The hallmark of the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets is inconsistency on every imaginable front: shooting, effort, defense, rebounding, you name it. A team that is equally capable of going to Oakland and beating one of the hottest teams in the league on their own court, and then two days later getting outplayed and beaten at home in the Pepsi Center by one of the worst teams in the league: This is who the Nuggets are.
Tonight, despite a late game push that brought them within as few as three points, Denver fell 109 to 117 to Cleveland, who never relinquished the lead they established in the second quarter. Grades after the jump. (more…)
The Denver Nuggets came up short on the tail end of a back-to-back, dropping a 10-point game to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 4-5 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | +1Gallo played a great all-around game tonight. His shooting was quite efficient, and he led the Nuggets with 19 points. But perhaps more importantly he played some solid defense, and he did a great job on the glass, pulling down nine rebounds, including four offensive. The only glaring problem with his game tonight was his four turnovers, and that’s what prevents him from getting a solid !.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 30 MIN | 7-12 FG | 3-6 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 17 PTS | +1It would be a mistake to think that it’s necessarily a problem if Faried doesn’t get a double-double. His impact on this game was huge. He downplayed his performance in postgame comments, saying, “I only had seven rebounds. That’s not me at all.” But in fact he was his typically high energy self, attacking the rim and breaking through the Cavs’ paint defense with consistency. Defensively, when he got switched onto perimeter shooters (especially Alonzo Gee in the first quarter), he was sometimes late to rotate, and he had the same turnover problem as Gallo.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +1Koufos was very effective in the first half, scoring eight points, many on putbacks from his five offensive rebounds. One thing that’s probably not said enough about Kosta’s consistency is that often what it means is when some of his teammates are struggling, he’s there to pick up the slack. George Karl decided to go small in this game, and Koufos didn’t play too much or make too big a difference in the second half, but he was a big part of Denver taking the lead into halftime.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 3-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +8Lawson got off to a slow start. Not only was his shot not falling, he somewhat reverted to the less aggressive style of play that limits his effectiveness. Fortunately, he didn’t let that get to his head and he came out in the second half with more determination. While he never really found his shot, he did a better job of pushing the pace, driving, and finding good looks for his teammates. When he was defending Kyrie Irving, he did at least a respectable (if not great) job of it. And unlike most of his teammates, he did a great job of protecting the ball.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 35 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +8This was pretty much the prototype of the kind of game we’d like to see from Iguodala on a regular basis. His playmaking was outstanding (he logged more assists than either point guard), he executed his offense mostly within the flow, letting it come to him rather than trying to force it (with a few exceptions), and when he was assigned to Irving, he did a very good job of containing him and limiting his effectiveness. Alas, like Gallo and Faried, he gets bumped down a half grade for four turnovers.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 6-8 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +3Brewer made such little impact in his first half minutes I hardly noticed he was even on the court. But he found his spark plug in thesecond half, bringing his usual hustle and energy, and making some good fast break and defensive plays. Overall, however, this was not one of those games that he really put his mark on.|
|JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 6-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +7McGee detractors who malign his out of control play (a criticism which admittedly often has merit) and lack of fundamentals may soon find themselves with a rapidly diminishing supply of ammunition. In recent games including this one, he more often than not has been playing level-headed, fundamentally sound basketball. It has taken time, but the work the Nuggets coaching staff (and, perhaps, Hakeem Olajuwon) has done with him is definitely starting to pay dividends. In this game his ability to block and alter shots was huge, including one very impressive block-catch-and-steal which I still do not think was a goaltend. He also shot an extremely efficient six of seven field goals. but once again, the turnover demerit is in effect.|
|Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +2Miller was trying to force things too much when he first came out, resulting in some poor decision making and a couple early turnovers. But he did find a way to play more within the flow after that, and he made a markedly positive impact in the second half with some pretty big shots and assists that helped the Nuggets maintain their lead. And like so many above him, he would have ended up a half grade higher if not for the turnovers.|
|Wilson Chandler, SG 23 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +9Chandler is still finding his way on offense, and hopefully someday soon he’ll get there. But he was deployed in this game primarily for defensive purposes, and he held up that end of his responsibilities well. Like Iguodala, he did a good job on Irving, and he also had a couple nice steals resulting in Nuggets points the other way. Ultimately, however, if he can’t find a way to perform more consistently on offense, it will be hard for Karl to find more minutes for him than the 22 he had tonight.|
