Pickaxe Pulse for March 30, 2013

Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend

The Nuggets’ franchise record winning streak of fifteen games came to an end Monday in New Orleans.  The team looked disinterested in a 110-86 blowout loss, giving up 17 offensive rebounds and 14 made three pointers.  JaVale McGee led the way with a double double in San Antonio on Wednesday, and the Nuggets had a chance to win, but Andre Miller missed a tough shot at the buzzer and the Nuggets dropped their second straight, 100-99.  Back at the Pepsi Center on Friday, Evan Fournier and Kosta Koufos helped the Nuggets get back on track against the Nets in a 109-87 win.  Ty Lawson played sparingly all week due to a foot injury.

Record this week: 1-2 (1-0 home, 0-2 road)

Current record and standings: 50-24, third seed in the Western Conference, 0.5 games ahead of the Clippers and 1 game ahead of the Grizzlies

Upcoming games: Wednesday at Utah, Thursday vs Dallas, Saturday vs Houston

Nuggets well positioned to seize first round home court advantage

The Denver Nuggets recently clinched a berth in the 2013 NBA playoffs, meaning that they will soon be making their tenth consecutive postseason appearance. And while this is a very impressive streak, what they’ve managed to do less often is finish the regular season with a good enough record to secure home court advantage in the first round. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: New Orleans Hornets 110, Denver Nuggets 86

This one was a loss from the start, as the Nuggets came out flat and never really recovered. Defense was nowhere to be found (especially from beyond the arc), offense was tough to come by and in the end the Hornets simply out-played the Nuggets in nearly every aspect of the game. Unfortunately for Denver, one game after losing to snap their franchise-record winning streak the Nuggets must go on the road to face one of the best teams in the league in San Antonio.

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Pickaxe Pulse for March 24, 2013

Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend

The Nuggets extended their franchise-record winning streak to 15 games, and the team’s depth was on full display this week as bench players played key roles in all 4 victories.  Wilson Chandler scored a game high 35 points to go with 9 rebounds and 4 assists in an overtime win in Chicago.  Andre Miller celebrated his 37th birthday the next night, helping the Nuggets cruise to a win over the Thunder.  With Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler sitting out with injuries, the Nuggets looked to be on their way to defeat against Philadelphia, but Corey Brewer finished off a career high 29 points with a late three pointer and three free throws to complete a 101-100 comeback victory.  Julyan Stone, in his first NBA game since January, provided a spark on both defense and offense to help the Nuggets get past the Kings.

Record this week: 4-0 (2-0 home, 2-0 road)

Current record and standings: 49-22, third seed in the Western Conference, 0.5 games ahead of the Clippers and 1 game ahead of the Grizzlies

Upcoming games: Monday at New Orleans, Wednesday at San Antonio, Friday vs Brooklyn

Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 101 vs Kings 95

The Nuggets escape with their franchise record 15th straight win, 101-95 over the Sacramento Kings.   It was also the Nuggets’ 17th straight win at the Pepsi Center.  Grades follow the break.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 101, Philadelphia 76ers 100

Philadelphia 76ers 100 Final

Recap | Box Score

101 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 12 PTS | +4

Truth be told, Gallo hasn’t been very good since the new year. He’s scored only four 20-plus point games in the last month and continues to take very questionable shots. He was pretty close to awful against the Sixers. He got to the line and made a few buckets but he took about three of the worst shots any Nugget has taken over the last month. The real Gallo is nowhere to be found right now.

Kenneth Faried, SF 26 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | 0

Faried did nothing astonishing but his commitment to defending inside the paint was impressive and also an improvement on what he normally does. He had one great chase-down block and several other block attempts that altered his opponent’s shots.

Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -1

When Koufos has a bad game, nobody notices. Aside from his three blocks he didn’t play too well. He got abused in the post on more than one occasion by no-namers and seemed to be a step behind his rotations most of the night (although to be fair, so was everyone else).

