The Nuggets put up a fight this time but still lose by a score of 102-96 in Portland. The Blazers swept the season series against the tanking Nuggets, who have now lost 10 of their last 11 games.
|Kenneth Faried, PF 32 MIN | 5-12 FG | 6-7 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -5
This was undoubtedly a good game for Faried, who made his free throws and notched double-digit rebounds for the first time in 7 games. The bigger issue with Faried is his failure to develop into a more complete player who isn’t a consistent negative on defense. Last year, Faried’s big nights translated into team success. This season it’s quite the opposite.
|Wilson Chandler, SF 34 MIN | 4-12 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -6
Chandler was there again, going through the motions and generally not taking advantage of the increased opportunity that comes with all the Nuggets’ top guns being out. Effort has not been Chandler’s problem but consistently mediocre production has. He seems like a poor fit for whatever Brain Shaw is trying to do. Even worse, his game seems to have regressed in every area this season.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 19 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | -4
Mozgov is paid nearly the same amount as Robin Lopez, but the gap between them in terms of impact and talent is massive. He is not a fundamentally poor player but he is as unpolished and raw as they come at 27 years old. As a starter he can’t afford to foul as much as he does but that is no excuse to play no interior defense like he did tonight.
|Aaron Brooks, PG 25 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -11
Brooks played very hard but I fear this is who he is as a player – a scoring guard who can get hot every once in a while. If you are relying on him to be a primary playmaker or scoring threat, you’re in for a disappointment and that’s exactly what the Nuggets are doing.
|Randy Foye, SG 41 MIN | 5-15 FG | 2-4 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -10
He made threes, defended at the average level he normally does and continued to struggle with everything else the Nuggets are asking him to do on top of it, like play 40+ minutes at point guard every night.
|Darrell Arthur, PF 15 MIN | 6-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -4
Arthur finally hit jump shots for the first time in months. It was a positive sign for a guy who has seen his season derailed by injuries while his team’s prospects went in the toilet. Things aren’t getting any better for the Nuggets but it seems like Arthur is finally healthy enough to resume his rightful role as a solid big off the bench.
|Quincy Miller, SF 11 MIN | 0-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | +3
Quincy looked very uneasy in his early action and never got into any sort of rhythm. He oddly made a fourth quarter appearance in Denver’s comeback bid despite not having any success all night.
|J.J. Hickson, C 30 MIN | 4-11 FG | 3-7 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +1
Hickson did a lot of typical Hickson things. Bricktastic free throws, ill-advised 20-footers and zero interior presence. But he plays really hard, wants to win and I’m sure he’s a swell guy in the locker room. Like Faried, his flaws are magnified by being such a horrible fit for the style of play Shaw has repeatedly said he wants.
|Evan Fournier, SG 32 MIN | 4-9 FG | 7-8 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +6
He was the only rotation player to finish with a positive plus/minus. Fournier was a consistent force on both ends and about the only thing he could have done better was make his threes. During an up-and-down season in which Fournier hasn’t shown much growth, this was a very positive sign.
Shaw tightened up his rotation quite a bit and despite benching Mozgov for low effort, he was very reluctant to get the effective Darrell Arthur on the floor for more than 15 minutes. That could be related to recent injury, but in a game where the Nuggets tried to force everything out on the perimeter Shaw left some of his best perimeter defenders on the bench. I cannot blame him too much as Shaw got quality effort out of a roster that is simply awful at defense.
Two Things We Saw
- The tanking Nuggets lost for the 10th time in their last 11 tries. With the loss Denver moves to within 4 games of Utah for the eighth-worst record in the 2014 tankathon. The New York Knicks still represent Denver’s best chance at a high lottery pick, but every Denver loss is insurance against an improbable late-season surge in New York. With no shot at the playoffs, competitive losses like this are really the best possible thing for the Nuggets’ future (even if the pick does just end up in Orlando, like it probably will).
- The Nuggets blitzed the pick and roll all night, trying to force the hot-shooting Blazers to score entirely inside the three-point line. It was somewhat successful as Portland shot just 18.7% from three, but the Nuggets didn’t have the bigs or the defensive fundamentals to make it work. They fouled the Blazers too much and didn’t convert enough of their own free throws in response. Again, this was a bad team playing a good one but we are probably seeing an even further departure from the tough-minded, half-court basketball Shaw talked so much about last summer. Look for the Nuggets to continue to try a defense that can create turnovers and lead to easier offense.