There was muted celebration in the building following the Denver Nuggets’ franchise record 55th win against the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday, enough to cast a subtle gloom over the history being witnessed by a Pepsi Center crowd of Nuggets faithful.
Considering the circumstances, it’s easy to understand why. Denver lost another starter to injury but ultimately escaped a must-win game, bringing the season-long goal of the third-seed tantalizingly close but still barely out of reach. Like an audience trapped in suspended disbelief at a good movie, Nuggets fans are eagerly awaiting the final twists and turns that set up the climactic moment they’ve all been waiting for.
Until that plays out and we see these Nuggets tested in the sacred arena of the NBA playoffs, any judgments about this team’s place in franchise history seem premature. The true gravity of becoming the Nuggets’ winningest team ever may not be felt until then, but the very fact we’ve arrived here in the midst of a bigger goal is an opportunity to reflect on the process behind what is now a historic achievement.
Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend
The Nuggets tied their NBA franchise record for wins in a season by defeating San Antonio on Wednesday, and had a chance to break the record in Dallas on Friday, but came up short in overtime. Andre Iguodala led the way against the Spurs with a triple double and JaVale McGee’s four blocks helped spark the bench in the comeback win. In Dallas, Corey Brewer’s tying basket off of an Andre Miller steal brought up memories of the previous week’s heroics against the Mavericks, but in the end, poor shooting and poor defense were the Nuggets’ undoing.
Record this week: 1-1 (1-0 home, 0-1 road)
Current record and standings: 54-25, third seed in the Western Conference, tied with Memphis and 1 game ahead of the Clippers. The Nuggets hold the tiebreaker over Memphis due to head-to-head play, while the Clippers hold the tiebreaker over both Memphis and Denver due to winning their division.
Upcoming games: Sunday vs Portland, Monday at Milwaukee, Wednesday vs Phoenix
The Nuggets came up with a series of big plays late in regulation to tie the game, but couldn’t get it done in the extra period, falling to Dallas 108-105.
In the race for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets greatly strengthened their position with their big Wednesday night victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
This cleared the most difficult remaining game on their schedule, and reduced their magic number (combination of own wins and opponent losses) with respect to both the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers to three. With four games remaining, Denver can lose one game and still clinch third even if Memphis and L.A. win out (though since they play each other, at least one of them can’t).
Here is a side-by-side look at the remaining schedules of the three teams competing for that third seed which carries the benefits of both home court advantage in the first round and a matchup with the No. 6 seed: (more…)
|Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -18
Faried was quite bad, getting routinely abused on defense despite San Antonio having no one remotely athletic enough to match up with him. Couple that with a measly one offensive rebound and it sure looks like he was simply outhustled and outworked by a hobbled, inexperienced Spurs front line. He made a big defensive play and secured a key rebound late, but his 25 minutes were pretty generous considering the way he played most of the night.
|Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -10
Koufos had a confusing game. He’s never been much of a rim protector but he normally beats opposing bigs to the paint and takes away the easy angles. Koufos’ paint defense alternated between sublime and uninspired in this one, but he saved his best play for when the Nuggets needed it most. At this point I expect some consistency and something more than a total zero on offense, where Koufos seems to have lost some confidence.
|Andre Miller, PG 34 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -7
Miller was not a net positive in this game. He was a spectator for the first 10 minutes and most every meaningful stretch of play. Miller closed the game like a pro and his ability to make free throws and manufacture offense paid off late, but he was not on the floor for the crucial stretches where Denver looked dominant.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 41 MIN | 11-20 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 29 PTS | +6
What a great performance, and it’s really easy to forget that Wilson has already scored 30+ two other times this season, both off the bench. Wilson caught fire in the second half and practiced much better shot selection than we’ve seen in the past. He stayed off the midrange stuff the entire night and created several running opportunities with his defense. He has not missed a beat since moving into the starting five.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 43 MIN | 5-11 FG | 1-4 FT | 13 REB | 10 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 12 PTS | +5
Yes, he had seven turnovers and still hasn’t looked decent on offense all year. He also nabbed the first triple-double by any Nugget since Marcus Camby in 2008 exactly one game after predicting he’d soon get one. There were a lot of things working against the Nuggets early and Iguodala’s unwavering effort anchored the defensive push that got Denver back in the game and kept them there.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 8 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | +6
I gave his grade a bump because he looked good as part of an uptempo bench that reinvigorated the Nuggets’ transition attack. Brewer went nuclear off the bench so it just wasn’t his night to see many minutes.
|Corey Brewer, SF 34 MIN | 12-25 FG | 2-5 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 28 PTS | +30
Is this not a match made in heaven? Teams generally don’t want bench players hoisting 25 shots a game but Brewer’s outburst was just what the Nuggets needed after starting the game with two Miller turnovers followed by two Miller isos and predictably, zero points. Karl went small with Brewer early which paid immediate dividends for Denver’s anemic offense. I worry about where else Brewer will play if the Nuggets can’t bring him back because this is just too fun to watch.
|JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +18
Much like Brewer did for the offense, we saw a drastic change in the Denver defense pre-McGee and post-McGee. Denver was flat out soft in the paint until his resounding arrival in the second quarter with three huge blocks. JaVale capped off a nice night with an improved effort on the defensive glass and his second straight game with no turnovers
|Evan Fournier, SG 18 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +20
He should have played much more. Fournier was assertive with the ball in his hands and was the Nuggets second-best creator behind Iguodala. He wasn’t great on defense and didn’t have his shot going but the guy showed remarkable poise under pressure and has a knack for finding Denver the right kind of shots. With Lawson out and the offense quite frankly struggling under an overused Andre Miller, he could use more minutes.
