5-on-5: Season preview

With the 2012-13 Nuggets season right around the corner it’s time for Roundball Mining Company to introduce the first of several season previews. This one comes in the form of our ongoing 5-on-5 series. Joining Charlie, Joel, Jeremy and I to make predictions and dish out opinions on the upcoming season is loyal reader, Joe Beebe. If you’d like to participate in a future 5-on-5 article remember to follow us on Twitter.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 113 Los Angeles Lakers 96

Los Angeles Lakers 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
113 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 28 MIN | 6-11 FG | 3-3 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 15 PTS | +14

Faried’s personal growth and improvement throughout the series is something to see. While the Lakers size dominated game one and two, Denver has toughened up and been much more physical with Gasol and Bynum even before the catch. In my opinion, Faried’s fearless attitude against the Lakers has become contagious and he’s played a huge part in the defensive turnaround that suddenly swung the momentum of the series and forced a game seven. Hard to believe this guy is a rookie who didn’t see the court for nearly half of the regular season.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 28 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | +27

Gallo’s complete game finally came alive after a series-long lull in which I thought he was a very one dimensional player. Gallinari’s aggressiveness can show itself in multiple ways and tonight, it was his ability to pick the Lakers apart with his passing. He had a ton of success in pick and roll situations and that’s where Denver needs him to shine, especially with the Lakers defense keeping him off the line and outside of the paint for the majority of this series. In this matchup, Gallo’s passing is a much better asset than his shooting and the Nuggets need more of it.

Timofey Mozgov, C 24 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +16

As a number of esteemed readers have pointed out, the grading of Mozgov has been way too harsh in his first few games of this series. He was extremely physical with Bynum from the opening tip, setting the tone with a big block on the game’s first possession and never once letting him get comfortable in the post. Mozgov has battled hard every game he’s started and the Lakers bigs haven’t looked the same since. It’s time to acknowledge the crucial role Mozgov has played in that and applaud him for it.

Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 6 PTS | +26

Afflalo brought out a vintage 2009 performance in which he pretty much only shot wide open jumpers created by teammates. Arron really has had his hands full with a motivated Kobe Bryant and is doing all he can against a player who can make shots no matter how well you defend him. Just an incredibly sound performance out of Afflalo, who played within the flow of the offense and finished with a career playoff high seven assists.

Ty Lawson, PG 30 MIN | 13-18 FG | 1-3 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 32 PTS | +22

Just an outstanding, superstar-type effort. After the game, Ty said he flew his shooting coach into Denver yesterday and was getting shots up past midnight. The work clearly paid off as Lawson killed the Lakers from everywhere on the floor and showed much-improved aggressiveness in the half-court, where Lawson actually did most of his damage. This may have been the best game I’ve ever seen Lawson play, and he practically sat out the entire fourth quarter.

Al Harrington, PF 22 MIN | 1-8 FG | 2-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +6

Al’s numbers speak for themselves. Despite the fact he shot 1 for 8, I actually thought he improved and played less selfishly in a game Harrington clearly tried to pick up his play. I understand Harrington has played tough on Gasol and is fighting through injuries, but at some point you have to look at five awful games in a row and admit what the evidence says is true. I admire his effort, but Al just looks hobbled out there and the Nuggets have been a much better team without him in the lineup.

Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | -7

Miller’s steady veteran presence may be the biggest factor in this series’ dramatic turnaround in the past three days. Much like Faried, Miller has played fearless against the Lakers and abused his matchup against the small Laker guards. Andre did not score or create at the same level he has in previous games, but he limited his mistakes and continues to be so much better than any guard on the Lakers roster it hardly matters. You can tell how badly Miller wants to lead this team and win even when his own game is not at its best.

Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | -7

Even with Brewer’s offensive struggles throughout the season, he’s been an incredibly underrated contributor to Denver’s success. When he’s useful on offense, the Nuggets are an entirely different animal. His shots are usually limited to spot up threes and transition run-outs, but Brewer found some confidence early and proceeded to score from just about everywhere. When the Nuggets play unselfishly, everyone benefits and Brewer’s outstanding night is proof.

JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -1

McGee had a strange game. I felt he was a net positive and played a sound game defensively, but he provided no help on offense and couldn’t come close to the type of production he had in Denver’s first two wins of the series. There are both good and bad ways to look at this development, but let’s just say JaVale continues to be a work in progress and managed to play important, mistake-free minutes in one of the best wins in Nuggets franchise history.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 102 Los Angeles Lakers 99

Denver Nuggets 102 FinalRecap | Box Score 99 Los Angeles Lakers
Kenneth Faried, F 24 MIN | 5-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +8
Throughout the series Faried has slowly but surely improved his defense. Tonight his post defense on Pau Gasol was much improved and he produced at high level on the offensive end as well. He did not miss a shot, was the only starter to grab an offensive rebound and would have easily notched another playoff double double had he not been forced to sit out the entire fourth quarter.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 4-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +4
Gallo is still struggling to find his shooting touch. He has remained aggressive after a breakout shooting performance in game four, but was not able to get the same looks to fall in L.A. Gallo’s inability to space the floor with his three point shooting has led to some poor shot selection and less passing. Despite the fact he’s one of Denver’s best passers and their most complete offensive player, Gallo has managed only 7 assist in five games. Offensively, he just isn’t much of a threat and the Nuggets need more.
Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +4
Mozgov had a typical Mozgov game, contributing absolutely nothing in 13 minutes of action. It’s worth mentioning he was able to create space for the guards with some solid screens in the second half, but otherwise provided nothing outside of a big body to push Bynum off the block and foul him a lot.
Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 8-19 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | +1
Afflalo finally played like himself, scoring more in the first half (13 pts) than he has in any game throughout the entire series. He was extremely aggressive from the opening tip and showed a willingness to step up and attack when Denver struggled to find scoring. Afflalo didn’t play his best and still can’t make a three to save his life, but the dramatic turnaround in production was sorely needed, even if it does make Afflalo’s lackluster start to the series even more confusing
Ty Lawson, PG 29 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | +11
The Nuggets typically won’t compete without Ty Lawson carrying the offense, but tonight they were able to do just that. Despite not being able to find his shot, Lawson was able to get into the paint regularly and make things happen. His passing was a cut above anything else we’ve seen in the series and it seemed he was really able to get the pace going without all the added pressure of having to score a lot just to keep the Nuggets within striking distance.
Al Harrington, PF 27 MIN | 0-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -1
Harrington looked like he didn’t care and played even worse. Injured or not, Harrington is keeping his teammates off the court and the lack of intensity and hustle in his game was tough to take. I have literally never seen a professional player act so indifferent and disinterested in a playoff atmosphere. The Nuggets are counting on Al’s professionalism and unselfishness to help them win. Injury is not a good enough excuse for whatever Harrington is providing them with right now.
Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 8-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 24 PTS | -5
Miller’s finest game all year, and it just so happens he saved all of his best performances for the playoffs. Miller has obliterated the matchup with Steve Blake and been a magnificent player for Denver all series long. Miller’s decision making and point guard instincts are top notch. He makes things easier for everyone else on the floor when he’s dialed in and proved why doubting his unorthodox style can come back to bite you.
Corey Brewer, SF 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -1
Tough to grade Brewer’s performance. He was not much of a factor before catching an inadvertent elbow from JaVale McGee which took him out of commission for much of the second half.
JaVale McGee, C 33 MIN | 9-12 FG | 3-6 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 21 PTS | -6
Another dominant performance. For the first time all series, I thought Denver looked like a legitimately better team with McGee matched up on the Laker bigs. There is not much more to say about McGee’s performance, his superior length and athleticism created spectacular play after spectacular play and it didn’t seem to matter much what the Lakers did in response. JaVale dominated

Keys to extending the series

There was nothing more surprising in Game 4 than how easily the Lakers won. Not easy as in, playing the Charlotte Bobcats easy… but rather, easy as in… they played slow, uninspired basketball for about 46 minutes and still ended up winning without doing anything special. Some may say the Nuggets handed the victory to the Lakers, but I see it differently. Usually when a team hands over the game to its opponent, there is visible frustration or a dazed glare in the player’s eyes as if they’re in disbelief of what’s happening. On Sunday, the Nuggets didn’t show any of these signs. It was as if they didn’t even realize what was actually going on until the game had finally concluded — something eerily similar to what we’ve seen all season long.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 99 Los Angeles Lakers 84

