When the news of a potential four team trade that would send Dwight Howard to Los Angeles involving the Denver Nuggets first surfaced this afternoon, I was skeptical. Generally when a rumor involving the Nuggets gets out, it is a sure sign that the Nuggets have moved on and the trade is not happening. Of course, my interest was piqued due to the fact the Nuggets were reportedly pursuing Andre Igoudala, the one player I have gone on record coveting. Even so, I was not going to allow myself to get too excited.
One of my favorite moments of the 2012 adidas Nations took place just as the camp was wrapping up, as the college counselors completed their final scrimmages and prepared to move on towards their NBA goals. Arron Afflalo showed up and actually played in the final game, pitting himself against collegiate stars like Andre Roberson, Steven Adams, Ray McCallum and Isaiah Austin. Afflalo played with a cool, distinguished demeanor most of the game before taking over in the fourth quarter and overtime of what became an intensely competitive, high-level game. Andre Roberson showed tremendous growth throughout the camp and went out with a bang, scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting along with 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He had a chance at a last second tip-in on the final play of regulation, but wasn’t able to put it down and Arron Afflalo’s heroics sealed the 86-81 overtime win.
Dwight Howard showed up to the gym unannounced and right after the game concluded, he gathered Roberson and the rest of the college counselors to share his wisdom before they parted ways with each other and the adidas Nations team. It was amazing to see how hungry and appreciative Roberson became throughout the course of the camp, and especially how eager he was to soak up every little bit of knowledge he could even as the on-court work was over with. Roberson played with much more confidence in his final game and sustained a high level of effort throughout. Although I already interviewed Roberson on the first day of the event, I caught up with him one last time to see just what he was taking away from the experience.
It was great getting to know Andre throughout the adidas Nations, who you can follow on Twitter @FlyDre21. The 2012 adidas Nations wraps up tomorrow night for the championship round of games in Long Beach, CA. It will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports network, so check the local TV listings and be sure to tune in and watch if you can. As always, stick with RMC for more coverage when the event concludes on Monday night.
Thanks to adidas Basketball, ESPN and the TrueHoop network, I’ve been given the opportunity to cover the 2012 adidas Nations for Roundball Mining Company. For those unfamiliar with the adidas Nations, it’s a global tournament for the best players under 19, both here in the USA and internationally. It’s one of the most prestigious grassroots basketball programs in the world, where top high school talent and some of the best collegiate players in the country train under real NBA coaches.
There are a ton of Denver Nuggets connections in this year’s adidas Nations currently taking place in Southern California. Along with all of the other NBA teams, Denver’s scouting department has a strong presence here and Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt is part of the core group of NBA coaches instructing the college counselors as well as the high school athletes in attendance. Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo joins Alec Burks, Nolan Smith, Luc Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison as some of the adidas athletes who will act as NBA ambassadors to the program.
This is an exciting event featuring a ridiculous amount of talent from the next three NBA draft classes, and I strongly encourage any hoops fan to watch the championship game on Monday night, which will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network at 6pm Mountain time. RMC will be on hand to provide coverage throughout the event.
Here’s a few of the highlights from day one of the 2012 adidas Nations. (more…)
The latest edition of our ongoing 3-on-3 series centers around one — one player that intrigues each of our writers in three different areas of the game. With hardly any roster space left for free agents, a serious need for star power and a Summer League team boasting with young talent, the fact remains: The Nuggets could certainly use an adjustment or two. Though we aren’t general managers and don’t control the fluidity of the roster, we can at least point out several players that we feel would benefit the Nuggets in some fashion — which is exactly what we aim to do, 3-on-3 style.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting the Nuggets are very active in Draft day trade talks, discussing a possible deal with the Warriors that centers around trading Chandler for the No. 7 pick in the first round. As part of the proposed deal the Nuggets would likely have to take on Dorell Wright and the last year of his contract at just north of $4 million.
Heading into the 2011-12 season the Denver Nuggets were a mystery waiting to be solved. After coming off the most chaotic seven months in franchise history the team made monumental strides in the offseason to remain competitive even after parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. In addition, the NBA lockout saw key contributors Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martina and J.R. Smith all vanish to the opposite side of the world until midseason, leaving even more questions marks about who would be with the team moving forward. But as the season progressed, piece by piece Nuggets fans collected clues about the identity and subsequent standards the team would possess, which ended up being very similar to years past.
