Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 89, Chicago Bulls 117

It was another blowout loss for the Nuggets, who trailed the Bulls wire to wire, and fell to their sixth defeat in their last seven games. If any silver lining could be found, it was that newly acquired point guard Aaron Brooks scored 17 points, and appears to be a very viable replacement for Nate Robinson.

The grades are below the fold:

Denver Nuggets 89 FinalRecap | Box Score 117 Chicago Bulls
Kenneth Faried, PF 27 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -27Faried started the game off as the only Nuggets player who got anything done on offense. But after scoring six of his eight points in the first quarter, he was effectively shut out for the rest of the game, with only two points and three rebounds the remainder of the game. And defense? What’s that?

Wilson Chandler, SF 31 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -23Chandler was a ghost in this game, his presence on the court almost indiscernible. In Lawson’s absence the Nuggets needed him to pick up a bigger share of the offensive burden, and the fact he has failed to do so has been a real disappointment. And he couldn’t do much to stop the Bulls’ shooting guards, who were knocking down shots at will.

Anthony Randolph, SF 19 MIN | 0-2 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -16Like the rest of the frontcourt starters, Randolph was mostly ineffectual in this game. To his credit, it can be said at the very least that played with a lot of aggression and effort. But as usual, he often looked confused about his role, and his decision making (taking the ball all the way up the court for an inevitable turnover) was, well, like it’s always been.

J.J. Hickson, C 20 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -13Hickson had an atrocious first half, scoring just two points on 1-6 shooting, and getting thoroughly abused by Joakim Noah in just about every way imaginable. There was a brief series of possessions early in the third quarter where he put together a string of decent consecutive offensive and defensive plays, but that was short lived.

Randy Foye, SG 28 MIN | 8-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 23 PTS | -19On that stat sheet it looks like Foye had a good offensive game, but in reality when he was running the point the Nuggets offense was static, sluggish and almost entirely ineffective. This is not entirely his fault, as he is a catch-and-shoot player called upon to play out of position, and he (along with Brooks) was one of only two players who were consistently able to put points up on the board. But that said, he also didn’t do much to stop the Bulls’ guards from scoring, either.

Jan Vesely, PF 16 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -6Most of the minutes Vesely played in his first game with the Nuggets were during garbage time. And most of it wasn’t that pretty. This isn’t surprising from a player who many thought might be waived by the Nuggets upon trading for him. It appears they intend to keep him around, presumably more for ijury insurance and his expiring contract than for develoopment, but don’t expect much more from him than we saw tonight. But Jan gets the free pass C for playing with a new team coupled with low expectations.

Darrell Arthur, PF 5 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +5The only stretch of the game where the Nuggets played anything resembling legitimately good defense was, as usual, when Arthur and Mozgov were on the court. But that was short lived, as Darrell left the game early with a hip strain and did not return. We’ll keep you posted on his injury as updates come in.

Quincy Miller, SF 13 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | 0The only player in the game without a negative plus/minus. But, you know, garbage time, so it’s another freebie grade. (See “Things we saw” below for more on Q-Mil and Randolph).

Timofey Mozgov, C 28 MIN | 3-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -15Mozgov was better than his line would suggest, and he was on track in the first half for having a pretty good game mostly predicated on defense. He struggled more later on, however, even in a meaningless fourth quarter. And while he’s not only not bad, but also improving, games like this show vividly that he struggles to hold his own against the likes of Noah.

Aaron Brooks, PG 28 MIN | 7-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | -17Aaron Brooks’ debut with his new team was, for the most part, one of the few bright spots in this game. He quickly went to work and demonstrated that it won’t take him any time at all to start creating offense with drives and 3-pointers, executing pick-and-rolls, and essentially picking up where Nate Robinson left off. But, like Foye, it’s still hard to let him off the hook on the defensive end.

Evan Fournier, SG 25 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -9Fournier didn’t make too big of an impact in this game, but he deserves commendation for pulling down eight rebounds, more than Faried, Randolph, Hickson or Chandler were able to muster.

