Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 109, Cavaliers 117

The hallmark of the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets is inconsistency on every imaginable front: shooting, effort, defense, rebounding, you name it. A team that is equally capable of going to Oakland and beating one of the hottest teams in the league on their own court, and then two days later getting outplayed and beaten at home in the Pepsi Center by one of the worst teams in the league: This is who the Nuggets are.

Tonight, despite a late game push that brought them within as few as three points, Denver fell 109 to 117 to Cleveland, who never relinquished the lead they established in the second quarter. Grades after the jump.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers 117 Final

Recap | Box Score

109 Denver Nuggets
J.J. Hickson, PF 32 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -11The accolades Hickson rightfully got for his performance against the Warriors are unlikely to be matched by the equally deserved criticism he should receive in this game for his utter lack of defense. But it needs to be recognized that, as much of a boon as his offense (and in particular his pick-and-roll game with Lawson) can be a boon for the Nuggets, his defense is just as much, if not more, of a bane. He may be out of position at center, but that doesn’t absolve him from his responsibility to protect the rim, which he consistently fails to do.

Kenneth Faried, PF 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -8The nearly nonexistent defense of Faried and Hickson was perhaps the biggest contributing factor to this loss. Kenneth was, according to Brian Shaw, suffering from the flu in this game, and he made a noble effort in finding some energy in spurts, including one highlight reel block. But he let Tristan Thompson trounce all over him and score 20 points on 8-9 shooting, and failed to challenge almost any players who drove into the lane.

Wilson Chandler, SF 35 MIN | 7-17 FG | 4-6 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | -3It’s great to see Chandler hitting his shots from the arc a a healthy clip. He shot 5-12 (.417) in this game, and if he can continue to knock them down it will help greatly with Denver’s floor spacing (although it would be nice to see him a little less in love with the three and a little more aggressive in driving the lane). Additionally, he did a very good job of containing Luol Deng, who shot just 6-17 (.353) from the field. Hopefully Wilson’s recent spate of solid performances is a sign of better consistency to come.

Ty Lawson, PG 40 MIN | 5-16 FG | 7-7 FT | 4 REB | 11 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | -3Lawson looked sluggish early, and it was in part his lack of aggression that allowed the Cavs, from the beginning of the game, to dictate a slow, plodding pace and take Denver’s best asset – speed – away from them. By the time he found his higher gear later in the game, it felt like too little too late. Although he did a good job of setting up his teammates, he had a hard time getting his own shot falling. And while guarding Kyrie Irving is no easy task, Ty really couldn’t do anything to stop him. Irving was getting open looks and getting into the paint at will the whole game, and in turn doing a good job of preventing Lawson from doing the same. Ty’s stat line doesn’t look terrible, but he really needs to do a better job of taking charge at home against inferior opponents.

Randy Foye, SG 35 MIN | 5-15 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -4Foye continued his hot 3-point shooting in this game, going 4-9 from the arc. Unfortunately, however, he shot just 1-6 from 2-point range, including 1-5 in the paint. He also had a hard time containing C.J. Watson. This is about what we can expect from Foye, and in games where the Nuggets are getting better production from his teammates it will be enough.

Quincy Miller, SF 12 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -3Quincy Miller played a total of 26 minutes in the 2012-13 season, and as such is still a rookie in every meaningful sense of the word. And tonight his rookie mistakes were on full display. For some reason he can’t seem to shake the habit of shooting all his 3-pointers flat-footed, and the poor results are of course not surprising. He often seems confused about positioning on offense and rotations on defense. He’ll keep having his ups and downs as he develops, but tonight was a pretty rough outing.

Timofey Mozgov, C 26 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 5 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | 0Mozgov was the only bright spot in the Nuggets’ front court tonight. Early in the game he shared the woes of Hickson and Faried, but he steeled up in the second half to provide some genuine rim protection and some badly needed offensive toughness down low. He led the team in rebounding with 11 (including six offensive), and was Denver’s only big to put up any kind of contest against Varejao and Thompson. Shaw has said his concern in starting Timo would be breaking up the second unit, but at this point getting better starts defensively sure seems like a more pressing concern.

