Things went from bad to worse for the Denver Nuggets tonight. Not only did they get blown out by the Pistons the night after getting blown out by the Knicks, but injury was added to insult as they lost Ty Lawson late in the second quarter to a lower back strain. He did not return, and the Nuggets announced that his left rib was fractured.
More on Lawson’s injury, as well as the grades, are after the jump:
|Kenneth Faried, PF 20 MIN | 5-7 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -7
Although Faried had an efficient offensive game, he didn’t make much of an impact, and he struggled mightily on the glass, pulling down only three boards and getting outworked and outmaneuvered by Detroit’s bigger bigs. Perhaps the most significant stat of the night for Kenneth was zero minutes in the fourth quarter, where Shaw apparently had more trust in Arthur and Randolph to close out the game.
|Wilson Chandler, SF 33 MIN | 6-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -19
The good: Chandler had his best 3-point shooting game of 2013-14, knocking down a season-high six shots from the arc. The bad: He wasn’t able to do much on the floor or on the glass to stop Josh Smith, who double-doubled with 30 points and 10 rebounds.
|J.J. Hickson, C 34 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-6 FT | 16 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 15 PTS | -22
Hickson’s line tonight is a near-perfect nutshell encapsulation of who he is. A player who can put up a 15-point, 16-rebound line that would thrill fantasy owners (save for his 1-6 mark at the free throw line), but nevertheless manages to end up with a +/- of -22. With J.J., it always comes down to his defense (or lack thereof) being, more often than not, a greater liability than his offensive production is an asset. Andre Drummond (not coincidentally +22 on the game) had his way with him all night long.
|Ty Lawson, PG 19 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -1
Lawson was helped to the locker room late in the second quarter and did not return. Prior to that, he had a decent first quarter and a quiet second, doing a good job of pushing the pace, but doing little to keep Brandon Jennings out of the paint. Needless to say, whatever happened in the first half pales in comparison with his injury, which is discussed further below.
|Randy Foye, SG 33 MIN | 9-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 25 PTS | -20
Like Chandler, Foye put in a solid 3-point shooting performance, and his 25 points led the team in scoring. Like Lawson, he couldn’t stop Jennings, and as usual he struggled when called upon to run the point. He’s admirably trying to be a leader for the team, and while he’s reportedly doing a good job of that in practice and in the locker room, those are shoes that are just too big for a player of his caliber to fill.
|Darrell Arthur, PF 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -18
Arthur hasn’t been the same since returning from injury. That may be a function of his recovery, but in this game it also seemed somewhat due to confusion. He didn’t seem to know where to be on the court, largely spending his time lingering around the corners where he does not usually dwell. If Shaw is directing him to do this, it’s not really his fault. On the other hand, his poor defense in this game is entirely on him.
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 10 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | -3
J-Ham didn’t do much with his 10 minutes, but it’s hard to expect much from a player who has essentially been relegated to a permanent bench warmer. Granted, he’s not a point guard, but with Andre Miller officially a persona non grata, and Nate Robinson being out for the season, it’s fairly inexplicable that Shaw hasn’t dug deeper into his bench more consistently. (But more on that later).
|Quincy Miller, SF 16 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -2
Q-Mil had a bigger positive impact on this game than shows up on the stat line, but it was still minimal. He was part of the bench unit that narrowed the Pistons lead down to six with just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and did as good a job as may have been expected for playing within what could only generously be called the flow of Denver’s offense. Shaw clearly believes in cultivating Miller, and it’s probably a worthwhile project, but he will need more minutes to develop better consistency.
|Anthony Randolph, SF 12 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +4
When Anthony Randolph is the player with the team’s highest +/- (+4 tonight), you know it’s probably a bad game for the Nuggets. But that does not reflect poorly on him individually, and he was one of the few bright spots in this game.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 22 MIN | 0-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +2
Instead of searching a thesaurus for a litany of 17 or so synonyms for “abused” to list off, let’s just put it simply: Timo got abused by Drummond, Monroe, and just about any other Detroit player that took it to him all game long. And he was no better on offense, missing his one dunk and two layup attempts, The frustration got to him in the second half as he melted down and got called for a technical foul. So why does he get a better grade than Hickson? See Shaw’s grade for the answer.
|Evan Fournier, SG 21 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +1
Until the fourth quarter, it looked like Fournier was headed for another disastrous performance as he started off shooting 0-4 and making a number of blunders. Fortunately, he picked up his game after that making five of his last six shots, doing a better job of initiating the offense, and helping the Nuggets get within reach of the game before the Pistons blew their lead back open. Like Q-Mil, Evan is another young player for whom the talent is there, but the minutes to develop it aren’t. And like J-Ham, given the depletion of Denver’s guards, it’s hard to understand Shaw’s justification for not utilizing him more.
Unlike Hickson, who basically doesn’t even try to attempt to prevent the other team from scoring, it can be said on Mozgov’s behalf that the reason we saw him getting abused so much tonight is because he was at least attempting to protect the rim and defend the post. The easiest way to avoid getting put on a poster is to simply step out of the way, and Mozgov, even when he struggles like he did tonight, at least consistently shows up and puts in the effort. Shaw said repeatedly early in the season that the players who worked the hardest would earn larger roles, but he has yet to back that up by starting Mozgov, and his excuses for not doing so continue to be vague and unconvincing.
It’s hard to knock Shaw too hard when he really has been dealt a crappy hand. When life hands you lemons, it’s not realistic to expect you to make orange juice from them. But Foye’s injury last night followed by Lawson’s tonight are evidence of reaping what you sow. With Andre Miller and Robinson out, he (as Matt, David and others have already been pointing out) has been severely overworking Ty and Randy. When you’re already dealing with limited options, it behooves you to take every possible precaution not to limit them further, especially when they are your most valuable ones.
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