In Roundball Mining Company’s first postseason reflection piece we’ll be taking a look at the evolution of the Denver Nuggets over the last year and examine what we’ve learned about the team throughout the process. Though the Nuggets have laid the foundation for the future through savvy front-office dealings there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the roster. Therefore, our most recent 3-on-3 aims to analyze certain aspects of the present, past and future. As always, feel free to hand out your answers to these questions in the comments section below.
|Kenneth Faried, F 20 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -19 The Manimal was fantastic and helped allay my fears that he could not handle the Lakers size. He showed he is not afraid of anyone and will not back down from a challenge. In the fourth quarter Faried was completely overmatched by Gasol and had to be removed. Faried has a fantastic career ahead of him, but his lack of size is going to be an issue for Denver.|
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 26 MIN | 1-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 3 PTS | -12 I have been frustrated with Gallo all series long, earlier in the season he was very good at not forcing shots, since his return from his thumb injury he has been settling for jumpers off the dribble out of iso sets. He was awful from start to finish and MWP gets a lot of credit for that. I have no idea why Karl reinserted him in the game in the middle of the fourth as Gallo continued to be worthless. Hopefully this is a learning experience and a building block for Gallo to use as he matures and not a sign of what is to come in the future.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 15 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -8 We got what we expected from Mozgov, solid D, and nothing else. He did his job, but it will be interesting to see what the Nuggets do with him this offseason. In the NFL you can stockpile defensive backs if you play in the same division as the Lions or Saints, in the NBA you cannot keep a player on your roster just because he can defend Andrew Bynum for a few minutes.|
|Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 6-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -10 When the Lakers pushed their lead up to 9 in the second, it was Afflalo who led the charge back with four quick points, in the second half, he was nowhere to be found until he made a three with less than two minutes left to keep a sliver of hope alive. Afflalo played solid defense against Kobe, who was oddly passive, but Afflalo showed that despite the growth he made this season, he is still only a complimentary player on offense.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 42 MIN | 11-19 FG | 0-2 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 24 PTS | -6 Ty came out firing, but the Lakers began making him the focus of the defense, the Lakers bigs were more aggressive hedging and challenging him off screens and it made it difficult for him to get to the lane. When Denver was able to loosen up the game and run in the second half, Lawson had a great few minutes. When the game tightened up, LA got tougher on Ty again and he was not able to carry Denver to a win.|
|Al Harrington, PF 29 MIN | 9-18 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 24 PTS | +6 I felt bad for Harrington who had such a solid season that he was struggling due to injuries. He deserved better and finally was able to put his mark on a game scoring 24 points. Sadly, he was not able to hit a big shot when Denver needed it most not to mention his meager two rebounds in 29 minutes.|
|Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 1-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 11 REB | 8 AST | 3 PTS | +0 There are nights when you feel like Steve Blake and nights when your shot is just not falling. Miller could not find the net to save his life, but instead of becoming a non factor, like a person who loses one of their five senses, he augmented what he had to work with. Miller hit the boards and did his best to set up teammates. He made the best of a bad situation. As a Karl favorite I suspect Miller will be back, but if this is his last game as a Nugget, he went down swinging.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +1 You had a feeling after his unconscious shooting display in game six, he would be hard pressed to repeat that offensive output. With Denver struggling to score and Brewer having lost his hot hand Karl could not afford to keep him on the court. The one thing Brewer brings, energy, was not an issue for Denver tonight so his role was diminished.|
|JaVale McGee, C 32 MIN | 1-7 FG | 4-6 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +3 Mcgee had to great games out of seven. That is either hope for the future or a sign of what he will always be. Nene drove Nuggets fans crazy with his inconsistency, and McGee is no remedy to that issue. Still, McGee showed improved post defense, rebounded the ball very well and his ability to block and alter shots is undeniable. On a night Denver needed to get some easy buckets around the rim, McGee was AWOL.|
|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.
On Tuesday night the Nuggets did something they haven’t done in three years: play great basketball in the playoffs. Although the team won several games since its historic run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009, there was always something missing in those wins. They were hollow — strictly for the sake of putting a “W” on paper and not one in the hearts of their fans. Tuesday was different. On Tuesday, the Nuggets weren’t playing for a “W”; they were playing for the city of Denver, its fans and the pride of both.
