The Nuggets gave up 44 points in the second quarter and dropped their eighth straight game 114-102. Everyone gets an F tonight for grades because that is what happens when you get blown out at home by a team with nine (now 10) wins, and just two (now three) on the road. Below is a recap though.
This should be rock bottom. Getting run off the Pepsi Center floor by the woeful, 76ers after giving up 44 points in a quarter to extend an eight game losing streak should be the worst things get.
But watching the Nuggets I can’t shake the feeling that worse is coming.
Somehow, someway this dysfunctional mishmash of players will find a way to fall to even lower depths.
All the flaws that have been showing all season showed up again tonight.
The Nuggets entire offense was reduced to JJ Hickson/Ty Lawson pick-and-rolls or the more common Ty Lawson or Randy Foye dribbles for 10 seconds and throws up a prayer of a pass or shot that probably won’t, and didn’t, end well play.
Just like early in the season, the first quarter seemed promising. JJ Hickson dominated the game, drawing a plethora of fouls on the Sixers, outworking everyone on the floor for rebounds and dunks on his way to 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks.
But as anything revolving around JJ Hickson being good normally does, it all crashed and burned from there. Like normal Hickson’s final line, 19 points on 7-13 shooting and 11 rebounds, looks good. But that doesn’t take into account the fouled three point shooter, or the lane violation that cost the Nuggets a point in the second quarter, or the countless blown rotations. After all JJ Hickson is JJ Hickson and those are the things he does.
Then the bench entered to end the first and start the second quarter and everything started to turn. By the time Quincy Miller, Evan Fournier, Darrell Arthur, Timofey Mozgov and Nate Robinson all exited the game the six point Denver lead was gone, erased by an 11-2 run from the 76ers to start the second and take control of the game. The offense died, the defense died, the rebounding died and most importantly the effort started to die.
That last part is why I can’t shake the feeling that rock bottom hasn’t hit yet. Reading between the lines and between the goings on in Nuggetsland it is becoming increasingly possible Brian Shaw is losing members of this team. Andre Miller blew up at someone on the bench while getting the first DNP-CD of his career tonight. Shaw has talked about finding guys who will give him consistent effort all season and still he struggles to find it.
Twice in three possessions in the third quarter, when the Nuggets were trailing, Michael Carter-Williams missed a layup but was able to outwork Denver players to grab his own miss. On both plays Ty Lawson, clearly the best player on the team right now, was beat and instead of working hard to get back involved he stopped and watched as the rookie got back into things and earned his team five extra points.
If Shaw has lost Lawson, something unfortunately entirely possible with someone already struggling recently under the massive burden the new offense has placed on him, how long is it until he loses the rest of the roster? If Dre was in-fact blowing up at the coaching staff how long is it until others do? How much longer does Kenneth Faried stay quiet about his fluctuating minutes?
There isn’t a quick fix either. The two most valuable trade assets the Nuggets have are Lawson and a healthy Gallo.
Trading Lawson would alienate many of the fans that are sticking through this tough time and Gallo likely won’t be back to his normal self before the start of next season meaning his value is greatly diminished if it is present at all.
From there Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler become the main pieces for a deal but the value of both will be lessened by money owed to them. Chandler is an injury risk who has struggled to stay on the floor his entire career and someone that teams will be wary of giving up true value for because of those injury issues.
Faried meanwhile is due an extension on his rookie deal soon and will undoubtedly seek a big money deal. It is becoming clear that he doesn’t fit with the new Denver regime that values defense and bigs who can score in the post. The Manimal is a very fun, likeable and at times game changing player but one that also has plenty of flaws.
He gets torched by stretch fours, struggles to defend bigger fours in the post and has an offensive game that consists mostly of dunks and layups created for him by others or by his work on the offensive glass. Shaw has found it tough to play him major minutes in many games, including tonight when he was abused by Thad Young in the post on two straight possessions and didn’t see the floor for the last quarter plus after. Clearly he can help a team, but one that is already a contender and can hide his weaknesses, something that again diminishes the value Denver surely would want for him.
After that is the group of off-season additions and young players Denver isn’t playing (Fournier, Quincy Miller and Hamilton who combined for 20 minutes tonight). None of those players will be coveted around the league enough to bring in a franchise changing talent leaving Denver with no real avenue of improving quickly.
The smartest thing right now seems to be to play those youngsters and be ok with the losses that will follow, dropping themselves into a spot where the Nuggets are all but guaranteed a top seven or eight pick between their own and the Knicks.
But no matter what happens this doesn’t seem like rock bottom to me yet, just the start of getting there.
I hope I’m wrong.
Just a few thoughts I had on tonight’s game.
Next up: Friday, Jan. 3, @ 7 p.m. MST vs. Memphis. Going to the game? Save money and get cheap Denver Nuggets tickets here.