|George KarlKarl sent Iguodala out to cover Irving on early possessions. This was a sound strategy, and I am generally in favor of putting Iguodala on the opponent’s best player early and often. What he didn’t have a backup plan for was what Denver would do if another player heated up like Alonzo Gee did. Fortunately the Nuggets weathered his first quarter onslaught (and let’s face it, Gee wasn’t going to stay hot forever — he’s no Sammy Dalembert), recovering in the second quarter to take the lead into halftime. And ultimately the strategy to limit Irving paid off. He finished the game with a fairly quiet 26 points on a fairly inefficient 10 of 24 shooting, and at no point in the game did he ever take control of it. The Nuggets played sloppy, but it’s always hard to discern how much of that is on the players and how much on lack of preparation by the coach, especially when going on the road after a long home stretch. The Cavs are better than their reputation, and this could have been a trap game, but the Nuggets were in control of it the whole game after the first quarter, and there wasn’t much to complain about in terms of matchups and rotations. So in accordance with what we might call Kalen’s Axiom, in which ultimately winning the the thing that matters most, Karl gets an A for a successful start to this road trip, and the Nuggets’ ninth consecutive win.|
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 31 MIN | 8-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 23 PTS | +8Gallinari started making some big plays in the third quarter that got the Nuggets back in the game. Funny how that usually seems to happen when he starts driving more aggressively to the basket. It really was his work on the offensive end that started breaking down what had been a very effective Cavaliers paint defense, and it enabled Denver to get back into their style of play and start making a comeback.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 33 MIN | 6-7 FG | 5-7 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +3This was among the worst of Faried’s defensive performances of the season. In the first half he was getting abused by Tristan Thompson and… Luke Walton. Luke Walton? He was better on the offensive end, but wasn’t really his usual explosive self for much of the game. He did come out with more energy and focus in the second half, though, and his rebounding and offensive efficiency went a long way in offsetting his defensive liability.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 35 MIN | 10-17 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 21 PTS | +12Since the entire team deserved an F for the first half, I really did not want to give any players an A for this game. But Koufos truly outdid himself tonight. He scored a new career high with 21 points in what is surely his best game of the season, if not career. On the rebounding and blocking front, the stat sheet may not look too impressive, but this was one of the most active, energetic performances we’ve seen from Kosta this season. Running the floor, battling in the paint, moving off the ball — in the second half he seemed to be everywhere he needed to be, doing all the right things. Maybe he stole what Corey Brewer usually drinks before games to get juiced up. Whatever it was, he gets the game ball.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 3-11 FG | 7-10 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 13 PTS | +10Lawson really needs to come out of the gates with aggression rather than waiting for the second, third or fourth quarter to turn it on. When he starts off sluggish it sets a weak tone for the entire team, and they have a hard time finding their groove. But fortunately, he did finally find a way to flip that switch in the fourth quarter, and his dribble penetration got the Nuggets some badly needed layups and helped to keep the defense honest. Because of that it’s tempting to grade him higher, but the six turnovers and the lackluster first half just can’t be overlooked.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 41 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 11 REB | 4 AST | 13 PTS | +9For the Nuggets defense late in the game, it was Iguodala who really made the difference by slowing down and frustrating a seemingly unstoppable Kyrie Irving. I was tempted to dock him a notch in the grading for a very poor decision he made late in the game by taking an out-of-sync corner 3-pointer with a lot of time left at a moment when Denver should have been chewing clock and looking for a higher percentage shot. But his overall game was solid, and as usual he was doing a little of everything that needed to be done.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 PTS | -6Brewer was absolutely worthless in the first half. And then he was almost as bad in the second, save for one steal that opened up a fast break, and maybe another play or two. This was a clear case of Karl overestimating “his guys.” At a time when the entire team’s shooting is ice cold, why not give Jordan Hamilton some run to see if he can make an impact? Only Karl knows.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 8 MIN | 0-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | +2Karl sent in Mozzie to enforce the paint to good effect in this game. He had three blocks in eight minutes, and had a sort of dislodging effect on the Cavs’ paint packing strategy. If Koufos hadn’t suddenly blown up, he may have gotten more minutes, but he did a good job in the little time he played.|
|JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 0-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -5McGee missed at least three or four dunks in this game. Somehow his ability to finish just evaporated. But he made a more spirited, energetic effort than most of his teammates through the first three quarters, blocking and altering shots and contesting for rebounds (he had seven in just 12 minutes). His inability to knock down his shots and connect on his dunks dampened his net impact in this game, but at least his heart and his effort were in it from the start, which is more than most of his teammates can say.|
|Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 8 PTS | +5Firstly, Andre Miller needs to stop taking 3-pointers. It seems to be a recent trend that he takes one or two a game, and it needs to be put to rest. With that out of the way, some of both the good and bad Miller were on display tonight. He did a fairly good job of finding his midrange jumper, as well as a fairly good amount of dribbling into traffic and turning it over, and giving Cleveland’s perimeter shooters open looks. It’s not enough to bump him up into B territory, but it should be noted that, against all odds, he made a huge offensive rebound down low late in the game that resulted in a Lawson layup that decisively shifted the advantage to the Nuggets.|
|Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -3Fournier is fearless, a decent decision maker given his professional experience in Europe, and a spirited defender. So it’s easy to understand why Karl likes him. But he struggles to find a way to be effective outside of garbage time, and based on their respective performances this season, it’s not clear why he has come to emerge ahead of J-Ham in the rotation. He accomplished nothing tonight.|
|George KarlIn the Rapid Reaction for the last game against the Magic, Kalen discussed how the Nuggets always come out flat in games. Another thing they always do is play down to inferior opponents. In post-game comments, Bill Hanzlik talked about how frustrating and disappointing such things must be to Karl. The only problem with that, however, is that these problems date back years. They were hallmarks of the Melo era. And now, with only one Nuggets player remaining from that time (or two depending on how you look at i) and 13 new players on a roster that has almost entirely turned over, it’s the same old crap. It’s easy to point a finger at the players — and they do surely deserve some of the blame — and criticize their lack of effort. But this goes beyond that. It’s structurally endemic to the Nuggets culture, and the architect of that culture is George Karl. From an outside perspective, it’s hard to evaluate coaches since so much of coaching goes on behind the scenes, and we’re largely limited to rotational decisions, interactions with the refs, timeout usage, and scattered, often vague anecdotes from beat reporters. There’s a continuum of shared responsibility between the players and coaching staff, and when things go wrong it’s not always easy to discern who carries the larger burden of responsibility. Tonight, the Nuggets dodged a bullet and eked out a win against a team they should have dominated. But to say they came out flat would be an understatement. They came out utterly deflated, and given the upcoming schedule which features GSW, a surging POR, OKC twice and HOU twice in the next nine games, that’s inexcusable. Cleveland came out with a clear game plan which they pretty much executed to perfection in the first half. The scouting reports were in, their playeers were all on the same page, they knew exactly what they were doing. The Nuggets looked lost and confused, totally unprepared. They should have been up for this game, and they were not. At all. And that’s on Karl, whose team won in spite of it.|
In Roundball’s recent Denver Nuggets’ Big Board 2.0 I stated, “If Faried does however manage to find his way past the Trailblazers, to put it simply: Nuggets fans should be ecstatic.” Little did I know however, that “ecstatic” wouldn’t even begin to cover the range of emotions I felt as David Stern announced Faried’s name as the Nuggets’ 22nd overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Quite a few storylines unfolded on Tuesday night in Secaucus, N.J., but none were bigger than the Cavaliers winning two of the top four overall picks behind the fortuitous, and confident, 14-year-old Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and team representative for the night. (more…)
With the Denver Nuggets already out of the playoffs and the NBA Draft a little over a month away, speculation on how the Nuggets will approach the draft and who it will take with the 22nd pick is firmly underway. Equipped with an enticing asset in Raymond Felton as well as the less attractive Al Harrington — both of whom are overshadowed at their respective positions by other teammates, thus making them somewhat trade-able — the Nuggets have the option to make a variety of moves if prompted. (more…)
With the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs already underway and the Nuggets opening series against the Thunder not far behind, it’s time to look back, forward and all around at the season that has been and the playoff season that might be. (more…)
With the current Denver Nuggets squad far surpassing any expectations fans had following the historic Carmelo Anthony trade, it’s now time to start seriously looking at whether or not another 50-win season is approaching. With nine games left to play and our current record sitting at 44-29, you’d think 50 wins would be easily attainable considering how hot the Nuggets have been as of late, but like all teams not named the Miami Heat, the final stretch of games in the NBA season is almost guaranteed to be tough. (more…)
Recap by GoldenNugget
Well, apparently the Cavaliers new year’s resolution of winning one game in 2011 has been postponed for at least another contest. Friday night the Denver Nuggets held off the the Cavs 117-103 as they marched through Quicken Loans Arena led by Carmelo Anthony’s 33 point outburst.