Andre Miller, PG 40 MIN | 9-14 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | -12

I hate grading Andre Miller. I just hate it. If you were to look at his stat line alone, you’d have to wonder how he could get anything other than an A. But watch the game and you’ll wonder why I’m being so generous with a C-plus. He totally screwed the Nuggets pace this game. He didn’t even try to push the ball up the court. And on defense — I can’t even begin to tell you how awful he was. In the first five minutes there were about three plays where he willingly let his opponent slide by him without even trying to stop him. He had me laughing out loud his defense was so bad. Overall, Miller is just not a good fit for this team and the way Karl likes to play. Miller is a ball-dominant, half-court guard, who prefers to play at his own 90-year-old pace instead of pushing the pace like the rest of his teammates. Had it not been for Corey Brewer this loss would have almost been solely on Miller.

Andre Iguodala, SG 40 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | +8

Iguodala was aggressive for about one half, then pretty much disappeared. This is a reoccurring theme with him. For playing 40 minutes he should be a little more effective than he is. Also, Holiday had his way with him on more than one occasion.

Anthony Randolph, PF 21 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +11

Keep in mind: This is the first game Randolph has played more than 20 minutes in a over a month. He was a bit rusty but had several key plays. His hands were active (evident by his three steals) and his defense wasn’t bad. He had a nasty crossover drive earlier in the game and ended up blocking the final shot of the game to seal the victory for the Nuggets.

Corey Brewer, SF 33 MIN | 10-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 29 PTS | +3

If there was a way to give Brewer a better grade I would. His performance tonight was nearly ineffable. When the entire team came out flat in the first, Brewer came in to save the day. When there was no sign of defense being played anywhere on the court, Brewer stepped it up and ignited (or at least tried to ignite) the fastbreak. And in the end, when the Nuggets needed a miracle shot to win the game, he somehow drew a 3-point foul and hit ALL THREE of his free throws to win the game for the Nuggets. Brewer takes a hell of a lot of heat from Nuggets fans for being a streaky shooter but he’s been one of the most clutch players on the team all season long, especially on defense where the Nuggets patented fast-break offense gets started in the first place. Brewer was the “Anti-Miller” in this game, basically willing the Nuggets to victory off the bench. This was without question one of the top three performances from any Nugget we’ve seen this season.

JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 6 PTS | +1

JaVale was a headache most of the night. He had a few nice plays but turned the ball over four times and committed three fouls (which were pretty bad) in only 16 minutes.

Evan Fournier, SG 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4

Fournier needs to show us something when he gets in the game. He needs to be something other than just a body with a pulse out there. He’s talented. He’s a first-round pick. So please, Evan, show us something. Thanks.

George Karl

The only thing that caught my eye was why Fournier and even Randolph got in before Hamilton. Let’s assess: If your backup small forward is out and you have another really good backup small forward, why would you pass up the opportunity to use him and instead go with a rookie shooting guard and power forward? Hamilton must have done something behind closed doors, as there’s no reasonable explanation for him to be behind both Randolph and Fournier on the depth chart. Aside from that, Karl managed to figure out a way for the Nuggets to pull this one out when they never should have. He deserves credit for that even though he once again closed out the game playing small, which I promise you, will bite him in the ass one of these days.

Rapid Reaction Denver Nuggets 119- Chicago Bulls 118

Despite getting almost no good production from their starters from most of the night the Nuggets pulled out an ugly, hard fought win in Chicago. The team now travels to Oklahoma City to battle the Thunder tomorrow night on NBA TV.

 

Denver Nuggets 119 FinalRecap | Box Score 118 Chicago Bulls
Danilo Gallinari, SF 39 MIN | 2-7 FG | 6-9 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +1

Gallo was on the court for almost 40 minutes but for most of them you would never know. 7 field goals attempted is way to low when the rest of the starting lineup struggled, especially when Gallo was being defended by Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah for stretches in the fourth quarter and overtime. The rebounds were nice and the defense was ok but Gallo has to be more aggressive in a game like that.

Kenneth Faried, SF 15 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -7

Faried was out of the game early and when he returned he didn’t do much to earn himself more time. Two rebounds in 15 minutes is way to low, especially for someone who’s biggest strength is rebounding and energy. Not a good night for Faried.

Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +1

For as well as Koufos had been playing lately tonight was a clear step back. He struggled to finish inside and didn’t have a defensive rebound in the first half. Like most Nuggets starters he just didn’t play well tonight.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -12

Lawson was one of the players torched for 34 points by Nate Robinson, unable to get a good shot at the end of regulation and really just below average most of the night. He should have taken advantage of Nate Robinson and dominated on both ends of the floor, instead like the rest of the Nuggets starters he came out very flat.

Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 3-14 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | -6

Let’s not let the big 3 get in the way of the overall picture. Iguodala was again abysmal shooting the ball and unlike most nights he didn’t assist a big number of scores either. And unlike most nights Iguodala wasn’t matched up with a great scorer tonight as he spent most of the night on Marco Belinelli. The rebounding, late three and deflections in overtimes helped the Nuggets get the win but if he played any better in regulation the game doesn’t get to that point.

Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | 0

The offense was good but some of his decision making left things to be desired. Brewer gambled late on some plays he shouldn’t have in the middle of the Bulls run to get back into the game. He also had a late turnover in the same run. It was typical Brewer, but those typical plays that are ok early in the game against opposing team’s bench aren’t as ok late in close games.

JaVale McGee, C 22 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +9

The rebounding could have been better but overall JaVale was pretty darn good tonight. He finished in the paint and changed some shots for the Bulls with proper rotations. I thought he should have closed the game but George Karl thought otherwise. Clearly he was the best of the Faried/Koufos/McGee true big trio tonight.

Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 13 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +11

For most of the game Miller was great, the second best Nugget great in fact. He was posting up and making the right passes, or attacking when no help came and even rebounding a bit. In fact I advocated for him to close the game. Then the late game came and everything fell apart. He went under on the screens that allowed Nate Robinson to get off the game tying three in regulation then had some out of control drives late in overtime, including the drunk drive that somehow led to Iguodala’s game winning three. It was a great example of the two sides of Andre.

Wilson Chandler, SG 39 MIN | 13-21 FG | 8-9 FT | 9 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 35 PTS | +8

Chandler was the best player on the floor for the Nuggets tonight and it wasn’t even that close. The most encouraging part about it was the way he scored. Almost everything was at the rim, where Chandler got any time he wanted. The easiest way to describe his play tonight compared to his teammates is this: at halftime Chandler was outscoring all of the starters combined 20 to 16 and he also added 5 rebounds and 2 assists to those 20 points. A terrific night from Ill Will.

George Karl

I was fully ready to give Karl a good grade as the Nuggets entered the 4th quarter with a comfortable lead despite getting nothing from their starters. Then things completely fell apart. Karl went to bizarre lineups such as one with Gallo at center, refused to play any center despite JaVale having a great game, left Miller in for a key defensive possession after a timeout then put him on the player the ball was clearly going too, and not getting Wilson Chandler touches late in the game. It was just about everything Karl could have done to let the Bulls get back in the game and that was exactly what happened. Also why did Karl choose to make his team go the length of the court to end regulation? Let them have more time in the half court and run some type of set to get a look for Lawson or Chandler. Just a bizarre way for Karl to finish a game he seemed to have complete control over through three quarters.

March Madness: Scouting for future Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are winning games and making a playoff run, but the main draw for basketball attention this month? March Madness. It’s the most exciting tournament in all of sports, where teams come together to form magical runs which result in memorable moments that last a lifetime. But while March Madness is largely a team-oriented event, there’s still a level of individualism on display that appeals to those of us watching with a professional rooting interest in mind, as we’ve got our eyes on players who may one day suite up for work in a powder blue and yellow uniform.

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Staking A Claim: George Karl

Staking a Claim is a new column that will be taking a look at all things Nuggets through the eyes of an outsider. As those who follow me on Twitter know I am a Bucks fan, so it will give Nuggets fans an opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who follows the team closely but isn’t necessarily a fan. Please leave any subjects that you would like to see addressed in the future in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @Matt_Cianfrone.

In the Nuggets fan community there are a few questions that have groups of fans divided on the answer.

Who deserves more minutes, JaVale Mcgee or Kosta Koufos? Is Andre Miller worth it? And who has the highest ceiling Gallo or Ty seem to be some of the most common.

But no debate brings out more opinions, or more intense debate, than if George Karl is the right coach for the Nuggets.

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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 117 vs Knicks 94

The Nuggets spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver with a blowout win.  ‘Melo left the game with a sore knee and spent some time in the locker room, inspiring chants of “where is Melo” from the crowd.

New York Knicks 94 Final

Recap | Box Score

117 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 4-13 FG | 7-7 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +17

Gallinari looked really good when he went to the rim or got to the line, and really awful shooting jumpers. He played great defense on Carmelo Anthony for part of the first quarter, and later forced two turnovers by drawing offensive fouls away from the ball.

Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-6 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +28

Faried started out the game taking several jump shots. He eventually settled down and started taking shots closer to the rim, but missed several tip tries. He outhustled the Knicks for several offensive rebounds, particularly after Tyson Chandler left the game.

Kosta Koufos, C 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-1 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +13

It seems like every game I grade, I end up writing something like “Koufos was quietly effective”. He continues to play fundamental basketball with good positioning, and make the most of his opportunities.

Ty Lawson, PG 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +11

Ty was aggressive getting into the paint all night, but had a bit of trouble finishing over Tyson Chandler. His shot was falling from the outside and his passing was crisp. He would likely have finished with a double double if Gallinari’s shot had been falling.

Andre Iguodala, SG 33 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +32

Igoudala has emerged as a solid secondary playmaker for the Nuggets, setting up a ton of easy scores. Tonight he tried to do a little too much and forced several passes into traffic. He was hitting his own shots from everywhere except the free throw line. He had a few spectacular defensive sequences in the second half.

Anthony Randolph, PF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1

Inconclusive.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -5

On one late sequence, Hamilton missed a jumper that led to a Knicks fast break off the long rebound, and then got downcourt in time to swat James White’s layup attempt into the stands. His shot wasn’t falling, but he was making good contributions in other parts of the game.

Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6

Brewer usually provides the Nuggets with great energy, but tonight the starters had all the energy they needed, and he seemed a step slow by comparison. He did a little bit of everything, but nothing particularly well.

Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -2

Mozgov was involved in two highlights tonight: a nice two handed dunk, and a Prigioni pass between his legs that led to a Knicks layup.

JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -5

In a game where the Nuggets were completely dominant in the paint, and the Knicks’ only center left with an injury, the athletic seven footer decided to take a 16 foot jumper that missed everything. He also had one nice block and a layup from freakishly far away from the basket. It was a very inconsistent game overall.

Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +13

Andre Miller surprised me by playing fantastic defense for most of his first half minutes. He was also on target with his passing.

Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -2

Fournier looks completely lost on the defensive end of the court, and too often gets caught needing to foul. He stepped up offensively when tacos seemed to be in doubt, setting up Chandler for a three point play and scoring five of his own to push the Nuggets over the 110 point mark.

Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 9-12 FG | 5-8 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +10

Wilson Chandler spent most of the night taking advantage of the Knicks’ lack of shot blocking. On two occasions he grabbed a rebound, dribbled fullcourt, and got a lightly contested layup.

George Karl

The Nuggets came out ready to play, and they didn’t let up until the game was out of reach. His small lineups worked well against the Knicks’ small lineups.

Two Things We Saw

  1. That was anticlimactic: In Carmelo’s first game in Denver since the trade, the game was over before halftime, and he left for good less than three minutes into the second half.
  2. That was oddly familiar: Four former Nuggets played at least 20 minutes for the Knicks, and many of the Nuggets’ old habits were on display, both good and bad. There were times the Knicks seemed content to settle for long jumpers off of little ball movement, and times when J.R. Smith looked completely unguardable. This game definitely highlighted the change between the Carmelo era and the new Nuggets team era.

On Melo’s return… and what could have been

It’s been over two years since Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks. To this point he’s still yet to step foot inside Pepsi Center without being a member of the Denver Nuggets. Tonight, this will change. Tonight, Melo will become will endure a long-awaited basketball baptism and become free once and for all.

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Andre Iguodala undecided on contract options

Andre Iguodala faces a big decision this summer which will have massive implications for the Denver Nuggets.

He can choose to complete the final year of his contract next season at the hefty salary of $16.2 million. Alternately, he can exercise his early termination option (ETO), becoming an unrestricted free agent and either working out a longer-term deal with the Nuggets or signing elsewhere. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 108, Phoenix Suns 93

Denver Nuggets 108 Final

Recap | Box Score

93 Phoenix Suns
Danilo Gallinari, SF 30 MIN | 1-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +10

As Joel tweeted during the game, Gallo’s scoring average has decreased from 19 points per game in January, to 16 in February and now 13.6 in March. He’s been injured, but you have to wonder just how much that is affecting his play. If he’s in more pain than he’s leading us to believe, it’s probably best he sits a few more games so that he’s ready to play when the playoffs arrive.