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.
|Kenneth Faried, F 32 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -1
You have two options with Faried: either look at his stat line and excuse it as inexperience and being outmatched, or argue that it’s simply not good enough regardless of whether he’s a rookie or 10-year pro. I chose the latter. Faried showed in Game 3 that he’s more than capable of hitting the glass hard in a playoff game against much taller opponents. In Game 4 he was nowhere to be found. Seven boards are routine; six points is even worse. Faried did play good defense on Gasol but this was largely overshadowed by the fact that he was in terrible position to rebound the entire night. Faried must prove himself again in Game 5.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 9-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | -11
If not for the flop that essentially ended the game, Gallinari likely would have received an A-plus. For the most part Gallinari was spectacular. He hit one jump shot after another and outside of Andre Miller was the only guy looking to score in an aggressive manner. His defense on Kobe should not be overlooked either. He played a large role in limiting Kobe down the stretch and keeping the game close as a result.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -7
How are you supposed to grade Mozgov? Somebody inform me. He played solid post defense — like always — but was pretty unstable in every other aspect of the game. When he remained in for about five minutes to start the second half the Lakers immediately climbed their way back into the game which ended up being a huge momentum swing. While Mozgov does play better against the Lakers, I still think Koufos is a more reliable option, all things considered.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 32 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | +1
After scoring over 15 points in all but one game during the month of April, Afflalo has now failed to score over 11 this entire series. It’s clear that guarding Kobe is taking a toll on him. His legs are probably tired, and as a result, prevent him from knocking down shots or being aggressive the way he usually is. He is 2-11 from downtown this series which is keeping the Nuggets from hitting momentum-changing 3-pointers like the Lakers — who aren’t a good outside shooting team — have in several games already. The bottom line is that Afflalo is an essential part of the Nuggets core, and without his given 15-plus points per game, the Nuggets are a different, much worse team.
|Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 11 PTS | +1
While he’s still averaging 17 points per game in the series as a whole, Lawson’s inconsistency is bothersome. Even if he had scored five more points this game, it would have been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Nuggets. Though he wasn’t exactly timid, he also wasn’t the definition of “threatening” either. If Lawson can bounce back in Game 5 and somehow lead the Nuggets to victory, his weaker performances can be overlooked — after all, inconsistency is a part of basketball. But if he has yet another sub-par outing, it will likely be back to the Trading Machine for Nuggets fans across the globe.
|Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -4
Harrington hit one big 3-pointer but otherwise spent most of his time being abuse by Bynum or Gasol in the post. That’s not really his fault however. Even against the most talented power forward-center duo in the league Karl continues to play Harrington out of position. There’s just not much he can do against Gasol and Bynum defensively. He tries, but he just isn’t effective. On offense, he couldn’t get his shot to fall either. It would have been nice to see him take a few less shots but none were atrocious in terms of location or selection. In the end, Big Al still deserves a round of applause for fighting through a broken nose and still giving it his all for Nuggets Nation.
|Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -1
We’ve been critical of Miller for his selfish style of play, but in games like these it can really pay off. While most of his teammates stood around kicking the dirt with their hands in their pockets, Miller got to work from the start and never let up. Not once did he hesitate to take advantage of a smaller defender in the post and was quick to get any sort of offense going once the Nuggets made it past halfcourt. Had he waited just a fraction of a second longer for the tip-in that was called a goaltend, the outcome of this game could have been different.
|Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -3
Brewer was energetic, hit some unbelievable shots and played stingy defense on whoever he was guarding. His hands, especially, were like little mini tornadoes. They were constantly moving in a flurry, and whenever the ball came near, it seemed to get deflected out of his opponent’s hands in some way or another. Brewer should have received more than 13 minutes as he was playing extremely well and just seemed to be having “one of those nights.”
|JaVale McGee, C 27 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +5
McGee is another tough grade to dish out. On one hand, his paint presence alone means so much the Nuggets. He’s young, still maturing and learning every step of the way. At the same time, four rebounds in 27 minutes of action is extremely weak for a center as tall and athletic as McGee. The Lakers killed the Nuggets on the glass in Game 4, creating 10 extra possessions as a result. Had the Nuggets cut that number in half, this game would have been a different story. His paint presence — as evident by the four blocks — is a fantastic asset to have, but without rebounding it’s never going to be utilized the way it should be.
|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.
