Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 101 – Oklahoma City Thunder 88

Although it could never truly be #THUNDERNUGGETS without Russell Westbrook (get well soon Russ), Denver still treated the game with the usual amount of reverence. Ty Lawson ran really fast, Randy Foye flipped off his shooting slump, Evan Fournier did some cool stuff, and Quincy Miller did the Mailman dunk. It was a pretty good night, all things considered.

After the infinite abyss that was the seven-game losing streak, Denver has shot off four in a row. It’s almost as if the sky is, in fact, not falling after all.

Oklahoma City Thunder 88 FinalRecap | Box Score 101 Denver Nuggets
J.J. Hickson, PF 25 MIN | 1-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +3

Hickson has to circle games against teams like the Thunder, who either play a piece of flotsam or an undersized Serge Ibaka mostly at center. It means he can gobble up the rebounds he so dearly covets and rim-run to his hearts content. His weak side defense, rather shockingly, was pretty on point as well.

Kenneth Faried, PF 32 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-4 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +6

Faried seems to be somewhat mirroring Hickson lately, as they both once again played a similar type of game. He also threw in a few jumpers that didn’t involve that awkward, one-hop floater, which was nice to see.

Quincy Miller, SF 20 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +5

In perhaps his most important game as a Denver Nugget, Quincy was forced to try and make his mark while checking the most potent offensive player in the NBA. He was torched, predictably, but he had the last laugh in the form of a Mailman dunk homage.

Ty Lawson, PG 40 MIN | 6-15 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 14 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +16

Lawson’s burden has always been a large one and one wonders when the extra allotment of minutes and energy is going to cost him. But as of now Ty is enjoying another great streak and, amazingly, the Nuggets seem to be on a very similar ride. Coincidence? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Randy Foye, SG 38 MIN | 7-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | +9

If anyone had any doubts, Randy Foye kicked his December slump in the groin with this game. When the three is falling, everything changes for both Foye and the offense. An example: Foye will pull this trick in transition when a big picks him up where he’ll feint a pull-up behind the line before unleashing a crossover that catapults him into the paint. When used with restraint, Foye’s off-the-dribble game can be a nifty weapon.

Darrell Arthur, PF 16 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +8

Arthur, who has done a solid job on KD before, was torched as well, although its hard to blame him for it. The mid-range jumper is still struggling but he ran the floor well with Ty, and set the proper drag/down/flare screens that helped the offense hum along.

Timofey Mozgov, C 22 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +14

Small ball was working well for the Nuggets defensively, so Timo’s impact was not as required as it usually is. Still, when OKC went big, Mozgov did his job well.

Nate Robinson, PG 23 MIN | 3-13 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +1

Everyone got to partake in the free-flowing fun of this game but Nate. Try as he might to match Foye’s ridiculous threes or Ty’s assault of the paint, the shots just would not fall.

Evan Fournier, SG 18 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +11

Fournier had by far his best game of the season, as a diet of steadier minutes seems to have borne fruit. Fournier is an interesting cog in this team, he is the only wing on the team that provides a certain uniqueness to his game. When he has his off the bounce game going, he can do a decent impression of Gallo on offense when the team is in sore need of one.

Brian Shaw

Brian Shaw’s decision to start Quincy Miller over Hamilton, and to give basically all of J-Ham’s minutes to Fournier, was vindicated by game’s end. He continues to rid Lawson’s hot streak hard with another 40 minutes night and now seems more keen to stagger his lineups. Whatever occurred in the darkest days of the losing streak seems to have taught the team a lesson, as they are back to playing the way Shaw wants.

Three Things We Saw

  1. This game felt very reminiscent to the countless home games Denver has had in the post-Melo years, where a superior opponent comes in unprepared and just gets annihilated by a locked-in Nuggets team. This season has seen precious few of those, or really many convincing home wins in general, so it was comforting to see it make a return.
  2. The rotation, through both injury and Shaw’s tinkering, remains in a constant state of flux. It somewhat speaks to the amount of redundancy on the roster that despite all this toying, the results have shown very little variance regardless of who was getting minutes (outside, of course, of Anthony Randolph). Last year the ease in which Denver could interchange parts of the rotation on the fly was comforting, this year it seems somewhat disconcerting.
  3. This mini winning streak is a nice response to a losing streak that painted the team as much worse than they truly were. That said, like the extended winning streak earlier in the year, it is also somewhat of an illusion. The three point shooting especially, 49-113 (43%), seems unsustainable.

Next up: Friday, Jan. 10, 7 p.m. (MST) vs. Orlando. Going to the game? Save money and get cheap Denver Nuggets tickets here.

