Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 118 Atlanta Hawks 117 (OT)

Atlanta Hawks 117 Final
Recap | Box Score
118 Denver Nuggets
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.

Dreaming of Manimal

It is rare that I remember my dreams.  When I was a kid I remembered my dreams all the time.  I remember the one where I was asked to go to another planet and fight robots.  I remember the one where I was in one of those plastic pools that are about a foot deep with Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.  I really remember the one where I was at a friend’s house and had to go to the bathroom, but all the doors were locked so I relieved myself in the drain by the hot water heater only to wake up to find out that I missed the drain, but hit my bed.

I actually did remember my dream from a couple of nights ago because I was Kenneth Faried.

I was throwing down dunks on the Los Angeles Lakers left and right.  The last play I made I leapt and hung in the air as Andrew Bynum jumped at me and sailed past.  I then tossed the object I had in my hand gently into the center of the net.  It was not a basketball, it was a cupcake.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 119 Sacramento Kings 116 (OT)

Sacramento Kings 116 Final
Recap | Box Score
119 Denver Nuggets
Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +2

With Gallo and Nene back in the mix, I was worried about Brewer being able to ease up on his shooting. The Nuggets have needed him to produce points with all of the injuries, but double figure scoring from Brew typically means 10 plus attempts and around 40% shooting. The good news is Corey shot a lot less but still took most of his attempts outside the paint and just didn’t produce a lot in the hustle categories, where his true value lies. Despite the struggles, Brew gets a birthday bump for his grade on the night he celebrated his 26th with an utterly fantastic team win.

Kenneth Faried, F 34 MIN | 7-9 FG | 6-7 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | -4

When you get a career high 20 points and a double-double for the third time in four games, you get an ‘A’. What’s remarkable about Faried’s last few games is the fact he’s been struggling like all rookies do. Faried was noticeably outhustled and outworked on the boards on several occasions. Just take a look at his gaudy statline and realize this was far from a complete performance. What the ‘Manimal’ is showing us in his short time as a rotation player is quite special — it’s just rare to see a rookie become such an important part of his team’s success is such a short time on the floor.

Timofey Mozgov, C 7 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -3

This is the third game in a row Mozgov has tweaked his ankle and he has yet to sit out for some rest. The young Russian played only 7 minutes and kept the offensively-challenged Nuggets afloat in the first quarter. Shortly thereafter he again came up gingerly on his left ankle and Karl wisely kept him out of the game as a precaution. While Mozgov was solid in his extremely limited stint, there’s not a whole lot here to draw from in terms of a grade.

Arron Afflalo, SG 45 MIN | 9-20 FG | 10-11 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 32 PTS | +3

Incredible. Afflalo set a new career high with 32 points and his clutch heroics need to be experienced to be believed. It was one of the more spectacular finishes I’ve seen in professional basketball, because these players and coaches have seen it all and they definitely weren’t prepared for Afflalo’s performance tonight. Those six points at the end of regulation came off some of the most cold blooded shooting I’ve ever seen at the close of a Nuggets game, even in the era of you-know-who. If you didn’t see it, stop what you’re doing now and go watch.

Ty Lawson, PG 43 MIN | 7-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 13 AST | 16 PTS | -4

Another near triple-double, another game-winner, another up and down night where Lawson shined brightest with the game on the line and his team in utter despair. And this was the second night of a back to back. No big deal.

Al Harrington, PF 35 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 14 PTS | +12

Harrington’s production remains some of the steadiest on the team. He turned in another solid game, nearing another double-double but struggling with efficiency and missing most of his fourth quarter attempts. Harrington played the final 16 minutes of the first half and was fatigued in the fourth quarter. Harrington gives you a solid effort night in and night out, but the increased workload is taking it’s toll. Harrington played “waist-up” basketball down the stretch and had trouble getting his legs under his shot and moving his feet on defense.

Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 0-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 11 AST | 2 PTS | +8

Miller bounced back in a huge way, considering his second half in San Antonio was probably one of the worst shooting performances in a half by any player this season. Miller played much better tonight, notching 11 quality assists and making a fantastic play on what should have put the game away with 30 seconds remaining in overtime. Bad calls aside, Miller made solid decisions all night, perhaps the only downer being his 4 turnovers.

Chris Andersen, C 14 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-5 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -4

He was great in the pick and roll, great in the open floor and superb in the energy categories, where Birdman tallied 2 blocks and 5 free throw opportunities limited minutes. Birdman is doing all he can to debunk the “Anthony Carter” theory stating that he needs a multiple days rest to be effective on the court.

Nene, C 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -1

The good thing is Nene looked healthy and showed no problems making lateral cuts or elevating. The bad news is it appears Nene has gone the better part of a month without practicing much basketball. The game was moving a little too fast for him and Nene had trouble catching passes and getting his shot off. Nene should work himself up to speed with some more practices and conditioning sessions under his belt.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +6

It’s tough for me to tell if Gallo is all the way healthy yet, because he certainly wasn’t moving about the court at his normal speed. On the other hand, Gallo made some nice shots and never forced anything. Gallo still seems to be testing his ankle and feeling out his ability to go full speed, which is fine. Like Nene, the team just didn’t know how to adjust to him being back on the floor yet, especially having played a tough game last night in San Antonio.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 99 San Antonio Spurs 94

