identify Rubio as white. Heck most non NBA fans would think he’d look like the lead singer in an Armenian Beatles cover band.

            • al68

              Entonces disculpa no es estupidez es ignorancia.
              No es mejor ni peor ser blanco negro o asiatico, sino que los blancos son los indoeuropeos que salieron de Europa(españa,francia, irlanda, portugal,etc)

              • googergieger

                I hate political correctness even in it’s most lazy form.

                Learn to take the statement for what it is or pick a fight with someone that actually gives a damn about race or any of that.

                Point was Comer has great handle, vision, passing, and finishing ability, but he can’t shoot worth a damn. Scoff.

    • al68

      gasol rudy calderon, gallo,fournier are black, green, aliens???.

  • Dharte

    Wow, there are some really good contributors to this forum here. Excellent! Look forward to chiming as a new member.

  • Dharte

    I personally think that as of late George has employed a few strategies to beat some of the better teams and it paid off. At the same time I think he has essentially taken the “night off” against some bad teams , preached philosophy and expected results.

    Right now I think it is time to really create some separation between Denver and Memphis/Clips. Full on pedal to the metal. If Ty can play, he ought to play. If Chandler can play after the next game , he ought to get in there and contribute 10 mins or so.[Dr. cleared of course] Right now is just TOO much of an opportunity to just pass by. Let’s create some distance between us and our competition at that 3 seed.

    I would like to see some real strategy set up for the New Orleans game by George so that even IF Ty opts out of the game, he will have already prepped his guys with special assignments that focus on three point protection and offensive rebounding.[their two strengths]

    • googergieger

      They also beat us in the Unibrow department.

  • trank

    is stone fully ready to play or is he still recuperating?

    george played fournier at point the other night, why not the real point guard, stone?

  • Ackdog

    2-1 this week would be a good result. With Parker back and getting a few games under his belt before we visit I just don’t think we can expect a win in SAN. The nuggets won’t win out and they will need a bit of luck or injuries to other teams to hang onto that 3rd seed. Thanks Marc Gasol. We need to get healthy heading into playoffs so if Ty needs another game or two off give it to him. Might be wise to hold him out until The BKN game???

    Any thoughts???

  • CJP32

    I think Denver can win all 3, but going 2-1 would also be fine.

    I see us dominating NO from the start, giving SA a good run with a close finish and beating the Nets convincingly.

    The Spurs just lost to the Rockets on the road, I say if DEN finish the season 9-2 and if OKC manage to lose 3 or 4 games, who knows, 2nd seed is possible! But to be honest, I think we finish 3rd and face the Warriors and beat them 4-1 in the 1st Rd

    • Dharte

      Wow, bold[yet reasonable] prediction CJ! I love it!

  • heykyleinsf

    I found my day to be really empty and static
    and joyless today.

    I think that’s a good thing…

    I miss the Nuggets already!!

    • Andrew

      Ha ha. Well adjectivaled. I think that is why I came back to this site several times…well, that and the fact that I had to finish my tax return.

  • OriginalJakeSauce

    If we can lose less than 2 games the rest of the season, I feel like we stand a strong chance at the #1 seed. Those losses have to come against anyone but San antonio and Pop. But if George wins those two games, I may permanently rest my case and concede defeat regardless of whether we get to the second round. May. And then it would be on the players. Big games against the spurs coming. I’m desperately now pulling for GK. Ugh.

  • Bobby

    I think the standings will shakeout a little different then planned. I think it will finish like this:
    OKC, SA, Den, LAC, MEM, HOU, GS, LAL. I got SA losing at least 3 or four and I expect Houston to overtake the Warriors. If Gasol wan’t out indefinitely who knows if we would stay ahead of Memphis.
    But all in all it sets up for a Den/OKC battle for the West Crown. And don’t buy into teams beating each other up in Basketball. Its not Boxing or Football. The real danger is on the Heat for not being pushed by anyone in the East and then having to play the Western Champ.

  • http://prtsal9@aol.com sally porter

    Does any one know where Chris Anderson is? OH he plays for the Champion Heat and is excelling?

    • Ernie

      He’s averaging 4 pts, 3 rebounds and one block per game. You must not have high standards for excelling.

      • dynamo.joe

        Hrmmm. I wonder if the fact that he only plays 13 mins/game has anything to do with those low totals?

        per 48
        pts/rebs/blks
        15/12/3

        Thats not setting the world on fire, but its better than Mozgov.

        • Ernie

          Point 1, there is no way Chris Anderson can play 48 minutes. Or even 35.

          Point 2, he’s playing only 13 minutes because he’s not that good despite the lack of bigs on that team.

          Point 3, it’s still not excelling. Or maybe your standard for excelling is “better than Mozgov” in which case there are a lot of people in the NBA that are excelling.

  • http://prtsal9@aol.com sally porter

    Oh and Karl had him on the bench?

