Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 120, Sacramento Kings 113

Denver Nuggets 120 Final

Recap | Box Score

113 Sacramento Kings
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 23 PTS | +6

It appeared Gallo returned to his normal mode of production prior to be sidelined with an injury. He did most of his damage behind the arc with a sprinkling of mid-range, pull-up jumpers mixed in as well. Aside from scoring Gallo also had some really nice assists.

Kenneth Faried, SF 21 MIN | 9-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +20

This was one of my favorite games from Faried all year. His energy was great, as were his numbers, but I loved the way he did other things, like dribble the floor and attempt shots that were outside of his comfort zone. He pulled up for several jumpers, even one that was a turn-around, and seemed to be shooting them with confidence. He also dribbled the fastbreak with a tight handle and executed the pick-and-roll perhaps better than I’ve ever seen. Faried’s energy can only get him so far so it’s very pleasing to see him tackle other aspects of his game in an attempt to grow as an all-around ball player.

Kosta Koufos, C 24 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +8

Koufos can do so much by just being in the right position. I felt he was exposed on a few pick-and-rolls and failed to defend the Sacramento bigs as well as he could have, but he made up for it by getting a multitude of easy put backs and rebounds. Bottom line: He was extremely productive in the time given.

Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 8-16 FG | 6-12 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | +14

I haven’t been this thrilled to watch a certain Nuggets player since Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony were on the team. Lawson is not just playing basketball at this point; he’s growing as a person. His confidence is through the roof. He’s maturing. He’s understanding the nuances of the game and it’s all paying off in the form of some incredible basketball. He started the game off somewhat slow but overcame his struggles to lead the Nuggets in scoring, yet again. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the rest of the season.

Andre Iguodala, SG 33 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-4 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | +10

Iguodala is just not a scorer. Although he will occasionally put up points, who doesn’t in the NBA? It’s his understanding of the game and commitment to defense that make him such a vital part of this team. Against the Kings his hands were everywhere, evident by his five steals. He also moved to open spaces with the ball, drew in defenders, then found an open man on more than one occasion. His eclecticism is what was on display tonight.

Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -1

It wasn’t like Brewer wasn’t there. He made a few nice plays on defense and was pretty active on that end of the floor all night. But he did blend in when the Nuggets went sloppy and never really recovered.

JaVale McGee, C 21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -7

McGee continues to oscillate wildly (two points to whoever gets that musical reference) and this game was by no means a departure from that standard. He had four high-flying blocks and a few monster jams, but he also failed to rebound the ball in any way and made a number of unnecessary mistakes. I’ll always side with his talent over Karl’s double-standard grudge he seemingly holds against him, but on nights like this I can at least understand where Karl is coming from… kind of.

Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 8-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -3

Why can’t Miller be like this all the time? Just shut up and play. Don’t talk to the media about how you’re on the brink of achieving some monumental status in your career and how you don’t plan on taking a back seat to anybody. You have nothing to worry about, man. George Karl is OBSESSED with you! Against the Kings, Miller went about his business quietly and effectively. He wasn’t playing hero ball, he was playing smart, calculated basketball and yet he still finished with a great stat line. This was exactly how he was playing prior to his statements in the paper and it’s exactly what the Nuggets need from him. Andre Miller is most effective when he’s trying to do the least amount of things on the court, plain and simple.

Wilson Chandler, SG 21 MIN | 1-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -12

I couldn’t place Chandler all night. You want to talk about inconsistency? There is no player on the roster more inconsistent than Chandler. He was clearly dedicated to playing defense, which you have to admire, but 1-7 from the field won’t cut it. I really can’t put my finger on what it is that makes Chandler’s production fluctuate so much but I’m not sure playing him at power forward helps.

George Karl

Karls’ rotations were somewhat wacky — as usual. He went with small ball way too long when it was clearly not working and should have played Faried way more considering how hot he was. Also, the Kings made a conscious effort to clog the paint, therefore making this an excellent opportunity to get Jordan Hamilton some run and space the floor. But… Karl stuck with his normal rotation and decided to grind it out, which the Nuggets eventually did. Aside from that, I felt he did a good job of corralling his guys at halftime when things were clearly out of control and getting them through this game handily at the end. It wasn’t always pretty, but a road win at this time of year, with this team, is hardly something you can complain about.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 104 – Atlanta Hawks 88