Brian Shaw
The only thing preventing me from giving Shaw an F is the fact that he had to integrate two new players into his team who had never even practiced with them before. But it’s all downhill from there.The clichĂ© pop psyche definition of insanity is that one continues to repeatedly attempt the same failed method of doing something again and again, expecting a different result. And by that description, Shaw fits the profile of what is technically called “insane in the membrane” (a.k.a. “insane in the brain”). I speak, of course, of continuing to start J.J. Hickson over Timofey Mozgov against all good reason, logic and evidence that doing the opposite is more likely to produce better results.

Now that’s not to say, necessarily, that Denver would have won this game if Timo had started. Because the entire team looked confused, sluggish and utterly unprepared coming right out of the gates. They played soft. They let Chicago bully them around. We know who the Bulls are, what they do. That they will attempt to out-hustle, out-energy, out-aggression, outwork and out-fight every opponent they face, night in and night out. And if you’re going into their house, you’d better be ready to play some smashmouth ball and (figuratively, of course) punch them in the nose first.

The Nuggets looked like they’d already been beaten within minutes of tipoff. They just weren’t ready for this one. Not mentally, not in terms of a game plan, not in any way that was visible on the court. All too often, there is no fight in this team. And on some level, that reflects on the coach not instilling it in them.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Player development appears to be a low priority for this organization. Hickson over Mozgov. Randolph over Miller. Foye over Fournier. All of these decisions have one thing in common, and that is that they are attempts to prioritize winning in the short term over the long term development of younger players with higher ceilings who are critical to the future success of the Nuggets. Coaches and playerrs still hint at making the playoffs. Get real, folks, it ain’t happening. It’s time to commit to the cultivation of the team’s more valuable assets. And really, as long as they’re going to be losing a lot from here on out anyhow (which sure seems to be the case), what’s the downside?
  2. Aaron Brooks will fit right in. He looked completely comfortable playing with his brand new team, and had no trouble getting into the flow of the game. There may be some concern that he’ll be more of a scorer than a distributor, but the Nuggets need players who can create their own offense, and besides, it’s Nate who he’s replacing, so the hold in the roster should fit him like a glove. When it comes to the current front office, a lot of Nuggets fans are reaching for the pitchforks, but it seems we can chalk up at least one point for KronCon on this trade.
  3. Noah beasted. Plus/minus can be a flawed stat in that so much of it rides on who a player is sharing the court with. But Noah’s +33 in 28 minutes in this game, was a “real” +33 in the sense that it all came directly from his impact on the game. It was primarily only when he went to the bench that the Nuggets were able to put much together offensively. Without Lawson or Gallinari available, the Nuggets don’t even remotely have any individual players who can influence a game in the same way.


You can follow me here on Twitter: @denbutsu


Next up: Sunday, Feb. 23, 6 p.m. (MST) vs. Sacramento. 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

    Now that’s how you tank!

    • googergieger

      You’d think but this has been Shaw since the beginning of the season. When we came in knowing the front office wanted to win.

    • Nugman

      Did Josh hire Shaw to be sure we tanked?

  • Nugman

    Shaw has to go. These consistent big losses cannot be blamed on injuries, lack of effort, etc. It’s about coaching, or the lack thereof. The guys are NBA players even if many aren’t starter quality, and they are playing hard regardless of what Shaw says. Effort is NOT the problem here as I’m sure Shaw will say. It’s coaching and motivating and that all falls on the head coach. Shaw needs to go now before it all collapses.

    • Duncan

      I think it’s too late but Shaw is definitely responsible. These guys have quit and I’m not sure what the road back from that looks like but I imagine it will involve lots of new faces and eventually a new coach…you know after 3 seasons since Josh is too cheap to fire him and it will take Josh a long time to admit just how badly he has screwed this team up between the Iggy trade, Masai and Shaw.

    • Sharkboy242

      Shaw’s been given only one player who is actually of starting caliber this entire season. Its as though some of you guys have no context for what’s going on.

      Has Shaw been a bad coach this season? I would be inclined to say yes. In his defense though compare him to the other first year coaches this season. He is far from the worst. I believe a month ago he was ranked third in record for first year coaches. Give the guy a chance. This is not an actual team. Wait until we’re at full health and then pass judgement.

      Also – we needs a higher lottery chance. Its hard to watch your team lose but right now it is in our best interest. We cant continue floating around .500. That is the worse place to be in the NBA and right now that is what you’re pleading for. Be logical.