Kenneth Faried, SF 20 MIN | 4-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +3

Faried was frenetic in every sense of the word. He had a nice, solid game but was almost too wild for his own good at times, letting routine rebounds slip through his hands more than once. Nevertheless, he made up for it with his hustle which is always admirable.

Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 10-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | +10

Koufos’ best game as a Nugget? You tell me. I’ve said forever that as long as he puts himself in the proper position on the floor to make a play, things will fall into place. That’s exactly what he did tonight. He was constantly moving into open space and cutting towards the basket at the right time for a tip-back or alley-oop. He also did a great job on the boards and made excellent, calculated decisions all night. This was a new career high in points scored for Koufos, beating his old career high by one.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 8-13 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +17

This is how far Lawson has come: He didn’t score a point in the first half yet finished one shy of 20 on the night. He’s getting to the point where he knows when and where to really turn it on — and for his competition, that’s a scary thing. It’s worth noting that his last three points came from a desperation heave just inside half court as time was expiring in the waning seconds of the game.

Andre Iguodala, SG 30 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +11

Nights like these tend to subdue Iguodala’s main strengths. He didn’t have a premier counterpart to try and shut down and wasn’t hitting his shots, therefore he tended to blend in. Still, he finished with a respectable stat line considering just how easy the Nuggets coasted to the win in the second half.

Corey Brewer, SF 26 MIN | 7-16 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +7

Twenty points in 26 minutes from a bench player is nothing to scoff at. Brewer can be wildly inconsistent but continues to score well into double digits on a regular basis. Against the Suns he spent most of his time out on the break and cutting to the basket, which are by far his biggest strengths, offensively speaking.

JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +1

His stats do not tell the story; not in any way. McGee was unbelievably bad tonight. For those who claim I’m a McGee hater, please, spare me. I love this kid. Just like J.R. Smith, I think it’s ridiculous Karl plays games with his head. You should either have faith in a guy and let him do his thing or not play him at all if he’s really that bad. McGee deserves more minutes and freedom but on nights like these I can at least understand where Karl is coming from. McGee was doing almost nothing to help his team. He was constantly out of position, late on his rotations (sometimes not even rotating at all), falling for every pump fake that came his way and even fouling away from the ball on multiple occasions. He had a monster dunk — WHEN DOES HE NOT?!? The fact is: McGee needs to take his destiny into his own hands and start playing smarter, more fundamental basketball. Karl deserves blame for not helping him with this, but McGee is still a grown ass man. It’s time to put Shaqtin’ a Fool in his rear view mirror.

Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +12

Miller was pretty inconsistent. He had a few nice dimes and drives to the rack but also had a couple of boneheaded turnovers. He also played spotty defense for most of the night. On one possession he didn’t even try to close out. He just stood there. Staring at his man. With his hands by his side.

Wilson Chandler, SG 27 MIN | 5-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +4

Chandler didn’t have a potent night offensively but was still efficient, which is what matters most. The best part of his performance was that instead of hoisting up bad shots he made himself useful by hitting the glass and playing solid defense. That’s really all you can ask from anybody who’s not feeling it on a given night in the NBA.

George Karl

The Nuggets played sloppy, unorganized, unprepared basketball in the first half but clearly refocused at halftime and came out with a vengeance. Karl deserves credit for this. In the end, his team won by 15 on the road against a team who’s had some quality wins as of late. That’s about as good as it gets.

Film Room: JaVale McGee’s improving defense

During his days on the Washington Wizards, JaVale McGee became tragi-comically famous among NBA fans, known much better for his gaffe-packed blooper reels on YouTube than for the actual quality of basketball player he was. With frequent assists from Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segment on TNT, and the spread of the “That’s so JaVale!” meme, McGee’s many bizarre, head scratching blunders went viral, and the “knucklehead” label stuck so hard that he’s still trying to shake it off.

But he is in fact making progress, and many around the league – including Shaq – are starting to take notice that there’s more to JaVale than just being the NBA’s court jester.