Nate Robinson, PG 21 MIN | 8-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 19 PTS | -9The toughest grade of the night. The good: Nate poured in a highly efficient 19 points in 21 minutes on 8-11 shooting. For a while there, it looked like he might get it going and pull off another hero game like he did in Oakland, but that would not come to pass. The bad: He wasn’t any more of a help defensively than J.J., Kenneth or Ty were. At the very least, however, he brought the effort and energy the entire time he was on the court, which unfortunately is more than some of his teammates can say.

Evan Fournier, SG 16 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +1It was surprising (as it often is) that Shaw didn’t give Fournier more burn in this game. He came out with intensity and aggression, and though his 3-pointers weren’t falling (0-4 from the arc), he was playing with a lot of effort on defense, and it was fairly effective for the short time he was on the floor. If the Nuggets can cultivate Evan’s defense it will be very valuable, and if Shaw wants to reward the players who are putting in the effort, giving him a few more minutes would be a good way to accomplish both goals.

Brian Shaw
Simply put, the Nuggets should have been better prepared for this game. The Cavs came at Denver with essentially the same game plan they employed last time, and it worked again. Maybe they’re a better team than their record suggests (with the addition of Deng this is certainly the case). Maybe the Nuggets just don’t match up well against them, especially being depleted by injuries (the only factor which prevents the F grade). But none of that really matters. Despite the fact that they pretty much knew exactly what Cleveland would do, they weren’t ready for it, and they got caught on their heels playing to the Cavs’ strengths right out of the gates. If this were a playoff series, the fans would be asking why Shaw didn’t make any adjustments, and that’s the right question to ask now.

Three Things We Saw

  1. When Hickson has a big game like he did on Wednesday, does it validate, in their own minds, Kroenke and Connelly’s decision making, and help them to convince themselves that signing him was a good move, and that he shouldn’t be traded? Of course, it’s impossible to know, but let us hope not, or at least hope that they also recognize that a Hickson-Faried frontcourt defense is one which will always prevent a team from reaching great success. If the KronCon FO is unwaveringly committed to “win now,” as it seems to be, then this liability really has to be reckoned with.
  2. Crappy Nuggets defense notwithstanding, the Cavaliers really are better than their .375 record. They’re at 10th in the East right now, but they’re only 1 1/2 games out of the playoff picture, and they should land a low seed in the postseason.
  3. On the other hand, things are not looking so rosy for the Nuggets. Like Cleveland, they are 10th in the West, but as Vytis recently wrote about, they have the hardest remaining schedule in the league. This Denver team will have to overcome quite a lot – inconsistency, defensive weakness, injuries, the tough schedule – to earn a playoff spot.

 

You can follow me on Twitter here: @denbutsu

 

 

Next up: Sunday, Jan. 19, 6 p.m. (MST) at Phoenix. Going to the game? Save money and get cheap Denver Nuggets tickets here.

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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • Sharkboy242

    Faried has to go… I love him but he has no place here in Denver. We need to package him and Miller for a solid defensive player.

    • alex47666

      or just something, we have arthur now no need for more log jams

    • LBJ

      I thought Joshy and Timmy were moving Dre within 48 hours? Apparently, that was a typo – and it really was 4800 hours. Sitting a 37 year old PG for 2 weeks isn’t going to increase his value.

      • Native Nugget

        Sad to say the I agree. Love Faried’s energy and there are a good number of nights when he provides the spark that puts us over the top. But if we are really hunting a championship we have to trade for players who are more consistent, especially on D.

    • BigDubz

      To be honest I think the fact that he’s been paired with Hickson has really hurt him. They’re such similar players (both strengths and weaknesses) that I feel either he’s trying to be someone he’s not or the coaching staff is trying to mold him into a player he’s not. I still think he’s an incredibly useful player and should start on this team. I’d love to see him start with Mozgov for a couple weeks and see what happens.

      • The Truth

        I’d like Mozzy and JJ to start again, especially if Faried’s getting bench minutes. Faried can be part of the bench energy. I’m not sure why trading him is even part of the convo.