Apologies for no preview tonight, but I had a feeling this game might be… like it was. The Cavs have only won once in their past 23 games and end their six game road trip on the second night of a back to back. Although the Cavs rank near the bottom in every offensive category, they also own the league’s third worst defense and haven’t held an opponent under 100 points in 10 games. To get the job done the Nuggets simply needed to score at about half the level they’re capable of, which they did with ease.
If you did not enjoy that game, you probably should not bother watching basketball anymore. When Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James first entered the NBA, tonight’s game is what the league had in mind. Two all-stars at the top of their game playing for two contenders going at each other possession after possession in a tight nationally televised game.
Ultimately, it was Carmelo Anthony who made the game winning jumper when LeBron’s last second heave, that was dangerously close to going in, bounced off the rim.
The final Nuggets possession was very fascinating to watch. It looked to me like Carmelo set a screen that was just bad enough to ensure LeBron did not have to switch onto Chauncey and then immediately set himself up for a pass from Chauncey. He did not think of rolling and having the Cavs defense collapse on him and thus take away his chance to take the final shot. Carmelo had been driving by LeBron regularly and in his post game confab with Craig Sager shared that he knew LeBron would expect him to drive. Melo gave him a jab step and to get just enough room to get the shot off and drained it in LeBron’s face.
It was a magnificent shot and even more so for the way Carmelo chose what he wanted to do, set it up and then calmly knocked it down.
You can read my thoughts about Carmelo announcing his return to the upper echelon of super stars on the Daily Dime (box 9), plus I answered a bunch of trade deadline related questions during the game in the Daily Dime Chat so check that out too.
Apart from the incredible back and forth between LeBron and Carmelo another part of the game I was interested to see was how would the Nuggets react to all the distractions that have surrounded them the previous few days not only with the shocking announcement by Karl on Tuesday, but with the trade deadline passing.
I fully expected Denver to come out and play hard for Coach Karl and they certainly did not disappoint. Their intensity and effort in the first quarter was sensational. I also thought it was interesting to see Karl let Denver play. With the Nuggets having the ball in a tie game at the end of both regulation and overtime George Karl chose to let the possession play out and not call a timeout. I liked the decision both times. There was plenty of time to work with and why let the Cavs take time to discuss exactly what they want to do. Plus with Carmelo and Chauncey on the floor, you know one of them will get a makeable shot.
I think the situation with Coach Karl will help keep this team focused. They obviously respect him and I think they will go their best to give their all for him.
The other distraction for the Nuggets was the passing of the trade deadline. They could have sulked about how they did not make a move to improve the roster, but it was almost as if the trade deadline did not ever exist. Then again with what little the Nuggets had to offer other teams, the existence of the trade deadline was somewhat fictional for Denver. Still, it is a stressful day for players and coaches alike.
All in all it was a great win for Denver. The played well on both ends of the floor and earned a win against a team that had won 13 straight and is nearly impossible to beat at home.
Additional Game 54 Nuggets
Once again I am thrilled to be wrong. After posting that the Nuggets should rest their injured players against the Cavs, Denver went on and secured a wonderful 99-97 victory over the red hot Cavaliers. In my defense I was working under assumption that Chris Andersen was not playing and Nene would have been limited if he did play. Obviously Birdman played and Nene did not appear to experience any ill effects from the ankle sprain he suffered in the fourth quarter against Golden State.
Denver is now 3-1 without Carmelo with wins in Utah and Cleveland. Even more importantly the Nuggets are playing team basketball. Sadly it took them a little too long to figure out how to win with a truncated roster. The good news is they are still very much in the hunt for the second seed in the West and are close to getting back to full strength.
