Although Ty Lawson turned in one of his best performances as a young Denver Nugget, his team couldn’t find any form of consistency on the defensive side of the ball and once again allowed the opponent’s front line to have career days all around. The Nuggets are now 1-4 on the season and looking more and more like a lottery team.
|Kenneth Faried, PF 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -19
Most players I keep notes on throughout the game. I had nothing for Faried. He seemed lost, uninspired and submissive. In no way did he resemble his normal self.
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 32 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 19 PTS | +2
This might have been Jordan Hamilton’s best game as a pro. It was without question his best game this year. Instead of camping behind the arc, nervous, and taking dubious 3-pointers, he actually tried to get into the lane and score off cuts to the basket — which he did successfully. He even played pretty darn good defense most of the night.
|JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -9
This was McGee’s worst game of the year — by far. He almost did nothing right. It was like he had a force-field of terribleness surrounding him the entire game, as every time he got near the ball something bad happened: a turnover, foul, airball, you name it. Shaqtin’ A Fool could have a field day with this one.
|Ty Lawson, PG 41 MIN | 10-21 FG | 7-8 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 29 PTS | -8
For the second game in a row Ty Lawson entered the phone booth during a break and came out with his red cape flapping in the wind, fully transformed from Clark Kent to Superman — only this time it didn’t result in a win. He scored 21 points in the third quarter and got the Nuggets back in the game almost by himself. During this time Lawson was actively searching for his shot more than I’ve ever seen. It was glorious.
|Randy Foye, SG 30 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-6 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -3
Foye had an OK night. He hit a few big shots and played solid defense, but his impact was still relatively minimal.
|Darrell Arthur, PF 26 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +11
Funny how Arthur had one of the most underwhelming stat lines of anybody on the team (especially considering how many minutes he played), yet his presence was key for the Nuggets all night long. His man defense and awareness on the defensive side of the ball might be the best on the roster, yet up until tonight he was logging the fewest average minutes of anybody outside Quincy Miller. His effort and attention to detail on defense are two things the Nuggets desperately need moving forward.
|J.J. Hickson, PF 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -5
Hickson didn’t play too much and in the minutes he did play he did Hickson things, which… well, I don’t know exactly what those are, but they’re usually not so good. I do know that.
|Anthony Randolph, SF 32 MIN | 4-9 FG | 5-5 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +4
This was Randolph’s best game with the Nuggets, probably ever. There were a few plays where his defensive effort and shot selection could have been questioned (OK, should have been questioned), but overall he played well for a player coming off the bench. His man defense was solid, he rebounded at a decent rate and he even had active hands which led to a few steals for himself and for his teammates.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 5 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -10
|Andre Miller, PG 14 MIN | 1-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -17
Miller is one of the best players on this team. He’s also one of the savviest. When he came in he didn’t save the Nuggets from their inevitable downfall, but he also didn’t giftwrap the game for the Suns by turning the ball over and hoisting up awful shots like a lot of his teammates. If the Nuggets want to start winning basketball games, it would be wise to start playing Miller more.
|Nate Robinson, PG 7 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -3
It’s too hard to tell what Nate would have done with more minutes, but in the first half he played with lots of energy on both ends of the floor.
|Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +2
Fournier looked great in the early going. He hit a three and slammed down a monster dunk after slicing through multiple Suns defenders — then we never heard from him again. Why? I have no idea. After the way he played against the Hawks, then again in the first quarter of this game, you’d think he would have been a shoe-in for extended minutes down he stretch. You’d think…
I don’t know what to say or think about Shaw right now. I’m trying really hard, just like a lot of fans, to be patient and let this thing play out. But there’s been so much awfulness surrounding this team in the first handful of games this season, I just don’t see how it can be categorized as a “system” problem or something else that just takes time to sort out and play through. Shaw deserves blame. He’s earned it. Against the Suns the Nuggets did almost nothing on a professional level. Their defense was once again atrocious and his lineups (more on this below) — they nearly left me speechless being they were so bad and inconsistent and random. He’s still got tons of time to improve, but he’s certainly not doing it right now because the Nuggets are not learning from their mistakes.
Four Things We Saw
- Can we start manufacturing “This is your brain on Nuggets basketball” posters yet? You know, like the ones you saw for the anti-drug movement in the early 90’s with the fried egg? That’s exactly how I feel after watching the Nuggets: completely fried. And a lot of this has to do with their bi-polar mannerisms on the floor. There’s no discipline with this team. There’s no mental stamina or fortitude. Too many guys aren’t able to focus for extended periods at a time and this often results in huge runs, both positive and negative. For example: After falling behind early and finally pulling ahead by one in the second quarter, the Nuggets promptly let the Suns go on a 10-0 run… in less than a two-minute span. In this same period the Nuggets also went four minutes without a single made field goal. Then, after being down 17 at half, the Nuggets fought back with a 27-3 run to take the lead by only the 4:30 mark of the third quarter. Not much longer after that the Nuggets allowed Phoenix to go on a 13-0 run to take back the lead and ultimately win the game. This team is not a roller-coaster ride; it’s a projectile slingshot into outer space.
- Part (or most) of the above problem can be attributed to the carousel-like lineup system Shaw has employed through the first few weeks of the season. There is no continuity or predictability to what he does, and every three to four minutes it’s as if the Nuggets trot out an entire new lineup similar to a shift change in hockey. Right now Lawson is the only Nuggets player averaging over 30 minutes per game — and he’s closer to 40 than 30. After him the Nuggets have 10 guys logging between 15 and 22 minutes per game. This is a formula that simply does not translate to success in the NBA. The best players must play the most amount of minutes. Sacrifices must be met. Certain guys who probably deserve minutes must sit. The 10th man in your rotation cannot be averaging 15 minutes per game. If Shaw keeps rationing playing time like its bread for a starving horde of nomads he’s never gonna get the type of consistency out of his players that’s required to win basketball games.
- Once again the Nuggets’ defense was horrible. For a team with a new head coach, this is somewhat scary. The Suns had 50 points after less than a quarter and a half of playing time and at one point the Nuggets gave up a dunk off a missed free throw to “complete the whole card on awful basketball bingo,” as Matt put it on Twitter. The Nuggets finally got their act together out of halftime, putting together a big run in the third quarter with better defensive players on the floor like Arthur, Randolph (yes, he’s better than Faried, Hickson and McGee — sadly), Foye, Lawson, and even Hamilton. But once the fourth quarter rolled around it was back to the basics (and by basics, I mean craptastic defense) where the Nuggets allowed yet another 30-point quarter culminating in 114 points total for the Suns on the night.
- I’ll fully admit that this was the first game I actually thought about the Nuggets possibly calling it a year and tanking for Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle or Jabari Parker. It’s not that I’m pessimistic about the rest of the season — there’s still plenty of time to turn this thing around — it’s just that that’s what happens when you evaluate the quality of a team: You think about what’s next. Last year, all we could think about was the playoffs, because that’s what we saw when we watched the Nuggets: a playoff team that had the potential to actually win a series or two. This year, when I watch the Nuggets what I see is: lottery team. Perhaps this can change, but as things stand, right now, that’s just what the Nuggets are… a lottery team.
Next up: Monday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m. (MST) @ Utah. Going to the game? Save money and get cheap Denver Nuggets tickets here.
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