Los Angeles Lakers 84 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 36 MIN | 6-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | +5

What Faried has managed to accomplish as a rookie is incredible. He couldn’t sniff garbage minutes at the beginning of the season and is now being marketed as the face of the team. While Faried is still physically overmatched, he’s made strides on the defensive end and established himself as a rebounding force. When the game got close and the Nuggets found themselves struggling to execute, the Nuggets relied on Faried’s energy to pull out a gritty win.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -1

Another mediocre offensive performance from Gallo, who still has not been able to leave his mark on the series. While Gallo didn’t make plays or shoot well, he started to find his game in the fourth quarter and managed to end his night on a high note. Gallo made several big free throws and grabbed some crucial rebounds late, all while having to guard Kobe Bryant for a majority of his time on the floor. Gallo was solid on Kobe, but is still a non-factor offensively.

Timofey Mozgov, C 14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -8

Karl’s decision to start Mozgov paid off as the Lakers were not able to establish their paint defense as easily as they were in L.A. Unfortunately, Mozgov wasn’t able to contain Bynum into the second half and unraveled. His presence was an effective deterrent for Bynum early, but he was awful with the ball in his hands and completely overshadowed by McGee and Faried in a rough second half.

Arron Afflalo, SG 25 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +4

Afflalo’s play continues to decline. His ineffectiveness has reached a point where George Karl decided to bench him for the entirety of the pivotal fourth quarter. There’s no nice way to put it — Afflalo, who was a premier player for the Nuggets heading into the series, has been reduced to a barely visible role player. His defense is unremarkable and he continues to force offense with poor results. Afflalo appears to have lost some confidence and is no longer playing his game.

Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 9-19 FG | 6-7 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 25 PTS | +23

Lawson proved he can carry the Nuggets for stretches and a game like this proves just how important he is in this series. Denver’s offense was unstoppable when Lawson was at his best and the Lakers quickly got right back in the game when his aggressiveness tapered off. Lawson was amazing, but too unselfish in the second half, where he scored only 7 points and deferred to Andre Miller. Even with all his faults, Lawson produced at a superstar level throughout the first half and the Lakers had no answer.

Al Harrington, PF 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 7 PTS | +1

Harrington was off to a decent start before catching a vicious elbow from Andrew Bynum in the third quarter. Harrington appeared dizzy and unable to get up and down the floor for a good two possessions before play was finally stopped and he was able to be examined. Harrington broke his nose and will have to wear a mask if he’s able to go in game four.

Andre Miller, PG 32 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 13 PTS | +17

Miller’s offense certainly wasn’t pretty, but he continues to be very effective off the bench. Andre has played with a lot of confidence in this series and seems to know he can generate good looks against the Lakers reserves. Andre made a huge three-pointer to seal the win and was distributing effectively despite the fact he took some ill-advised shots. The Nuggets need confident decision makers on offense and right now Miller is one of the few consistent options.

Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +4

Brewer had a very sub-par night in terms of production, but I feel he was a positive on defense and a better offensive player than his awful shooting performance indicates. This was Brewer’s worst game of the series, but his hands were all over the place defensively and his trademark energy was a key ingredient in the Nuggets eventually gutting out a win.

JaVale McGee, C 28 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-2 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | +30

Wow. While I’m still in awe of how thoroughly McGee dominated inside, I can’t say it was totally unexpected. The Nuggets have nothing to lose by throwing McGee out there over Koufos and Mozgov just to see what the kid is made of. McGee played over 25 minutes for the first time in ten games and responded with a Bynum-like performance of 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. It was a resounding statement game for McGee, who became the first big off the bench and proved he needs a significant role for Denver to have any chance of getting back in this series.

Additional Game 1 notes

There was quite a bit to see in Game 1 of the Nuggets first-rounds series against the Lakers. Though we covered most of it in the Rapid Reaction recap, there were still a few notes that went unpublished… until now. Here is some additional food for thought before the Nuggets tee off against the Lakers in Game 2, tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST.