Atlanta Hawks 88 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 27 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +9
Gallo seems to be getting healthier, but he clearly isn’t completely healthy yet. He did attack the basket more tonight than against OKC on Friday which was nice, but on a few of the drives he seemed to be lost once he got to the basket, which led to some awkward, tough shots. But he rebounded the ball well and just moved better tonight which is a good sign for the Nuggets.
Kenneth Faried, SF 26 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +3
The final line looks much better that what Faried actually produced during tonight’s game. Five fouls in 26 minutes is entirely too many, and that doesn’t even take into account how many rotations Faried blew and how many times he left Josh Smith wide open around the court. Yes, Smith missed but the looks that he was given were way to open for such a streaky shooter and it wasn’t like Faried was roaming and providing good help. He also missed a few layups which as a hustle player who can’t really create his own offense, is not something that should be happening. The rebounds were nice but the rest of the game wasn’t.
Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -3
In a game that featured so many blown rotations by Faried and McGee the impact of Koufos is really shown. He almost never misses the proper rotation and tonight saved his teammates who did plenty of times. Add in seven rebounds and seven points and Koufos continues to try and earn more playing time in important spots.
Ty Lawson, PG 32 MIN | 6-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | +2
Lawson continued to play at a high level while controlling things for the Nuggets tonight and even continued to knock down a couple of threes. What really was nice to see about this game was that at no point did it feel like Ty completely took over any stretches yet his line at the end of the day showed a great impact, one of the true signs of great point guards.
Andre Iguodala, SG 35 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | +5
Yes the offensive numbers aren’t mind-blowing, but Iguodala continues to fill up the stat sheet night after night. Six rebounds, six assists, multiple deflections; Iggy has a great knack for doing all the little things that a team needs to win while letting other guys control the scoring load. The two threes are also nice to see from a guy who has struggled to shoot the ball this season.
Anthony Randolph, PF 2 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1
Jordan Hamilton, SF 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1
Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 11-20 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTS | +17
Brewer did typical Brewer things and in a game that was as sloppy as this one it helped him post a nice scoring night. Twenty shots from Brewer is an awful lot, but most were in transition, wide open or taken after the game was really decided. His lob to Iguodala on the break was one of my favorite plays of the game too.
Timofey Mozgov, C 2 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1
Inconclusive outside of Mozgov proving for the second game in a row that if the Nuggets need a lob intercepted he is the man for the job.
JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 5 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +11
Yes, JaVale’s first half was magical. Great dunks, a couple great blocks it was the Pierre that all Nuggets fans see and love. But the second half. Oh, the second half. McGee was constantly out of position flailing away for blocks and in the process giving up open shots and rebounds. It was the perfect example of the two JaVales and why the Nuggets can’t quite always rely on him for heavy minutes every night.
Andre Miller, PG 20 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +21
Miller was solid and unspectacular. He didn’t really force anything offensively and threw a few great passes to JaVale during his fantastic first half. In the ultimate display of how strange this game was though Miller tried to pull a move straight out of the And-1 Streetball tour on Jeff Teague and failed miserably. It was just a weird play in a weird game.
Evan Fournier, SG 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1
Wilson Chandler, SG 27 MIN | 6-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +19
Chandler played pretty good defense on Josh Smith, better than any other Nugget, and his offense was productive as well. Like with most other Nuggets it was a solid but unspectacular game.
George Karl
Karl had his team ready for this one and they took care of business against a team that was on the second night of a back-to-back and missing three rotation players. The Hawks seemed lifeless at times and Karl made sure that his team put the game away when they had the chance.

Ty Lawson named Western Conference player of the week

Ty Lawson has been on a tear in 2013, playing at an All-Star caliber level, and recently leading his team through a difficult stretch in which leading scorer Danilo Gallinari has been suffering from a thigh injury. So it is fantastic to Lawson him get some well deserved official recognition from the league.

From Nuggets.com:

Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played from Monday Feb. 25 through Sunday March 3, the NBA announced today.

Lawson averaged 21.0 points, 7.0 assists and 1.67 steals while helping the Nuggets to a perfect 3-0 record as they make a push for home-court advantage in the postseason.

His week was an extension of his play since Jan. 13; he is averaging 20.8 points, 7.5 assists and 1.64 steals in 22 games during that stretch.

Read the entire article at Nuggets.com here.

Road games revisited: Karl’s seemingly low expectations

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
– Michelangelo Buonarroti

Last week in a breakdown of the remaining schedule I wrote about the importance for the Nuggets of winning road games at a higher percentage and how their success or failure in that regard will most likely define them as a team.

One point I should have included but failed to make is that the Nuggets have in fact improved – albeit modestly – their road performance over the course of the season. On the surface this may come as little surprise, given (more…)

Pickaxe Pulse for March 2, 2013

Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend

Current record: 38-22

Last week: 3-0 (2-0 home, 1-0 road)

Current playoff seed: #5, 1.5 games behind #4 Memphis and 4.5 games ahead of #6 Golden State

The Nuggets made a strong showing through a difficult stretch of games, defeating the surging Lakers and the division-leading Thunder at home and picking up a tough road win in Portland.  The Nuggets have gained separation from the West’s lower playoff seeds, but Memphis’ recent eight game winning streak has kept the Nuggets trailing slightly in the race for homecourt in the first round.  Ty Lawson saw his streak of 20 point games end against the Thunder, but he had plenty of reason to celebrate after hitting the game winning jumper with 0.2 seconds left.  Danilo Gallinari has played sparingly over the last four games due to a deep thigh bruise.  Wilson Chandler has filled in admirably, leading the Nuggets in scoring twice in that stretch.