Karl waited way too long to get Miller out of the game. Other than that, his adjustments worked and he got the most out of a small Brewer-Chandler lineup San Antonio had no answer for. He’s pushing his players hard and getting results, but Koufos, Miller, and Chandler all looked gassed after long second-half stints with no relief. Karl should be more trusting of his bench, who clearly got him the win and turned around one of the most dreadful starts in recent memory.
Last week Chris Sheridan broke the news that Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri had recently made a trip overseas to scout one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. His name is Giannis Adetokunbo. He’s 6-9. He’s freakishly athletic. And he regularly plays point guard for his team in Greece. Did I mention he’s a 6-9 freak who regularly plays point guard?
After news broke that Danilo Gallinari would be sidelined for the remained of the year (and well into the 2013-14 season) with a torn ACL, questions arose in the minds of Nuggets fans across the globe. There has been talk about who will step up in his place, whether the Nuggets are severely weakened and even speculation about how this will affect the team’s roster moves this off-season. In RMC’s latest 5-on-5 our writers aim to address these topics in hopes of shedding some light (and perhaps even a little optimism) on how the Nuggets will fare moving forward without their starting small forward. As always, please feel free to post your answers to the following five questions in the comments section below.
Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend
The Nuggets lost Danilo Gallinari to a season-ending knee injury this week and Ty Lawson has not yet returned to action, but the team rallied behind the play of Corey Brewer, Andre Igoudala, and rookie Evan Fournier to go undefeated over three games. Wednesday’s game in Utah showcased the Nuggets depth, with seven players scoring in double digits in a seventeen point win. Gallinari tore his ACL just before halftime the next night against Dallas and the Nuggets looked to be on the way to defeat after trailing for most of the game, but a late offensive rebound by Corey Brewer set up Iguodala’s go-ahead bucket and a last-second block by Brewer sealed the win. Denver fell behind the Rockets by double digits in the first quarter on Saturday, but Evan Fournier and Corey Brewer sparked two big runs that turned the game into a fourth quarter blowout.
Record this week: 3-0 (2-0 home, 1-0 road)
Current record and standings: 53-24, third seed in the Western Conference, 1.5 games ahead of Memphis and 2.5 games ahead of the Clippers
Upcoming games: Wednesday vs San Antonio, Friday at Dallas
After falling behind by double digits early, the Nuggets turned up the energy and outworked a tired Rockets team, outscoring them by 28 points over the last three quarters to win easily.
In a hard-fought battle to the wire the Nuggets proved they’re a team that thrives off heart and passion, rather than one that folds under emotional turmoil. Iguodala had a huge drive capped by a game-winning layup at the rim to put the Nuggets ahead by one point with only a few seconds remaining, while Corey Brewer dazzled with his energy and refusal to lose throughout the contest; however, the story of the game without question is Danilo Gallinari and his ostensibly torn ACL.
Last Friday, rookie shooting guard Evan Fournier introduced himself to Nuggets Nation in a major way. In only 21 minutes of action he managed to score a game-high 19 points on 6-9 shooting from the field (6-6 from the line) to go with two rebounds, two assists and two steals. After this performance and with Ty Lawson still sidelined due to injury, it’s safe to say this is likely just the beginning of Fournier’s most descriptive and telling vignette as a member of the Denver Nuggets.
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 past few weeks there has been a dominant discussion in the comments section of just about every game recap: The staff here at Roundball Mining Company has been too harsh to Andre Miller.
Many people see his offensive line and wonder how we could give Andre such a good grade because he “kept the Nuggets in the game,” others say docking him for his defense as much as we do is not fair because he is old, slow and generally nonathletic.
What we keep trying to get across though is that the grades aren’t because Miller is bad at defense, again we don’t expect him to shut down Tony Parker or Chris Paul, but the problem is just a lack of effort.
Thanks to help from Cole Patty from the Portland Roundball Society, I have five videos from the first three quarters of the recent game against the San Antonio Spurs; which I recapped and was criticized for my grade on Miller because of his defense, to show just exactly what I am seeing that makes me kill Miller’s grades so much.
The videos will start from the simplest problems, those that you can live with if they happen once and a while and gradually get worse and worse; unfortunately the final three are just head scratchers that should not be happening.
Chris Tomasson, former Nuggets beat writer for the Rocky Mountain News now with Fox Sports, is reporting that Andre Iguodala is leaning towards opting out of his contract this summer, forgoing the roughly $16 million remaining on his final year in favor of a longer term deal which offers more security.
Tomasson also reports that it’s not a sure thing Iguodala will remain in Denver: (more…)
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
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…)