Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 96 Portland Trailblazers 102

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.

Denver Nuggets 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
102 Portland Trail Blazers
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.

Brian Shaw

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

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
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Charlie Yao

Contributor at Roundball Mining Company since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.

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  • Nugman

    The Nuggets did compete tonight with Will and DA back. If they can continue to build on this with solid efforts then I will have more faith in Shaw. Although I do wish Shaw would stop trapping the high screen. Foye on Lopez under the bucket just doesn’t work and the rotation is always late. Someone might tell Shaw this is the NBA and these guys are too good to trap.

    I will also ask all those Shaw supports why JJ and Faried are on the court and Brooks is on the bench coming out of a timeout Nugs ball down 6 with 23 seconds left. I truly believe every other NBA coach would’ve had their best 3 shooters in. Is this some Shaw genius that he doesn’t make situational substitutions at the end of games? And don’t tell me JJ and Faried are in to rebound, or shoot FTs, or shoot 3 pointers. Why is Brooks on the bench?

    • Michael

      Remember we are not really trying to win games. Shaw just wants it to be ‘competitive’ which they accomplished tonight. Brooks’ couple of 3 point attempts weren’t that close anyway.

      • Nugman

        So why wasn’t Shaw making situational substitutions at the end of games early in the season when we were suppose to win? His genius on this issue is simply over my head

  • Sharkboy242

    I wasn’t able to watch the game but I don’t understand what the author meant by (even if the pick does just end up in Orlando, like it probably will).

    I feel like a lot of people have a misconception abut the draft. We’re getting the better of two picks. What that means is that our Lotto % is the sum of two different teams. The worse of the two is going to Orlando.

    • steve

      we will actually have fairly decent odds of landing a pick in the top 3. NY is just 1 win better than the next 3 behind them, so it’s possible that pick could have top 4 or 5 odds and our own will most likely be top 8 or 10 by end of season. Let’s just say for example NY has the 5th best odds and Denver has the 8th. That gives us about 12% chance of winning the lottery.

  • Richard Pesicka

    Keep Rollin Rollin Rollin, Keep them losses rollin in, Rawhide..

    • Drewbueno

      And keep getting Fournier and Quincy plenty of minutes to see how they develop.

  • Nugman

    After reading and commenting on this site for a few months, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the tank enthusiasts on here aren’t actually financially supporting the team. They don’t actually buy tickets and go to the games, or have season tickets. They are couch GMs who have nothing invested in this season, so it’s easy for them to root for loses. However, those of us who actually financially support the team by buying season tickets didn’t invest our money to see this crap. It is completely unacceptable to provide this kind of product to people who paid good money in expectation of an entertaining product.

    Now, you may call us season ticket purchasers suckers for falling for Josh’s scam, but remember, without financial support from fans like me Denver wouldn’t even have an NBA team. And if losing seasons continue the NBA team may choose to move to another city. So before you pray too much for loses remember the potential consequences. You might also consider all those people who have actually paid their hard earned money for tickets for the remainder of the season. While you laugh and joke about how great losing is, many people are being financially cheated by this crappy basketball you so dearly embrace. So if you’re going to cheer for losing, why don’t you back it up by buying some Nuggets tickets for the rest of the season. Then let’s see how much you enjoy losing.

    • keith

      I am a season ticket holder and just received a request for next year at a 10% rate increase. But I have moved to the tank camp since the playoffs are not happening and the talent on this team is poor at best. Yes, I can’t sale my seats 9 rows from the floor more than $20 because these guys stink. But that is the cost of investing in Entertainment. I hate losing money and games but at this point they need talent and the only way to get it is lose. Hopefully, the loss can at least be competitive.

      • Shae Crombie

        Hey Keith, I’ll buy some Nuggets tickets from you for 20$.

        • sherlock

          Lol I was thinking the same thing!! I’ll go $25!!

          • Shae Crombie

            Shoot I’ll make it 30$ then

    • Heisenberg

      You’re wrong. I used to have the 10 game package for the Nuggets for 5-10 years…..Eventually gave them up (for multiple reasons, one of them being the ridiculous requirement of paying through the FINALS for playoff tickets).

      The notion that you have to buy tickets to support the team though? I got a nice laugh out of that one. With HD TV, I can see why people prefer to watch from home (which still contributes to TV Contracts, not to mention any merchandise they purchase), don’t necessarily agree with it but I wouldn’t question their fanaticism.

      You seem to be content with losing in the first round. Sorry, but I’d prefer to actually CONTEND for titles (In all of GK’s years here, only the 2009 team had a chance at winning), even if that means a few years of losing. All I see are a bunch of excuses from GK fans who conveniently duck the fact that he was badly outcoached by Mark Jackson and lost as a 1 seed in Seattle to a mediocre Denver team.

      And the Nuggets relocating? Again LMAO. Attendance is down across the league…..The NBA really isn’t that great of a product. I love basketball, but this season’s a joke. Half of the teams are tanking and there is such a huge talent disparity between the top tier teams and everyone else (remember when the 76ers were losing by 30-40 points every night?). The NBA would be better off considering contraction….which will never happen because they’d lose money. All of that aside, there’s 10 teams that would relocate before Denver.

      • LBJ

        I’m not sure what a best of five series 20 years ago (that the Nuggets actually won!) has to do with Joshy, Timmy and Shaw turning a 57 win into a disaster, but I guess you need a rationalization.