  • Poz303

    Heading home from the game. Foye was on fiiyyaa! Evan was great. Ty and Faried were awesome. Q.Miller did a good job.

    Very good win. Fourth qtr was hard to watch as both teams just seemed to shut it down.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ Kalen

    Sorry about the comments section guys. I don’t know why it was turned off. I’m looking into it…

    • Evan Woodruff

      Kalen, I have a question for you and the other Roundball writers who’s opinions I thoroughly respect and often look toward, infact I think it would make a good piece. Maybe a 5 on 5 question as I’d like to hear seperate opinions:

      How would McGee fit in this team come playoff time with Gallo back in the mix? Now same question, but Mozgov is playing more consistent. Does he come off the bench for Mozzy? or vice versa? Were does Hickson fit into all of this? Does he just come in for Faried (or vice versa). Should McGee get traded? Or do we go back to starting him?

      I have some very unformed opinions on this at the moment, but I’d like to hear your insight before I make my mind up and analyze it myself in a more unbiased mental arena. My concern however is: the team is playing well right now, so what does McGee bring to the table that will really improve the Nuggets? I know he can protect the rim, but is that it? That doesn’t seem to be enough to add anything useful over another player, let alone make up for his own frequent defensive lapses and lack of rebounding.

      • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ Kalen

        Thanks Evan.

        We’re gonna do a 5-on-5 here shortly, probably when Miller gets traded. But to answer your question, I think it’s still too early to tell. The Nuggets are playing good right now but they’ve been really sporadic all year. As Shaw said recently, this is a year of discovery. The only way we’ll be able to know how McGee fits into this puzzle is to insert him into the lineup and see what happens.

        Hickson is a different story though. I think he and Faried have been going at it all year and Faried has pulled ahead. But that’s just my opinion. Maybe Hickson will play better alongside McGee? Again, we just have to wait to find out.

        Hope this helps.

  • Aaron

    Forgot J Ham & Randolph’s grade even though they didn’t play much. Btw, anyone know why Hamilton got randomly benched?

    • Nugman

      Maybe because he doesn’t create for others?

    • Michael

      I’m pretty sure he got benched for not “playing the right way” to use Shaw’s term. When he was starting for Foye he got benched after blowing a defensive rotation, Faried even had words with him for forcing the guard down to Faried and rotating up to big. Tonight Shaw was unhappy with J Ham for taking the bad long 3, Evan went to Shaw to find out how to get playing time and has been working hard to do the “right things” and that is why I think he has beat J Ham out for minutes.
      I won’t be surprised if J Ham is packed with Miller.

      • pgwarner

        He is just the latest scapegoat. Nobody cares because the team is hitting their jumpers. That will change like it did before. Give it time.

  • Nugman

    Defense was pretty good tonight all around. The shot selection also seemed better than usual. Everyone, including Hickson twice, passed rather than force bad shots. I also liked all the ball fakes the Nuggs were using. They were very effective and seemed to be a new part of the offense. I was at the game and couldn’t figure out why Durant was so mad towards the end. Anyone know?

    • Sharkboy242

      No but I saw him yell at his teammate on that last possession of the game – telling him to shoot it.

  • Evan Woodruff

    Gallo’s impact will be huge in the playoffs, the defense, the extra shooter. AKA spacing, rebounding, chandler off the bench. Foye hitting his 3’s, So much spacing for the drivers and cutters. Alla- Ty, Evan, Kenneth. If Mozgov goes crazy again, McGee will be back to defend the rim and block shots. Even Nate can win them a game or two in the play offs. Scary team, if they get streaky and the pieces fall, they can beat anyone. That’s not bold it’s facts.

    When Gallo comes back, and if the Nuggets can get hot from 3pt range again, they could actually be pretty scary in the playoffs. With their new-found defense, who’s to say they couldn’t pull off a first round upset? And if they are able to beat a top 3 seed, who’s to say they can’t beat the next team as well?

  • heykyleinsf

    Fournier has been one of the biggest reasons for this turnaround. I’m so happy to see him get his confidence back.. he’s fun to watch!

  • TomRMC

    I’m not sure why three point shooting of around 40% seems unsustainable. Foye, Fournier, Chandler, and Robinson all shot over 40% from three last season. Ty shot over 40% his first two seasons. Those guys are taking the bulk of threes for the team.

    • pgwarner

      Maybe because they don’t consistently shoot at forty percent. They are all streaky. Watch Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Curry or any of the very few others who are consistent. Its a high percentage game after game and year after year.

      This Nugget crew is not just streaky from beyond the arch they are streaky from mid-range too. When they go cold they go cold for games. When two or more go cold the team tanks.