Which is not to say he’s all the way there yet. He continues to be (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 111, Minnesota Timberwolves 88

Minnesota Timberwolves 88 Final

Recap | Box Score

111 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 28 MIN | 2-7 FG | 5-5 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +22

Gallo didn’t get a lot of touches tonight, but he did something positive almost every time he touched the ball. He was solid on defense and especially on the defensive glass. After one particularly strong rebound he threw a great full-court pass to a leaking Brewer that started the 16-2 run to put the game away. He found several other teammates in easy position to score, as evidenced by his team high six assists. The only negative was his inability to finish in the paint.

Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +13

Faried’s rebounding was great most of this game, but two runouts from near the free throw line allowed the Wolves to pick up long offensive rebounds in that area. His lone assist came on another great full-court pass to a leaking Brewer. His defense contributed both to Derrick Williams’ bad shooting night and Mickael Geleable’s good shooting night.

Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +14

Yet another solid but unspectacular night for the Nuggets’ starting center. He made a couple of small mistakes like failing to adequately contest one Rubio layup and committing offensive basket interference. He also made a number of good under-the-radar plays, like setting a great screen to give Ty Lawson a wide open look at a three pointer.

Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 12-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 32 PTS | +21

Ty’s jumper was on the money tonight. He was also able to get by defenders and into the paint pretty regularly. When he looked to score, he was nearly unstoppable, dropping in twelve points in a four and a half minute stretch of the fourth quarter. The only reason he doesn’t score an A+ for tonight’s game is his four turnovers, including an offensive foul for a kickout (on a three pointer he made).

Andre Iguodala, SG 32 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 4 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +10

Iguodala’s strength is his ability to keep the other team off the scoreboard, and he did so in a variety of ways tonight. He had one spectacular JaVale-type block and stripped a Wolves player after an offensive rebound as two of his combined seven blocks plus steals. He also had a highlight-reel dunk and took a lot of contact (with no call) on what should have been another.

Anthony Randolph, PF 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

With his only offensive opportunity, Randolph chose to look for his own shot, and missed. He balanced it out by making a good defensive effort and coming up with a blocked shot.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 4 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | 0

Hamilton had a clean look from three that he buried, and hit another long jumper. He tried to force the action a bit when he went to the rim against multiple defenders.

Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +15

I cringed when Andre attempted his only three pointer of the night. But I cheered three times as much when he was finding JaVale McGee above the rim, or throwing a great long-distance pass to a leaking Corey Brewer for an easy dunk. His “wily old man” game was on full display twice late in the game, when he got multiple defenders turned around with crossover moves on successive plays.

Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +8

There was a little bit of bad Corey Brewer tonight: a pair of long, contested two shots with plenty of time on the clock, missed threes, a missed free throw, a bad bailout foul, and a defensive possession where he simply stepped aside and let his man drive unimpeded to the rim. But there was much more good Corey Brewer: energetic, chaos-bringing, beating the defense upcourt and catching all those long passes mentioned elsewhere in these grades.

Timofey Mozgov, C 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +1

Coming in early to replace an ineffective JaVale McGee, Mozgov put on an equally terrible performance. He made one positive play, blocking a shot by Gelebale, and then committed a lazy foul and fumbled the ball into Barea’s hands. He did nothing else of note when he returned late in the game.

JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -8

In the first half, JaVale earned a D- with play so bad that Timofey Mozgov got some early playing time. In the second half, he earned a B+ for a much better, but still uneven, performance. His steal on Rubio that he took the other way for a dunk was incredible, but his attempted behind the back pass into three defenders was the other kind of incredible.

Evan Fournier, SG 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1

In his few minutes on the court, Fourner twice got the best of J.J. Barea, forcing a missed layup and drawing a foul.

Wilson Chandler, SG 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | +17

This was a frustrating outing for Wilson Chandler. He got whistled for seemingly every kind of foul possible, often within seconds of checking into the game. He played tentatively on defense and never seemed to find a rhythm on offense.

George Karl

I was really pleased with Karl’s quick benching of McGee, and then Mozgov, after both came out looking awful in the first quarter. He also seemed to make the right adjustments coming out of halftime. His well-earned technical foul late in the third quarter seemed to bring the team to life, and they closed the door on the Wolves’ mini-rally shortly thereafter.

One Thing We Saw

  1. Home Sweet Home: the Nuggets are again tied with the Miami Heat for the best home record in the league at 28-3. The Nuggets are within 1.5 games of Memphis, and would earn homecourt in the first round of the playoffs by passing them.

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