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5-on-5: Lakers preview

In Roundball Mining Company’s latest edition of our 5-on-5 series we discuss what’s on everyone’s mind: Lakers vs. Nuggets. In addition to our normal trio of contributors (Jeremy, Charlie and I), we’ve asked Brain Kamenetzky of ESPN’s Land O’Lakers blog and Roundball reader Logan Wright to chip in with their take on the series as well.

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Film Room: Mozgov vs Bynum

The most difficult matchup for the Denver Nuggets in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers is Andrew Bynum.  Bynum is the dominant offensive center in the NBA and the Nuggets must make sure that he does not score at will.  Unlike in the past when the Nuggets bigs consisted of Nene, Birdman and Kenyon Martin, Denver has plenty of size to attempt to matchup with Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Out of Denver’s four centers, the one who does the best defending Bynum is Timofey Mozgov.  In the Film Room segment below I have strung together six clips from the April 13 game where Mozgov is defending Bynum.

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5-on-5: Pre-Playoff edition

It the latest edition of Roundball Mining Company’s 5-on-5 series we explore which potential playoff scenarios could benefit or hinder the Nuggets success in the postseason. Fellow readers T.J. McBride and Mitchell Carroll have been selected to participate this time around. If you’d like to contribute next time, be sure and follow Charlie, Jeremey and Kalen on Twitter. As always, please feel free to leave your answers to these questions in the comments section below.

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2011-12 Game 4: Lakers 92, Denver 89

Obviously there’s a lot to be said about this game, but first and foremost: Gallo. Come on man!!! As I recently texted someone, if you’re a 6-10 athletic deer in the open court and the only thing stopping you from making a game-tying layup with a few seconds left in the fourth quarter is a 6-foot Steve Blake, how do you not drop a thunderous dunk over the guy?!? I know it’s easy to sit back from our couches and criticize professional athletes who do things on a daily basis we could only dream about, but a layup!?! I’m pretty sure most people could manage that. Bottom line is in the NBA you simply have to make your dunks, layups and whatever other “gimmes” are offered up by the opposing team. If you can’t, then you should probably kiss your title-contending hopes goodbye.

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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets at Lakers

Denver Nuggets 89 Final

Box Score | Recap

92 Los Angles Lakers
Ty Lawson 3-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | -13
After a torrid start to the season, Lawson cooled off and struggled to find his rhythm offensively. He made a concerted effort to get others involved finishing with a season high 8 assists. Unfortunately Lawson had four turnovers, missed 2 big free-throws and failed to get anything going in the half-court. It behooves him to be a little more selfish and stay aggressive as that often creates better openings for his teammates than simply passing to them.
Arron Afflalo 26 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-5 3PT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -9
Afflalo has not been a key factor in any of Denver’s games and continues to struggle finding a role. Despite that, this is the best he has played all season and we finally saw his familiar defensive presence show up in a meaningful way. The Nuggets defended much better than they have in their first 3 games and Afflalo’s solid effort on Kobe helped set the tone. Offensively, Arron still looks hesitant and isn’t shooting the ball with confidence.
Danilo Gallinari 3-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -5
Is this guy having a bad week or what? Considered by many to be Denver’s best offensive talent primed for a breakout season, Gallinari has flopped. He continues to shoot horrible jumpers and refuses to get to the free throw line. The Nuggets need Gallinari to play better to have any hope of contending, and there is no choice but to let him keep shooting. The shooting slump is not what bothers me though – it’s his timid attitude and awful decision making down the stretch. Gallo only avoids a grade of ‘F’ for some solid pick and roll defense on Kobe Bryant. There simply was no excuse to miss that layup.
Nene Hilario 5-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 8 REB | 0 BLK | 13 PTS | -11
Is playing at Power Forward finally unleashing the full power of Nene’s game? In a word – no. From what I’ve seen in four games, the Nuggets are worse with Nene at Power Forward. Mainly because he hasn’t had success scoring outside of a small lineup where he plays Center. Nene finished with his career averages, about 13 and 8. He also missed a dunk that would have extended the Nuggets lead late and wasn’t a factor down the stretch.
Timofey Mozgov 26 MIN | 4-7 FG | 10 REB | 4 BLK | 8 PTS | +3
Mozgov is agile for a big man, moves his feet well has decent enough hands to handle precision passes under the rim. Him and Al Harrington were the most reliable Nuggets bigs in terms of hedging on pick and rolls and keeping L.A. out of the middle. Mozgov also grabbed a team high 10 boards and was the only starter to finish with a positive plus/minus. Although he couldn’t keep Bynum from getting good position down low, Timo is developing just fine in the starting lineup.
Al Harrington 8-17 FG | 3-8 3PT | 3 REB | 21 PTS | +5
Can we just admit it now – Al Harrington is the second best player on the Nuggets roster through 4 games. He made big shots when Denver needed it and is consistently giving all-out effort on defense. Harrington has a lot of shortcomings as a defender and rebounder, and grabbing only 3 boards while playing at Power Forward all game is a little disappointing. That’s not really what Harrington does though, and there’s no denying his offense carried the Nuggets in a game they were in a fantastic position to win