        • Heisenberg

          It shows that he can’t win in the playoffs. It was another time Karl got outcoached in the playoffs. He lost with a talented Sonics team and lost with a talented Bucks team. The Bucks couldn’t finish off the 76ers that outside of Iverson had Aaron McKie and Eric Snow…….Then the next season they went from top in the East to 9th in a couple of months.

          The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. GK is a nice guy and I wish him well but he had to go.

          He’s slightly above average. His style just doesn’t win in the playoffs. The Suns had a similar system and they had Nash, Stoudemire, and Marion, their own “Big 3.” I don’t see any championship banners hanging in Phoenix.

          This roster was never going to compete for a championship. They don’t have a superstar and have too many defense deficient players. When the system isn’t working, it’s time to make roster changes and rebuild, whether partial or full.

          • LBJ

            Basketball is cyclical. The Celtics and Lakers have won numerous NBA titles running. The Heat run and play small ball. Scoring is up in the NBA.

            Just because last years roster wasn’t championship level – doesn’t mean you blow it all up. I see the Spurs and the Thunder are 1 and 2 in the West – again.

            Finally, the stupid roster moves by Joshy and Timmy have put us further from a championship – much further.

            • Furious_Stylez

              You definitely can rip Jr and Connolly for some bad moves, but don’t leave out the insanely overrated Ujiri. He did way more damage than the current regime. He traded Afflalo (now a top 5 SG) and a (very coveted) first round pick for a 7 month rental. Amnestied Birdman and signed Randolph to a 3yr deal. Gave McGee $40m for one good playoff game. Outside of the Melo deal, he really hurt this team for the future. The second he realized he painted himself into a corner with too many deals for too much money leaving no cap space, he bailed to Toronto.

              • LBJ

                First, AA is not a top 5 SG – if he was Orlando could have gotten a #1 for him . They have been trying to deal him for a year.
                Second, Randolph’s deal is for virtually nothing – and has little impact on our cap space.
                Finally, the McGoof deal is bad – but it was signed when we were a running team and he at least had a chance to succeed. Not whatever offense we are running now under Shaw (I haven’t figured that out yet).

              • Furious_Stylez

                AA is averaging 19.7ppg 3.6apg 4.0rpg while shooting 47%, 43% from the 3pt line, and 81% from the charity stripe. Guys with all those skills aren’t exactly plentiful in the NBA. Outside of a healthy DWade and Jamal Crawford, there aren’t many who put up stats like that.

                Add in that Iggy ran as fast as he could from Denver and Urjiri traded a first round pick in the deepest draft in years, the trade was a major bust for Denver. We’d be in the drivers seat for a major acquisition if we’d kept that pick and had NYK pick.

              • LBJ

                AA also plays for a horrible team – as Barkley says someone has to score on those teams and that doesn’t make them great players.

                Iggy is better than AA – and we won 57 games after that deal. Plus we got rid of Harrington’s bad contract – signed at Melo’s demand.

                No one can predict the future – like the knicks totally collaspsing. Or a dumbass owner firing the CoY and EoY in the same year.

            • Heisenberg

              The Heat sometimes run, but also play in the half court.

              The Lakers are the only team to do it and they had IMO the second best player of all time in Magic and a top 5 center of all time in Kareem. Also basketball today isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago, players are faster and more athletic.

              You can make all the excuses you want, the facts are facts, GK has proven time and time again that he can’t win in the playoffs, even when he’s had the more talented team.

              Mark Jackson absolutely CLOWNED Karl, lost a 20 and 10 PF in game 1 and made an entirely new gameplan. That is what good coaches do. The Nuggets had several weeks without Gallo, while the Warriors had 2 days….

              The Nuggets need at least a partial rebuild. Maybe not a total rebuild but several guys need to go.

              • LBJ

                Facts are facts – Jackson had the better players.

              • Heisenberg

                Not having the best player isn’t an excuse to get outcoached.

          • Dan Sivertson

            I’ll take George Karl’s results over this any day of the week.

            • Heisenberg

              I doubt Karl would have done much better considering the injuries the team has faced.

              GK is the Marty Schottenheimer of the NBA.

              • Dan Sivertson

                I speculate Karl would have done a better job of managing player’s minutes which would have resulted in fewer injuries to key players.

  • heykyleinsf

    question…
    if George Karl is so great..
    why didn’t some team pick him up?
    No interviews.. nothing.. nobody wants him.
    20 years ago the Nuggets upset GK’s Sonics.
    20 years since of early playoff exits.
    He isn’t employed because he’s not the answer.
    George Karl is no longer around for a reason.

  • Richard Pesicka

    I see a lot of referrals to last season, players and coach. Once an organization implodes and empties the team with players and coaches, tanking with a fight is the outcome. Right now your seeing guards and forwards available to sign with other teams. They are all signing with winning teams. Not losing teams. So what the Nuggets have become and what they will continue to be, is what you have. If players get healthy and the team starts winning, wonderful. If not, then it’s going to be a long long rebuilding process. Or as long as the team stays solvent.

  • Furious_Stylez

    Shaw should start developing certain players with weak spots. When an average SF is on the floor, put Faried at the 3 and tell him to D up and worry about nothing else. Tell Fournier to not shoot and only attack the basket. Figure out what Randolph does well and have him work solely on it. Tell Arthur to shoot no less than 10 times a game to hopefully rediscover his jump shot. Tell Mozgov his only scoring should be back-to-the-basket post moves.

    According to Indiana and LA, player development is Shaw’s strong suit. Now that the season is lost, he should focus on developing the current group of young guys. Foye Hickson, and Chandler are what they are and won’t change their games. The young guys still have a chance to improve and shed bad habits.