As far as their win over Cleveland, they played consistently well on both ends of the floor. Offensively once again they were at their best when they avoided one on one basketball and worked both sides of the floor. Denver typically runs pick and roll right away early in the offense, however against Cleveland they frequently ran a cross screen with one of their guards to get the defense uprooted before running the pick and roll. They also utilized their ability to penetrate to get easy baskets either off the drive or with a dump off to one of the bigs who were always ready for a pass.
Defensively Denver played tremendous positional team defense. For most of the game they were very good on the ball, pressuring the ball handler and helping on penetration. I thought the Nuggets played with tremendous focus and cohesion. Of course, the Cavs are not the kind of team who can take advantage of Denver’s issues in transition, apart from LeBron’s one man fast breaks, and the Cavs are not a big pick and roll team. That is not to say they do not run pick and roll, but the Cavs guards do not attack the basket off the screen, but they come off soft which allowed the Nuggets bigs to lay back and cover the paint. Instead of working to get the ball in the paint off the pick and roll Cleveland seemed more interested in finding their three point shooters on the backside of the play who have room to shoot because the defense is preparing to help in the lane.
They did have some issues covering the weak side and did give up a couple of easy buckets off of basket cuts. Fortunately the Cavs were more focused on their perimeter offense.
Of course, anytime you play the Cavs, you need to give most of your defensive attention to LeBron James. The Nuggets relied on hardnosed man to man defense to make tings tough on James. Joey Graham started off on LeBron early in both halves, Afflalo took over for the bulk of the second and fourth quarters and then to close out the game George Karl called on Kenyon Martin to keep LeBron from getting into the lane. All three of them did a marvelous job. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Afflalo and Graham held LeBron to 5-18 shooting and only 13 points. We will get to Kenyon’s play on LeBron a little later.
Chauncey was very good in his return from a groin injury. He looked quick and it did not take him long to find his shot. I thought he did a good job of picking and choosing when to attack the basket, he had three or four impressive drives, and his jumpers mostly came within the flow of the offense. His penetration set up J.R.’s big three with 31 seconds left.
With Carmelo out of commission, one concern was who would take the big shots down the stretch in a close game. Against Utah there were no clutch possessions because Denver pounded them into submission. Versus Philly it was Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo who provided the bulk of the offense down the stretch. In the Golden State game J.R. and Anthony Carter provided the offense down the stretch.
Last night with the Cavs threatening it was another team effort with Afflalo hitting a big three to tie the game at 91, Kenyon making a short jumper off the glass, both of which were assisted by J.R. and then J.R. hit the game clinching shot, a long three his first of the game, to put Denver up five with just 31 seconds remaining.
Even when the Nuggets were struggling it was never due to a lack of effort or desire. They flat out beat the Cavaliers and it was a very good win.
Additional Game 36 Nuggets
I have never promoted this before for the Denver Nuggets at any point during a season where they have a quality team capable of going places, but as much as I want to promote the band together and produce a super human effort I think tonight is a situation where Denver should play to win…on Saturday.
According to Chris Tomasson, Carmelo Anthony is out, Chris Andersen is out and Ty Lawson is doubtful. Benjamin Hochman is reporting Nene is a game time decision and both are saying Chauncey Billups will try to come back for the second time from his groin injury tonight.
Oh, by the way, Denver is playing the East leading Cleveland Cavaliers who have won eight of nine and 13 of their previous 15 games. The Cavs have crushed the Nuggets the previous two meetings, especially last year in Denver and I do not see that changing with the current state of health at the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets can kill themselves, play on bad ankles and work their tails off to hopefully stay close to the Cavs or they can let the bench have their night, give everyone another day to heal up, including Chauncey, and give it their best shot in Sacramento on Saturday.
It pains me to say it, but I say give up tonight to win tomorrow. Of course, there is no guarantee that Denver will pull out a victory in Sacramento by resting all their injured players against Cleveland, but there is a good chance by sending Nene and Chauncey out there and giving big minutes to Kenyon could greatly reduce your chances of winning on Saturday.
Anthony Carter and J.R. Smith can handle the point. Arron Afflalo, Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman can deal with the swing positions, Kenyon martin can play a few minutes at power forward with Balkman and Malik Allen filling in the rest and Petro and Allen can take care of the minutes at center.
It will be horrible to watch and ESPN will undoubtedly be bummed out, but once, just this one time, I think it is the right thing to do.