    • amlowlife

      Yes, on the bench where he belonged. He was injured for awhile and then had his legal issues and really wasn’t himself when he did play (not a log of spring in his leap, timing off). Besides, he’s a bit too one dimensional for this team.

      So, if you are going to try and make a case for Karl sucking you’d be better off to lead with some stronger evidence. Using Bird as Exhibit A will only get you eye-rolls on this board.

  • Ernie

    Thanks for updating the advanced stats. That’s the first time I can remember that the Nugs actual record is better than the statisticians say it should be.

  • googergieger

    Vaquez is out tonight! You’d think even easier win, but might make the team play down to their competition even more. Here’s to hoping we get a relatively drama free win to keep the streak going.

  • Cephus

    I loved watching the Birdman play, but amlowlife is right. Bird gave 100 % each time he was out there & that was infectious with whoever was on the floor with him. He turned around a lot of games when the team was in the doldrums.

    Having said that, however, he tended to flatten out after 15 minutes & was injury prone. By and large, he never did squat in the playoffs that I remember. Still I regretted but understood his departure. Miami made a smart move with their big man void picking him up. He will take the strain off their regulars and fill in with zest.

    It goes without saying I want to see my favorite team ( won’t name, due to superstition ) . If they fall short, however, it would be nice to see Birdman with a ring for his wing.

  • Tom2

    A lot of the ex-Nuggets are doing well right now. Bird has been great in limited minutes for Miami. Afflalo has been the man for a bad Orlando team. Melo was looking like an MVP for the first part of the season until his injuries piled up. JR Smith has played like the 6th-man of the year. Kenyon Martin is now starting for the Knicks after not playing for most of the year, and he makes them a lot tougher in the post. Billups has been injured most of the year, but when healthy, he has been great for the Clippers starting at SG. Nene has been injured a lot, but when he and Wall have been healthy, an otherwise bad Washington team has beaten a lot of quality opponents (advanced metrics and synergy stats also love him this year).

  • googergieger

    Karl needs to call everyone the fuck out after this game. Win or lose and it is looking like lose. Three games in a row with this effort. None. They don’t even have their two best players. Horrible. If they don’t care why should anyone else? Miami has James and super star calls. They’ve won a title. This team hasn’t done a fucking thing, doesn’t have one of the best players on a planet, and does not get help from the refs. So why the fuck are they doing this? Karl needs to call everyone out after this game. This is no longer acceptable and I have no idea why it ever was. Home court is at fucking stake. Every game is a must win. Every game. Don’t have to win every game, but have to make the effort. Unacceptable.

  • googergieger

    Oh and minus 22 for Miller yet second most minutes of the team tonight. Gallo and Chandler only ones playing good so of course, Miller should get more minutes than them. Loss isn’t on Karl though. I mean I said I wouldn’t criticize him again, so I won’t. Three awful performances from this team in a row we were bound to lose. Chandler and Gallo were playing well in the second half though, Miller hasn’t been playing well at all. Well it was fun while it lasted I guess. Hearing the bandwagon praise for this team. Now back to being a team that everyone thinks is a one and done pretender. Still think we can win in the first round. Past three games makes me pause before I say it, but I still think it.

    Still, couldn’t afford to lose this game to have a realistic shot at the two seed. Now the three seed is going to be tough to hold onto. Memphis lost. Clips have an easier schedule than us. Bleh. How many times this season though? Horrible performances and coasting and whatever you want to call it? How many of those is it going to take for this team to grow the fuck up? Again Karl needs to call the team out after this game. The whole fucking team. Including Miller.

    • mcz84

      I totally agree with you googieger im tired of Andre fucking slow poke Miller, hes always killing the flow of the game he gave up two wide open 3s when we had cut it to nine in the 3rd quarter,wtf GK get over your man crush of miller , why take out chandler and gallinari when they were playin great its mindboggling

  • mcz84

    wow losing to the hornets without two of its startes is just unacceptable, AMiller just kills the flow of the game giving up two wide open 3s to kill momentum, he just sucks

  • mcz84

    we need ty back ASAP thats the bottom line sorry but AMiller just cant hang with the speed on this team please ty be ready for the SA game

  • Dharte

    This is what I anticipated if things were to go sour. N.O. clearly planned out how to beat us and did it. We ‘flowed’…and had no plan that I could visually see. Guys were clearly not playing with any direction tonight and there was no amount of talent that would stop that for them this time.

    It rolls down hill and this team looked like it was completely out of sinc and lost. As if they had some sort of generalized idea of what to do and a few barks from George on having “no excuse”. Can’t prove it but, it sure seems like it.

    George will live and die by this sort of stuff. May this be a lesson in how to run an offense and not simply throw players[ all guys under 6’8″ I might add] at the opposition in hopes of casting away the evil bad man.