Five Things We Saw

  1. This is by far the most complete defensive performance of the young season. The Nuggets have had trouble rotating to shooters off double teams and fortunately no team except the Blazers made them pay. The Nuggets locked down on perimeter defense today and in the second half, played better Pick and Roll defense than we’ve seen in years. The bigs did a great job hedging, making Kobe pick up his dribble and denying him the middle of the floor. The Lakers were forced to go through Bynum and Pau for offense and unfortunately for Denver, both of them were on and they delivered.
  2. Andrew Bynum is a force down low. His return changes the whole complexion of the L.A. Lakers from a purely perimeter team to an inside-out contender. Bynum did a solid job running the floor and getting deep post position where the Lakers guards consistently got him the ball.
  3. On offense, the Nuggets didn’t attack Bynum on the pick and roll outside of a single possession where Lawson fed Nene for a thunderous dunk ending with an and-one (Nene predictably missed the free throw, then fouled Bynum on the other end). I am not sure why they didn’t do this more or attack the Laker’s point guards one-on-one in order to draw Bynum out of the paint. Bynum was free to roam the middle on defense and he finished with only 2 fouls and 2 emphatic blocks.
  4. To expand on the last bullet, the Nuggets’ half court execution is deplorable. They simply don’t create good looks a half court offense, and I’m not sure it would have mattered because nobody wanted to shoot. Watching a top flight playoff outfit like the Lakers run set plays, there’s no comparison to the Nuggets fumbling and bumbling their way into long jumpers. They aren’t built to win games in a slow, deliberate style and as I pointed out earlier it is a huge red flag. Making their shots would help, but it doesn’t change the fact Denver has extremely limited options for constructing shot opportunities late in games.
  5. Birdman played 5 minutes and committed three personal fouls. Personally, I thought Bird looked a little better than he has in the past and seemed to making an effort to stay on his feet and hold his ground down low. I said in the Blazers recap I did not think Bird was paying attention and fully engaged on defense. He seemed to be giving better effort but it didn’t result in the coaches showing anymore confidence in his game. Birdman can’t really jump anymore and isn’t a reliable source of blocks and weak side help. I do believe the coaching staff is evaluating bringing him in as the first big off the bench and my guess is rotation changes are definitely in play.

Lakers, Kings showing California love? [UPDATED]

For months, Denver Nuggets fans have pondered over a wide variety of  trade scenarios involving Raymond Felton, and in nearly every one it seems a different NBA team is involved. Up until this point, all of those dreamy trade concoctions were nothing more than fun, time-killing fabrications. But now, for the first time since obtaining Felton from the Knicks, the Nuggets have two teams that have gone public in expressing their interest in our current backup point guard: the Lakers and Kings. (more…)

2010-11 Game 76: Denver Nuggets 95, L.A. Lakers 90 (Double Take)

Box Score | Highlights

After Kenyon Martin put back a missed free-throw by Nene to clinch the Nuggets 95-90 victory of the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, emotion spilled out of the gritty power forward in the form of expletives aimed at the silicone-infused celebrities strung along the court-side seats at Staples Center. For Nuggets fans, this was a moment when we vicariously said what we’ve wanted to for a really long time, and thanks to Kenyon Martin, we got that opportunity without having to deal with the repercussions.

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