      Shooting 40 for a year or two or even a few games will lull you into a false sense of security. Consistency is sports whether its hitting in baseball or putting in golf is what separates the greats from the mundane.

      • TomRMC

        Even “consistent” players like Ray Allen have up and down years — he shot 36% on threes in the 2009 season and 44% in the 2010 season (8% better in a single year). That’s not particularly less streaky than Randy Foye’s worst year of 32% and best year of 41% (9% better). Ray Allen has down months where he shoots 25%. He’s at 18% over the last 5 games.

        OK, so Chandler probably isn’t going to shoot near 40% for a season. But it’s not too big of a stretch to think most of these guys could shoot 36%-38%, which would put the Nuggets in really good shape overall.

        • pgwarner

          May be we should agree to disagree. Foye’s numbers are lower than Allen’s – best and worst by a long shot. Chandler needs to stick to corner threes. Ty is the most streaky.

          I think you will find that our players tend to feast on blowouts. Its like JR Smith.

          Also I did point out how this team has no consistent mid-range shooters. Gallo is the only guy who fits that mold. I can’t see this team in spite of what system you run being a jump shooting team in a half court. Going to the rim and kicking things out for a three is possible and helpful. But thats it with these guys. They must live at the rim.

          Remember what happened in that losing streak? Foye gets bench for getting cold. They start passing around the perimeter not wanting to take a shot till the clock runs down and throw up a no hope pray because nobody wants to be the goat.

          This team did not suddenly get better because Shaw met with them. They will revert to their mean on shooting.

          They also feasted in this four game streak on two very terrible teams and the other two were missing a Gasol and a Westbrook.

          • TomRMC

            It’s certainly not my intent to say that Foye is as good as Ray Allen. Only to point out that “consistency” with shooters is a bit of a myth. Guys don’t come out and hit in a pattern. A 40% shooter doesn’t go 2-5 every single game, or 30-75 every month. The nature of being a shooter is being streaky.

            Ray Allen has had 51 career games where he went 0-4 or worse on threes (including an 0-10 game), which is about one in every 24 games. Randy Foye has had 21 games of 0-4 or worse threes (his worst is 0-6), which is one in every 24 games. JR Smith has done it once every 22 games; Mike Miller once every 26 games, Shane Battier once every 27 games, Reggie Miller once every 22 games, Nate Robinson once every 29 games. Every great 3 point shooter, and every mediocre 3 point shooter, has single games where they can’t buy a bucket, and months where columnists ask “where has his three point stroke gone?”, and years where people wonder if their career is nearing its end. Shooting is a streaky affair.

            Yeah, Foye, Chandler, Lawson, Fournier, and Robinson are worse 3 point shooters than Ray Allen. But it’s not unreasonable to think the Nuggets — with those five guys and an eventually healthy Gallo (and either JHam or Q until then) — can sustain a 3 point shooting clip well above the league average. You’re right that it is a confidence thing; it’s the responsibility of the coaches to get guys comfortable with taking those shots and with passing to teammates who are even more open with the confidence that those teammates will drain those shots. The talent is certainly there, and good shooters have a tendency to open things up for other good shooters (like GS last season).

            If there’s one consistent theme to what Connelly did this offseason, it’s replacing bad mid-to-long-range shooters with better ones. Brewer, Iggy, Koufos, and Stone are all gone (and Andre Miller is likely to follow). Robinson, Foye, Arthur (fantastic from the elbow), and Hickson (pretty good from the baseline) are in, and Fournier and Mozgov (good short-range jump shooter) have expanded roles. Ty is developing a nice midrange game as well. I expect this team to be surprisingly effective once they’ve gelled with each other and with the coaches. Whether that’s happening right now or won’t really happen until the middle of next season, I can’t really say.

  • pgwarner

    “…where a superior opponent comes in unprepared and just gets annihilated by a locked-in Nuggets team.” Pardon me? Without Westbrook this team is pretty average.

    • Jay Crynes

      Who cares if he isn’t there! We also don’t have our second best player Gallo. So there goes that argument.

      • pgwarner

        Sure! Compare Gallo to Westbrook. Thank you for that reply. Made my day seeing it. It matters because the POINT is without him the Thunder are not a superior team. It has nothing to do with the Nuggets so your mention of Gallo is specious.Too Funny!

      • pgwarner

        Look at it this way and see if it helps: The Thunder are an average team with the loss of Westbrook no matter who they play. Does that help? Your point is about the Nuggets. Mine was not.

        If in April we play the Thunder and Westbrook is 100% then they will be superior again whether we have Gallo back or not. Then if we win then we will have beaten a superior team. Again whether we have Gallo or not.

  • Dan Sivertson

    Any win against the Thunder is a big win. A good game by the Nuggets.