      • Sharkboy242

        I see where you’re coming from but the fact is that this team cannot play defense. To remedy this you have to replace Hickson or Faried. Faried is a stronger trading chip and he probably wont be worth what other teams are willing to pay him come free agency time. Right now would be an ideal time to package him and get something good in return.

        It really hurts to watch how easily teams put up points on us. This 2nd quarter was just brutal and hickson and faried’s defense make me wanna pull my hair out.

  • Branden Gloudeman

    Darrel Arthur is severely missed

  • Richard Pesicka

    Now this is the Nuggets we know and love..

  • Richard Pesicka

    I can see why Cleveland thinks they have a shot at the playoffs. They have hope. They play hard. They have not given up. They have class.

    • googergieger

      35 free throw attempts and playing against a head coach that’d make Forrest Gump look like an upgrade helps too.

  • The Truth

    If they make the playoffs, they will have earned it. The defensive hedge will have become consistent and fluid. A ten man rotation with McGee will materialize. And consistent, smart PG play must become the norm. If none of this happens, no go.

    We saw fighting pedigree but not winning pedigree tonight. Plus these 9 are tired, shitty part of the season.

  • alex47666

    Tonight was a joke, that is all

  • aneal

    fournier should have got more minutes.He is the smart one to contribute team in different part than any other nuggets

    • alex47666

      He actually was playing good defense tonight, but the shot wasnt falling and Nate was on fire. I had no problem with Fours not being till the 1 minute mark

  • mmj5280

    The only thing I’m looking forward to now is the draft.

    • LBJ

      Agreed. Start tanking now.

  • CoryW

    Nuggets have pieces that need to be moved. Over the last couple of weeks I was set on several players being traded and had a few untouchables but now just trade anyone but Lawson man’s pourinyg up double doubles with no consistent help. In my eyes Lawson can’t be traded and I like Fournier, let him grow. Nate can stay along with Arthur, Mozgov and Gallo but anyone else has to be on the market. Faried just isn’t getting better I mean it has been two and a half seasons his defense should be improved, right?. I’m not saying blow the team up I’m just saying get better players that compliment each other. Because in all reality what picks are we going to get back for pieces. I just want better well rounded players that compliment each other. Not just talent developed talent and developable talent.

  • heykyleinsf

    Still high off the GSW win.
    This doesn’t phase me,
    nor the 50/50 shot at the playoffs.
    This year is all about finding a future.
    Not a title run.

    • CoryW

      Exactly thank you for saying this. Just waiting on a trade to happen eventually.

    • Ryan

      Spot on. It’s about trading the (numerous) pieces that don’t fit and setting up for a run 2-3 years from now… Would help if we had a better draft pick to work with this year though…

      • CoryW

        Always possible. Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin out for two weeks for the Knicks do there is hope. Right now Chad Ford has us drafting kid from ucla. Seen videos on him he can definitely score but who wouldn’t rather have Wiggins or Parker. We have like 1.5% chance to win the lottery, crazy stuff can happen.

  • Richard Pesicka

    7 games from the basement. Everything is going according to plan. Give Shaw an extension.

    • Ryan

      Not even close. We’re tied for best non-playoff team with Memphis right now, meaning we would get the last pick of the lottery (No. 14) or second-to-last (No. 13). Not exactly ideal for rebuilding a franchise, huh?

      • Richard Pesicka

        I’d like to know where having a rookie coach means playing like crap or falling into the deep abyss is acceptable? They are professional athletes, if they can’t play to there potential, dump them. This is a business. This isn’t misfit island.

  • Robert

    Yes it might help to have a healthy Faried, repaired Gallo, fractureless Javale, healed Darrel A., replacement for A. Miller, and healthy A. Randolph…wait, is there anyone left? Anyways, I fault the coach on this one as much as the players. When your half way through the 2nd and the other tam has 30 points already, maybe you call a time out and make an adjustment or make a statement and play with only 4 guys (what’s the difference). DO SOMETHING.