A very disappointing night for the Denver Nuggets. The boys in blue played much better, but it still was not enough as another second half rally fell short.
|Kenneth Faried, F 28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -7
In the first playoff game of his career Faried played decent. The problem is, decent won’t necessarily cut it this time of year. Faried can play better than this and the Nuggets desperately need him to play better. His energy has been one of the team’s most prized assets all year long and against the Lakers it could end up countering some of Bynum’s electric blocks.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-14 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | -17
Gallinari was about the only Nugget who came prepared to play for the playoffs, not the regular season. This was especially interesting considering how long it’s taken him to regain his form since returning from injury. He attacked the basket early and often, utilizing a variety of spin moves in the post that we haven’t seen in quite some time. He also knocked down shots when he was open and played good defense for most of the game. In the postgame press conference he admitted his team was hesitant on offense and that they need to figure out ways to score (i.e. getting out on the break) before Bynum gets set on defense. Clearly Gallinari understands what it takes to win against teams like the Lakers in the postseason. Now if he can just get his teammates to grasp this concept…
|Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -8
Koufos hardly made an impact. He started, as usual, but didn’t see many minutes after his initial stint. Karl said during a timeout how he needed his team to play up to it’s potential so he could understand whether his gameplan was working or not, but drastically cutting Koufos’ minutes seems to be hypocritical and counterproductive in that sense. Koufos has been a fairly large part of the Nuggets DNA over the last several months and is one of the few players on the roster who has the size and defensive aggression to possibly stifle Gasol or even Bynum. Seeing him play only 12 minutes doesn’t seem like enough time for a detailed evaluation of where he stands.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -7
Afflalo played great defense on Kobe… for about half the game. But once Kobe got going he never slowed down. Guarding the NBA’s second best shooting guard of all time is not an easy task. Afflalo did well for the most part but he still has to shoot better than 27 percent from the field. Anybody who takes pride in their defense knows it’s extremely difficult to lock down your opponent on one end and attack with aggression on the other, and sadly that’s what the Nuggets are asking from Afflalo. Still, if anybody can do it, it’s him.
|Ty Lawson, PG 31 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 7 PTS | -21
There was quite a bit of fuss on Twitter regarding Lawson’s performance. Clearly he was intimidated by the Lakers front-court duo of Bynum and Gasol and avoided penetrating the lane virtually all together for much of the game. But before we overreact and jump to conclusions (after only one playoff game nonetheless) let’s keep a few things in mind: First, Lawson was the Nuggets best player in the playoffs last year against Serge Ibaka and the Thunder. Second, Lawson has fared extremely well in terms of bouncing back after bad scoring outings this season, having scored in single digits on back-to-back occasions only once all year. Finally, the Lakers are just a flat-out bad matchup for the diminutive point guard. Ty Lawson is 5-11 on a good day; the Lakers front-court duo is 7 feet every day. Lawson relies heavily on dribble penetration and most importantly, finishing around the rim. When he has two 7-footers watching his every move, it’s extremely tough for him to play this way. I’m not trying to be an apologist, but I’m level headed enough to understand that just because he struggles against the best power forward-center combo since Duncan and Robinson doesn’t mean he’s not the Nuggets point guard of the future.
|Al Harrington, PF 22 MIN | 4-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -4
Harrington was bad. He didn’t play his game and attempted to force shots up when they weren’t falling in true Mamba-esque fashion. This is not the type of performance the Nuggets need from Big Al. At some point he needed to sever ties with shot attempts, as none of them were falling, yet he just never did. Look for Harrington to bounce back next game.
|Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | -5
Miller’s stat line is impressive, however it’s difficult to recall any one thing he did extremely well that helped the Nuggets in their attempt to win this game. He filled in for Lawson during stretches he normally wouldn’t — due to Ty’s struggles — and did a solid job all things considered. Hopefully Lawson finds ways to score next game so that Miller can revert back to the distributor he’s been lately that benefits the Nuggets most.
|Corey Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +3
Brewer was certainly a bright spot on a dull, dispirited afternoon. He played great defense on every person he was assigned to guard and was one of the few Nuggets who tried to embrace the fastbreak. His defense could end up playing a key role this series, especially if Karl decides to place him on Bryant.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -3
For the second game in a row Mozgov played better than he has for most of the season. Perhaps the key is only playing him 10-12 minutes per night as he seems to top out at “Maximum Productivity” after that point. I still think Koufos deserved about half of Mozgov’s minutes, if not more, for the simple fact that he isn’t a liability on offense and has been a major contributor for the Nuggets down the stretch.
|JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 0-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -10
Sunday was a struggle for McGee. Like many Nuggets, this was his first playoff game and it showed in the form of nervousness. He was fumbling the ball as if it were going out of style and couldn’t finish anything within two feet of the rim. But also like many of his teammates, he should bounce back on Tuesday with a more dominating performance.
|Julyan Stone, G 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +2
|Jordan Hamilton, G 2 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +2