After overcoming their fatigue and coming back from a 21-point deficit and putting themselves in position to win, the Nuggets failed to execute down the stretch and lost a close one to the Hawks. Denver ends up going 2-3 on their five game road trip, which was highlighted by last night’s big win in Miami.
The grades are below the fold. (more…)
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 3-10 FG | 10-10 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 16 PTS | +1
Loved the hustle and energy, but fact the fact he can no longer shoot straight is starting to limit his impact on the floor. Solid effort, but he just doesn’t work as a one-dimensional straight-line driver on offense. He showed a distinct lack of confidence in his shot and it affected his play in the second half.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 26 MIN | 2-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +7
Foul trouble was the main issue here as the Nuggets struggled to keep up on the glass while Faried was out. He still managed to lead the team in plus/minus and was a big factor in the Nuggets’ late surge.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 28 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -4
Really good effort in a lot of areas that won’t show up on the box score. He was foul prone and sloppy, but for an emergency start Mozgov started things off on the right foot and was solid at the end of the game as well. The rebounding output is encouraging considering Mozgov was pretty terrible all last season.
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 12-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 32 PTS | +4
Outstanding, with really the only blemish being that game-clinching turnover in the final minute. It’s been about a good 7 months since Ty’s played anywhere near this level and the Nuggets will look like a different team if this guy starts showing up more than once every 19 games.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 2-10 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 5 PTS | -1
I get that he doesn’t care about his own offense and generally makes his impact on the other end of the floor, but 5 points and 7 turnovers in 38 minutes is unacceptable. Sloppy effort and a poor finish out of someone the Nuggets are expecting to be a leader on the floor.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 6 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -6
Not great, but I find it hilarious/fitting/sad that both times Karl has brought Randolph off the shelf he’s played him next to JaVale McGee.
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -4
Still kind of in the rotation, but not really
|Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 8-15 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | -15
The Nuggets aren’t really playing good basketball when Brewer chucks up 15 shots and and plays like this, but he scored 19 points without hitting his threes and gives you the gaudy numbers off the bench.
|JaVale McGee, C 24 MIN | 5-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | 0
JaVale’s first stint off the bench is where the Nuggets started getting pounded inside and it continued the rest of the night. His failure to keep Hawks off the glass and protect the paint were a main reason Atlanta got control of the game and held onto it most of the night. McGee needs to focus on providing a solid presence down low and defense.
|Andre Miller, PG 18 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 8 PTS | -2
For the first time all season I get to say something positive about an Andre Miller performance. He started off the game normal (read: slow and awful) before undergoing a stunning transformation at the half. Miller was moving twice as fast as we’ve seen all season, closing out on shooters and looking unusually active on both ends. Whatever the halftime message was, Miller clearly got it.
|Kenneth Faried, F 25 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -10
His numbers were solid and the foul trouble was kept at a minimum. However, you got a dstinct sense Faried was trying to avoid whistles as he was occasionally exposed against Josh Smith and the Hawks’ many perimeter scoring threats. Faried did do a great job running the floor and going after rebounds like he always does. You’d like to see him work on a shot that isn’t a dunk, but his pure hustle makes it easy to overlook a lot of the rookie-type flaws in his game.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 6-7 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 19 PTS | +4
Hands down, that was one of the craziest game winners I’ve seen. Gallo is getting to the rim like he used to but the elevation and finishing ability just don’t look right. Karl finally realized Brewer does not need to be starting even with a half-functional Gallinari available, and Gallo responded with his usual “starter” numbers. Defensively Gallo was better than the rest of the Nuggets so it’s easy to crown him as the undisputed hero of tonight’s game.
|Nene, C 39 MIN | 8-16 FG | 6-6 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 22 PTS | -3
This is a really tough grade to give, because Nene made the game winning free throws and after Josh Smith fouled out, he was far and away the best big on the floor. Unfortunately I cant overlook the fact Nene played soft against Smith, who flat out embarrassed him. The only thing worse than his late game defense was watching Nene settle for jumpers nine times out of ten against Zaza Pachulia. It was one of Nene’s best games of the year, but I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth trying to evaluate his overall night. That just… wasn’t good.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -3
The leadership isn’t there. If the Denver Nuggets are going to fix their perimeter defense, it starts with Arron Afflalo. He is the only one capable of setting a good example. There are games where he’s clearly more concerned with getting his offense going rather than holding himself and his teammates accountable on defense. I could care less how many shots he takes — the Nuggets need more out of him from a leadership standpoint, because right now nobody cares about guarding the perimeter.
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 8-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 21 PTS | 0
Lawson’s early offense carried the Nuggets to a big lead, but his aggression seemed to be missing for a good part of the game. There’s no way you can complain about Lawson’s production, but he’s capable of a lot more. Lawson deferred to Andre Miller and Al Harrington way too much in the fourth quarter, and whether that’s a coaching decision or Ty’s refusal to demand the ball remains unknown.
|Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 8-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | +15
Al Buckets was once again the steadiest player on the court for the Denver Nuggets. You know exactly what you’re getting out of Harrington and his production rarely wavers enough to call him out. The story of the game was the fact he was perhaps the most important Nuggets player in terms of containing Josh Smith, for nothing more than the simple fact Harrington forced Smith to play defense. Smith would later foul out of the game in OT.
|Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 5 PTS | -3
My feelings on Miller are well-known, and it needs to be said right away Dre played his best individual game in weeks. He played probably about as well as he can play and was not in the game during the worst stretches, during which Denver really fell apart. The simple assessment I reach time and time again is only further affirmed by every game I see. When he comes into the game, Denver goes from a middling defensive team with potential to a terrible defensive team with no hope.
|Corey Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +3
Brewer thrived in a much more appropriate bench role. His production remained constant while his efficiency improved. It pretty much validates the fact Brewer is better suited to coming off the bench. The major problem I had with Brewer was his reach-in foul on Kirk Hinrich late in regulation. He just can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact you don’t need to go for a steal or deflection every single time you attempt to defend the ball.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 5 PTS | +2
Not much was expected out of Rudy after missing the last 11 games, but he was a surprisingly effective spark off the bench in the first half. His minutes were carefully monitored and he was only used for short stretches, but Rudy had a net positive impact during his time on the floor.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Awful. Really tough to watch, and judging by Mozgov’s reaction to coming out of the game, he seemed to know it. The good news is he barely played and the Hawks fortunately weren’t capitalizing on Denver turnovers in the first half.
It’s hard to understand (or even grasp the concept for that matter) what heaven must be like. Undoubtedly arriving in such a palatial and euphoric location would be blissful on the highest level. And though we can’t exactly embrace that feeling until we get there, we can certainly estimate as to how it might be. Watching the Denver Nuggets since the landmark Carmelo Anthony trade, one can only assume, is just like heaven. (more…)
With the exception of a lethargic fourth quarter against the Blazers, the Nuggets are immediately showing promise in an area we’ve seen them struggle for years – closing games. In tonight’s ten point victory over Atlanta, the Nuggets willed themselves forward with key runs to close out quarters and stifle the Hawks momentum long enough for them to succumb to the dreaded mile high back-to-back factor.
After stumbling out of the gate offensively as they have for three games, the Nuggets fell behind by 8 before an 8-4 run brought them within four, which would have been an 8-1 run had Jamal Crawford not sunk a cold blooded difficult three at the first quarter buzzer. In the second quarter, it was a 9-4 run to briefly take the lead and close the half down one, even after Atlanta had battled fatigue to own all the momentum of the first half. In the third, it was an 18-12 Nuggets run to close and take a one point lead of their own. By the fourth, the Nuggets completed what they were building on by rarely losing the lead and using a 10-5 run to close out a double digit win. That’s how you finish a game.
I cannot decide if I should feel good about this win or not. Honestly I do not want to feel good about it because of the way Denver played the first and fourth quarters. The Nuggets certainly showed more activity on defense than they did against Boston, but there were still plenty of holes in their defense. Add in the facts that Atlanta was missing two starters and was down eight with only 1:38 left in the game and the Nuggets still needed Flip Murray’s last second runner to bounce off the front of the rim in order to win and I really was left with a sick feeling in my stomach. They were just inches away from a five game losing streak.
Denver appeared to have the game well in hand. After trailing by as many as nine in the second quarter the Nuggets closed the first half on an 18-4 run. They extended their lead to as much as 17 in the third and Melo threw in a deep three pointer at the third quarter buzzer to send the Nuggets into the fourth quarter up 14.
I was thrilled to see the Nuggets had only turned the ball over seven times through the first three quarters. They entered the game averaging 19.5 turnovers per game after the All-Star break lowlighted by their 24 turnovers in Milwaukee. Sadly it took barely more than five minutes in the fourth quarter for the Nuggets to match their total of seven turnovers from the first three quarters. They ended up coughing the ball up ten times in the fourth quarter alone.
Denver’s offense ground to a halt in the fourth quarter and due to a combination of the aforementioned turnovers and stagnant uninspired play they only made four field goals in the quarter. All four were jumpers. The Nuggets did not score a point in the paint over the final 13 minutes. Now that is somewhat misleading as Chauncey did get to the line for six free throws on plays where he drove into, or at least in the vicinity of, the lane and was fouled and J.R. earned a pair of free throws, but apart from those four instances the Nuggets were seemingly always scrambling to fire off a jumper with the shot clock winding down. The key to the Hawks fourth quarter comeback was their 14 points in the paint. Fortunately for Denver the Hawks needed 16 in order to pull off the win.
I am getting off topic though. The story of this game was not the offense, which despite all its problems scored plenty of points with a very good efficiency rating to boot, but the defense. I wanted to see the Nuggets get back to playing tenacious defense as they had done as recently as last Wednesday in Philadelphia. They did not quite get the job done.
I have documented the Nuggets issues with defending the pick and role here and here and I wanted to see a better scheme, increased effort and better execution in that key area of team defense. The Nuggets did indeed come out with a better scheme and they certainly spent a little more energy defending screen and rolls than they did against the Celtics. However, without the execution the scheme and effort are pointless. Well, the execution left much to be desired.
The Hawks got off to a very good start on offense in the first quarter thanks to their ability to get easy baskets through their pick and roll game. The Nuggets switched their scheme from the switching defense that proved so ineffective against the Celtics to a version of the Celtics hedge and recover we looked at yesterday. The Nuggets took it a step further though aggressively trapping he ball handler, bringing weak side help to cover the roll man and then requiring the defender trapping the ball handler to recover back to his man who originally set the screen. If any part of the plan is implemented incorrectly the entire scheme will fail. Pretty much every time the Hawks ran pick and roll action the Nuggets missed at least one of the three elements of the plan. The first pick and roll action the Hawks ran the trap was strong, the weak side help showed, but Kenyon Martin lazily jogged back to his man, Al Horford, and left Johan Petro to cover both Zaza Pachulia and Horford. The result was an easy dunk.
The second time the Hawks ran pick and roll there was no weak side help and Pachulia scored an uncontested dunk.
The third pick and roll set once again Kenyon slowly jogged back to recover and the result was Pachulia left all alone under the hoop. By the time he caught the pass and gathered himself Kenyon showed up, but all the Nuggets could do was foul to prevent another easy bucket.
The fourth time the Hawks ran it, Dahntay Jones forgot that they were not switching anymore and started to leave thus negating the necessity of pressuring the ball handler with the trap. Fortunately the rest of the Nuggets were in good position to prevent anything at the rim, but the Hawks did earn a wide open three that fortunately for Denver clanged off the rim.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. The Nuggets were incredibly lucky that the Hawks basically abandoned the pick and roll game in the second half. Needless to say, I am not filled with encouragement regarding the Nuggets ability to defend this simple set in the future. This trapping scheme is something every player should be comfortable executing, but the Nuggets played like they just installed it yesterday during their off day.
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks ran more isolation sets and had some success early with Marvin Williams. The key to the fourth quarter though was the Hawks desire to have Joe Johnson take the game over contrasted with the Nuggets fear of Johnson taking over. Denver doubled Johnson almost immediately when he caught the ball. The result was they were left scrambling trying to cover either an open shooter or to collapse on the drive. Atlanta did a pretty good job of moving the ball and getting good shots. They had several attempts just rim out and the Nuggets should feel pretty fortunate for that. There were a couple of possessions where the Nuggets chose not to double Johnson and he made them pay with five easy points.
The other thing I wanted to see was some leadership and determination from Chauncey. He certainly played the role of Mr. Big Shot more than Mr. Pass First Point Guard as he lead the Nuggets in shots with 18, but he was aggressive and was able to the line 19 times. I could have done without a couple of the threes he forced up, but ultimately I got the impression he took a great deal of responsibility for getting a win and he came through. I was pleased to see a shot of him talking to J.R. in the fourth quarter and filling the role of coach/mentor on the floor. Chauncey gets a passing grade, but had the Nuggets played a tougher foe I am not sure they walk out of there with the win.
Speaking of tougher foes, I have already stated that I have written off the Laker game on Friday. Even if Nene does play, which apparently is a possibility, the way the Nuggets are defending they will get rolled off the floor. Fortunately the Trail Blazers lost to a Spurs team playing without Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan so the Nuggets gained a game back on them. That is an important game because Portland will earn it back Friday when they beat the Timberwolves and the Nuggets lose to LA.
Additional Game 58 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 89.6 – Slow for a home game.
Defensive Efficiency: 121.7 – Yikes.
Offensive Efficiency: 122.8 – Thanks to Melo’s marksmanship.
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It is still February and the Denver Nuggets are playing the Atlanta Hawks at home. Seems like just another monotonous regular season game? Not so. This is a must win game.
A loss tonight means the Nuggets will finish this three game home stand with a five game losing streak (yes, I have written off the Friday game against the Lakers and I recommend that you do the same). The Nuggets will be playing without Nene again and that means that out of the three games Nene has missed after today, two of them will have been against the Hawks. Atlanta used a long range barrage to defeat the Nuggets 109-91.
The Hawks are coming off a 108-89 loss in Utah where they only good thing they accomplished was to rough up the man we all love to hate Matt Harpring. The Hawks do not always bounce back after big losses as they are 3-3 in the game after a loss by more than 14 points.
The Nuggets are on their own losing streak and so far following games where they lose by 38 or more they are 1-0. The Nuggets have not lost four games in a row this season and they have won three of the last four games against the Hawks in Denver. The lone loss came two years ago as the Nuggets had a monumental collapse against Atlanta coughing up a 14 point lead in the last nine minutes of the game.
This game is all about the Nuggets defense. They followed up their best three game defensive stretch of the season with three straight terrible efforts. The three great defensive games are starting to look more and more like a fluke. The Nuggets defensive stats look solid thanks to their ability to put forth a lockdown effort from time to time, but Denver has lacked the consistent effort, physically and mentally, required to be a good defensive team night in and night out.
I think we can expect a good effort from Denver as they will be looking to bounce back from the drubbing they received at the hands of the Celtics. On the other hand, if they come out flat I think it is time to really start to worry about the mental makup of this team. Nene is out, Kenyon has a sore back and Melo is banged up, but so is everyone else. The Hawks will be without Josh Smith, who is missing the game because of a personal matter, not a suspension for his flagrant two on Harpring the other night. Mike Bibby is a game time decision due to illness. He tried to go against the Jazz, but was completely ineffective and had to leave the game early in the third.
Regardless of who plays or who is sore I want to see a great effort from the Nuggets tonight. If Chauncey Billups has any leadership cache then I expect to see him do some actual leading on the court tonight. If not, look for more threes early in the shot clock and another sorry defensive effort.
Previous Matchup: Game 32 – Den 91 Atl 109
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