    • Furious_Stylez

      Relax. Shaw is a rookie head coach and like all rookies, he’s gonna make mistakes. It takes time to install a new offense and get the players you need to run it. Even the great Greg Popovich went 17-47 in his first year (96-97).

      Shaw hasn’t had McGee or Gallinari. You can pretend that’s no big deal, but it is. Gallo is the 2nd option on the floor and McGee is the paint protector. With Gallo, Ty can come off the floor and the team can still score. With McGee at C, Hickson backs up Faried and doesn’t start (instantly improving the defense). It’s a far more dangerous team with them in. If the Nuggs can get a good draft pick to be another solid contributor, this team can get back to the playoffs and compete.

      Give Shaw one more year to prove himself. Let’s see if he can coach when given more talent next season. If they suck this bad by this time next year, I’ll be joining the “Fire Shaw” bandwagon.

      • googergieger

        So the reason Shaw plays Hickson at center majority of the minutes and decides to go with Randolph at the 3 to start lately is no Gallo and no McGee? Nobody is arguing that Shaw should have this team acting like a contender. People are arguing that he seemingly has brought not one positive thing to the table. Something you can point to and say he is at least doing that for this team/the players/the future/etc.

  • Robert

    I am a HUGE Nuggets fan but have lost interest with this barnyard explosion of a team. I watched tonight for the first time in 3 weeks and I am still at a loss for the Shaw coaching. It is like he knows he has a pass because of injuries and being new that he does not show a pulse. OR… is that just how he is? I love the 2 additions… JHam was nothing compared to Brooks for what the Nuggets needed and I like the effort and athletic ability of Vesley. At least Shaw called out the players at half time. Hickson was letting guys walk through the lane. Chandler was…wait was Chandler there tonight? I guess he was. He just did not seem to leave any residual…Faried was OK but Shaw needed a change after being crushed by half time. Foye was ok but out of position. What a waste of time tonight but I was excited to see the new guys. I might check back in a few weeks because they will settle and then make a push. BELIEVE.

  • Paul Griggs

    Awful game, hope Brooks isn’t as big a ball hog as he was tonight. This team didn’t play together. Bad D, players playing to their weakness. Can’t Shaw coach to the players strengths?

    • Nugman

      It’s obvious Shaw can’t coach

  • Nugman

    Connelly says ” it’s Brian’s locker room” so I guess he knows where the blame goes.

  • Cory

    Shaw’s coaching can’t be based on this season. If he is coaching a strategy and guys can’t go out and execute, he probably needs better players. He certaintly had something to do with Indiana last season c’mon people blame the lack of talent not the coach. I’m not saying he is flawless, I’m saying build a real team. All good coaches have good teams….duh!

    • etlord1

      I agree. People are way too quick to judge. The best players on the team are injured. It’s like what is he supposed to do?

      • googergieger

        Evan, Mozgov, and Miller should see a lot more time. Especially if this team is going to lose anyways. Orlando had/has a pretty horrible team. Especially last year. They still compete every night and show plenty of promise though. Granted probably a better team than we have right now, but still. Shaw is supposed to at least look competent out there. Which to date…

        • Brandon Delay

          I fully agree especially with Mozgov if McGee turns out to be horrible next year then they will need a center who can play and Mozgov is the only other true center on this team. Train him up.

  • Richard Pesicka

    Nuggets have almost 20 million wasted bucks setting on the bench watching the game hurt. At least get smart like the lakers did. If you have a player who gets hurt every year, dump them. Lick your wounds and move on.

    • nugzin2040

      McGee for one, doesn’t really have an injury history. Guess you could argue Gallo does, but not like he has a lot of value right now anyways.

  • Sam Franke

    Don’t get what this team is trying to accomplish this year. Obviously don’t have the pieces to contend. Shaw was know for his player development in Indiana yet Connelly went out and signed vets like Foye and Hickson who are taking minutes away from the young guys Shaw could develop (Evan, Quincy). If you’re positioning the team to get a high draft pick, fine (although I think there’s way too much stock being put into the guy you’re drafting being a franchise player). If that’s what the organization wants to do, play the young guys 30 minutes each night and start developing a core group of players for the future.

    • Cinci Nugg

      Shaw has been really bad. It’s clear the players have no faith in his game plan and have been freelancing since the tire fire that was the preseason and the first three games. But the front office has been even worse. Let’s run off the Coach of the Year and then hire a new guy with a completely different system that none of the players are suited for. Awesome. Let’s sign a guy to take Andre Miller’s job while Andre is still on the team. Brilliant. Let’s sign a power forward whose game is a carbon copy of the power forward we already have. Genius. Let’s sell our first round draft pick because we are so super talented. Check. Nice work, fellas.

  • Daniel Lewis
    • Daniel Lewis

      I like what Shaw is saying, don’t see how you can say he is the problem here. Isn’t this what Karl was lacking? Player accountability, responsibility for assignments? I think Shaw is saying exactly what ought to be said.

      • googergieger

        Na yeah and I mean he clearly sits those who aren’t bringing forth the effort or results, so yeah he totally is bringing accountability and responsibility to the table.

        Hollow words are hollow.

      • Nugman

        Shaws been saying one thing and doing the opposite all year. He keeps preaching defense, yet he keeps playing his worst defender, JJ, 30+ minutes a game. That sure is making him accountable. Give me a break!

      • trank

        that’s not what karl was lacking. gk could say the same with a look. what karl was lacking was the ability to win post season games while missing two of your best players.

  • Nugman

    I cannot understand all these people that don’t understand Shaw is to blame. We have lost 5 of the last 7 games by a combined 140 points! That’s an average of 28 points per game! Those types of lopsided losses have to be blamed on the coach at this level. Shaw keeps wanting to blame the players as he did again tonight, but these can of loses have to fall on the head coach.

    I coached basketball for 20 years and can assure you that an inferior group of players can beat superior players on a regular basis if they play as a team. That’s what the Spurs do. Duncan is over the hill, Ginobli has lost 2 steps and Parker is past his peak. But the Spurs keep winning year in and year out with no name guys because they play as a TEAM. Under Shaw the Nuggets do just the opposite. With each passing game they play more and more as individuals than as a team on both ends of the court. That is why everything seems so out of whack during the games. You have 5 guys on the court playing as individuals and that spells disaster in a team game like basketball. And it really doesn’t matter which 5 are on the court because it’s the same mass confusion of 5 individuals doing there own thing. And it’s only gotten worse as the season has gone on. Shaw has basically had the same players all year (Gallo never played and McGee a little) yet the team is getting worse. Ty will help, but it’s going downhill fast. And that’s the head coaches fault.

    Remember how well the Nuggets passed and cut as a team right after the Melo trade? That was team basketball and it was fun to watch. But Shaw is not teaching that at either end of the court. There is no TEAM play on the Nuggets and that is Shaws fault. He has to be able to teach whoever he has to play as a TEAM and then they would at least be respectable. But he has shown no ability to do that.

    • googergieger

      Mozgov, Arthur, Evan, and Chandler looked great tonight out there. Especially on the defensive end. Some combinations work together. Some clearly don’t work together at all. If the goal was tanking and losing, sure, why not, but Shaw has been doing this since the start of the season. When the front office believed they were going to make the playoffs easily.

    • Cory

      Hickson and Faried make any lineup look terrible. Team ball on just defense alone wouldn’t matter because they play matador defense and kill everything. They aren’t the only ones either. The Spurs as you mentioned have a plan and the players fit the plan. Duncan balls on Defense and holds that team down others do what they are told and it all works out because they have that talent.

  • Nugman

    Shaw blames the players again just like I predicted. I don’t think Shaw should paid until he earns his paycheck!

  • Aaron Durkin

    Every game shaw starts Hickson he gets docked a paycheck. This is a great analysis of the dumpster fire of a game.

  • Jazz

    Stop playing the same people all of the time if you,re going to cut down team. Hickson should come off the bench.

  • heykyleinsf

    Next year.. Imagine Ty, Nate and Brooks all healthy at the 1.
    We could be pretty damn set at PG for a while.
    That could be awesome.

  • Paul Griggs

    Since the Nuggets are officially ashamed of themselves and haven’t posted a report on the latest fiasco, I’ll put it here. This teams stinks. Bring back Karl!