This week’s games: Monday vs Atlanta, Tuesday at Sacramento, Thursday vs LA Clippers, Saturday vs Minnesota

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 105- Oklahoma City Thunder 103

Oklahoma City Thunder 103 Final
Recap | Box Score
105 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 22 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -4
Gallo was, well…there. I am going to chalk this one up to coming back from the injury and not being 100 percent but if he was there were worrisome signs for Nuggets fans. Gallo created no offense and only made his two shots after teammates found him wide open. When he did try to create he took seven or eight dribbles in the same spot before launching a pull back jumper that missed. Then he got blown past by Kevin Durant to tie the game late. Again I am assuming it was all because of the injury, and the Nuggets should hope that was the case.
Kenneth Faried, SF 18 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -11
As is the case with Faried the first couple minutes of the game set the tone for the rest of it. And in the first two minutes of the game Faried was benched for the rest of the first quarter and his night never really recovered. He had a nice moment or two but also got away with a goaltend and missed an alley-oop after a pretty good pass. Add in bad night with rotations and it just wasn’t one of the Manimal’s finest performances.
Kosta Koufos, C 24 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -8
I said on Twitter during the game that out of all the Nuggets bigs Koufos may be the most important against OKC. His defensive rotations are normally good and his rebounding tonight was great. But he missed a couple bunnies like normal and struggled late in the game as the Thunder started their comeback.
Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 5-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -1
It wasn’t a great night for Lawson but he made the big play that he needed to and it greatly improved his grade. In a final offensive possession that the Thunder defended really well Lawson stepped up and made a tough shot. It was an important thing for someone who had struggled early this year with decision making and shot selection in late game situations.
Andre Iguodala, SG 37 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | -5
Yet again the offensive numbers were bad, seven missed shots, four missed three pointers and no free throws are not what the Nuggets expected from Iggy. Except tonight at times his defense wasn’t normal Iggy defense either. But late in the fourth he made a couple plays on the defensive end including stripping Kevin Durant and he also came up with a big rebound for the Nuggets. An ugly game in the boxscore but an effective one when everything is considered.
Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +6
Brewer was fantastic. Only two three point attempts is the biggest thing as Brewer attacked the basket relentlessly and when the Thunder adjusted to take it away he pulled up and knocked down midrange shots. Add in 5 steals, and better than normal on ball defense and Brewer is one of the main reasons Denver walked away with a W.
JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +2
There was the bad JaVale, two sweeping hooks and an airballed dunk, but good JaVale showed up much more tonight. On defense he was active, including swatting Kevin Durant into the front row, and on the offensive end he helped keep a few possessions alive with tip outs on offensive rebounds. All in all a very effective 16 minutes for McGee, in fact I thought he should have been closing the game.
Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 5-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +13
The offensive numbers look good and Miller had a big layup late in the fourth quarter but again the game is played on two ends of the court and Miller almost cost the Nuggets the game. He got repeatedly torched on the defensive end by just about everyone. At one point he failed to even raise a hand on a Westbrook jumper, on another he let Reggie Jackson walk by him just grabbed him and sent him to the line, and on another late in the game he was switched onto Serge Ibaka and didn’t even pretend to rebound a ball that Ibaka got. Add in some forced drive late in the game and the shine of the numbers aren’t as impressive.
Wilson Chandler, SG 36 MIN | 13-19 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 35 PTS | +18
The Nuggets lose this game without Chandler. He stretched the floor, attacked the basket and played great defense for possessions on Durant. While Chandler won’t play this way every night if he can give half of this production and shooting to the Nuggets off the bench on a nightly basis they become a much more dangerous team.

George Karl

I was fully prepared to give Karl and A+ for this game until the final 5 minutes. He pulled starters when they weren’t effective in the first and third quarters and went to his bench to stay ahead in an important game. But then Karl closed with curious lineups and all of them included Andre Miller who was clearly ineffective. First Karl went to Koufos who almost never plays in the fourth, before going so small he had no real power forward even on the floor. It was curious, especially since Brewer was so much better than Miller on the night. Also why have Gallo on Durant when he is clearly getting the ball? Isn’t that what the Nuggets got Andre Iguodala for? Just curious decisions all around.

FYI: Meet the Manimal on Saturday

Kenneth Faried will be doing his first public autograph signing on Saturday, March 2, from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the Latitude Sports Showroom in Cherry Creek, located at 2620 E. 3rd Ave. Tickets are $20 and parking will be available at the Whole Foods on 1st University.

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