    • The Truth

      Yeah, funny how the injuries don’t come up. Something was up with Faried, didn’t know he was hurting. I’d like to see J Ham get off the bench once in awhile. Playing 9 doesn’t mean banishing 10 and 11 to oblivion

  • Robert

    Time to consider the twisted tank. That is where you only lose to the crappy teams in order to create separation with New York to improve the pick you will get from them. Then you win the games against the mid to upper tier teams to show the world that you can compete and secure a playoff spot since your actual pick goes to another team. I LOVER THE IDEA

    • Ryan

      We get the better pick between the Knicks and us. So if you want to tank, just lose every game and finish worse than the Knicks. Plus, it’s exceedingly unlikely that the Knicks won’t make the playoffs, given how bad the east is, so they won’t even have a lottery pick. The way things are going, we’ll get the last or second-to-last pick in the lottery… Whoopee…

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

        Actually, Denver doesn’t have to be “worse than the Knicks” to end up with the better pick. Right now Charlotte is 8th in the East w/ a .415 record, while Phoenix is 8th in the West at .564. So if things continue along the same lines, NYK could go 35-47 (.427) and clinch the 8th seed in the EC and not end up in the lottery, while DEN could go 46-36 (.561) and end up in the 9th spot in the WC — and in the lottery.

        All of which is why, in my opinion, if the Nuggets end up with a lottery pick this summer, it will be their own and not the one they swap w/ the Knicks. New York’s only 1 1/2 games out of the playoff picture right now. Sure they’re dysfunctional, but they’ve got enough talent to claw their way up a few spots. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t make the playoffs. I’m about 95% sure they will.

        • LBJ

          I totally agree.

  • BigDubz

    As much as I’m trying to patient with Shaw, I felt he really blew it in this one. Especially in the final minute or so (?) when he played that annoying lineup of Nate, Ty, Foye, Chandler, and JJ which surrendered rebound after rebound. Doesn’t Shaw realize that’s the kind of crap that got Karl canned? Small ball is fantastic in small bursts, but he’s using it for most of the 4th which is unacceptable. Also, Fours needs to get more burn. He can be a true x factor on this team but we need to allow him to grow. As long as he hustles, he should see at least 20+ mins a night. Hickson is starting to drive me crazy which I knew would happen when we signed him. It’s about time Mozzy started, he deserves it.

    • BigDubz

      Also, to give credit where credit is due, I will say that the FO made the right choice between Mozgov and Koufos. I really liked Koufos but I think we saw his full potential reached last season. I still wish we received more useful assets in exchange for him since bigs are always in high demand in the league, but if a guy had to be traded it looks like Koufos was the right guy to pick.

      • The Truth

        No doubt, Mozzy is nothing but potential. He’s like a Russian McGee and Faried though. Playing smart D just doesn’t seem to be part of his make up, JJ’s not really playing the smart vet role either. One thing about K-Mart, he played smart when he wasn’t all primadonna like. Nene was much better at mental ball too. Bird has even learned to play smarter in Miami, our bigs just don’t get it.

        • gimpcom187

          Yeah the numbers run VERY opposite to your contention about mozgov. The defense is somewhere between 4-6 points BETTER with him on the court. He still fouls too much and like most 7 footers he is average at best on pick n roll and poor at rotating to 3 pt shooters. Otherwise he is decently mobile strong and extremely long. He doesnt get out of position much. Hes probably an above average defender. Mcgee and faried are poor comparisons. They are both freak athletes who do poor at most skill things. Its the 3rd time ive seen you mention this on the site.

          • The Truth

            Playing D without fouling is what none of them do. There’s no such thing as good one on one D if you’re making silly fouls. Who cares if you’re “decently mobile and strong.”

            Leave the numbers for the fantasy team. His PPG and RPG don’t reflect his impact. I’m talking basketball.

            • gimpcom187

              Ummm I will admit being a little mocking because your name is so presumptuous and immodest. But maybe you mean it ironically. I clearly stated the players you mentioned as similar in no way in style or strengths or weaknesses. And I didnt use narrow stats like rebounds. I used contextualized defensive value stats. These are probably the best defensive value stats in current use. I guess you have no reason to say mozgov is similar to faried and mcgee.