Denver Nuggets 99 FinalRecap | Box Score 94 San Antonio Spurs
Corey Brewer, SF 33 MIN | 4-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +2
Take away the three 3-pointers he missed and Brewer shot a much more respectable, and efficient, 4-8 from the field. While there’s nothing wrong with him taking a few open threes, keep in mind Brewer has never been a strong outside shooter and is much more effective when cutting to the basket.
Kenneth Faried, F 29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -2
Faried had a relatively quiet night from a statistical standpoint. In 29 minutes you’d expect him to be well above a double-double; however, what can’t be ignored is Faried’s effervescent attitude and unrivaled enthusiasm that overflow into the rest of his teammates. His willingness to do the type of dirty work many NBA primma donnas won’t even consider is the epitome of the phrase, “a breath of fresh air.” Is it a coincidence that at the same time George Karl is showing confidence in Faried by prescribing him a heavy dose of minutes, the team is suddenly playing with a renewed sense of passion, heart and energy? I think not.
Timofey Mozgov, C 15 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +4
Prior to Mozgov exiting the game for the second time in as many nights, he was having yet another solid performance. While it’s frustrating watching him fumble more often than Brett Favre, it’s also encourage to watch him grow in other aspects of the game. His defensive effort is still there while his confidence continues to expand. Hopefully his injury was nothing serious as Mozgov needs as much playing time as he can get in order to keep evolving as a player.
Arron Afflalo, SG 37 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | 0
Yes, his stat line isn’t gaudy but Afflalo gave the Nuggets nothing but positive output, and when you’re facing the Spurs, that’s EXACTLY what you need to do in order to win. Limiting mistakes must be No. 1 on your gameplan list when going up against San Antonion and no other player embodied this philosophy as much as Afflalo.
Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 7-16 FG | 6-6 FT | 9 REB | 11 AST | 22 PTS | +6
Ty Lawson. Just let it simmer. Again, words aren’t going to do justice for just how big of a role he played in a huge road win for the Nuggets. He was one rebound shy of his first triple-double yet hit the first game winner of his career. This is the second night in a row where Ty Lawson has virtually won an important road game for the Nuggets by being unconsciously aggressive and taking control of his team’s offense as a whole, all while flirting with a triple-double. If this Ty Lawson keeps showing up the rest of the season, the Nuggets will be a totally different team than is currently constructed.
Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 6-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | +3
Harrington hit some huge shots when the Nuggets were on life support and for that alone, he gets high marks. Not only were these shots important, but many of them were difficult as well. Making difficult shots in tight games is not an easy task. You really can’t say enough bout “Big Al” in this regard. He also played pretty decent defense on Tim Duncan most of the evening.
Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 5-18 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 11 PTS | +4
Fans have struggled with Andre Miller all season long and while his “defense” has always been the topic of discussion, it’s now his selfishness that’s really driving people bananas. Against the Spurs, this culminated with a stretch — late in the game, mind you — where Miller missed 10 straight shot attempts, three of which didn’t even come close to going in. It was as if Miller totally disregarded the fact that (A) he even had teammates and (B) was in a close game that his team was in position to win. Almost every instance where he received the ball Miller immediately tuned out everyone else but himself and decided then and there that it was he who would attempt to score the basketball. Had Miller not been so self-centered the Nuggets probably would have won in a more comfortable fashion.
Chris Andersen, C 19 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +3
It’s tough grading “Birdman” in this scenario. He was more efficient and productive than Faried on a minute-per-minute basis, but also committed several frustrating mistakes that the Nuggets couldn’t really afford. For example, his two unnecessary fouls on Tim Duncan within 10 seconds of each other in the fourth quarter could have easily come back to bite the Nuggets in the ass. Thankfully however, Denver didn’t commit many more ill-advised fouls after that and kept the Spurs off the free-throw line to close out the game. Additionally, Birdman just looked tired out there. Perhaps all the trade rumors are wearing him down. Either way, he gave it his all and that’s enough for one night.
Julyan Stone, G 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Stone was again inserted to play defense on one possession and did his job. Now if he could just share a few of Andre Miller’s minutes and actually make an impact on the defensive side of the ball like he’s capable of doing, we’d actually be able to give him a real grade.
Jordan Hamilton, G 11 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +5
Hamilton hit one huge 3-pointer but was otherwise somewhat invisible. It’s hard to do much in 11 minutes and at this point, it’s unclear as to where Hamilton stands in George Karl’s pecking order. You’d like to see him log more time but as has been mentioned above, mistakes must be limited against the Spurs. In this sense, Karl deserves some credit for recognizing this was probably not the best game for Hamilton to experiment in.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 104 Portland Trail Blazers 95

Portland Trail Blazers 95 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Denver Nuggets
Corey Brewer, SF 26 MIN | 5-14 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +4
14 shots in 26 minutes is a lot, but Brewer has never been shy about letting it fly and he’s continued to develop into a more consistent offensive player. I thought it was a very tough matchup going against Gerald Wallace and Nic Batum, but Brewer held his own. Karl did a fantastic job managing his minutes and not forcing him out there in a super-small lineup where he’s likely to be overpowered by bigger players.
Kenneth Faried, F 17 MIN | 6-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +8
It sounds ridiculous for a player who only saw 17 minutes, but if I had to give an MVP award for this win it would undoubtedly go to Faried. He was instrumental in setting the tone for the Nuggets, defending with vigor and dominating the paint on both ends. Seven offensive rebounds is the most any Nuggets player has gathered this season, and Faried did it in less than 20 minutes. The “Manimal” is growing up quick and when you imagine what he might do with more minutes and a more polished offensive game — it’s downright scary.
Timofey Mozgov, C 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +3
Mozgov had a very solid performance. Although he struggled defensively at times, much to Scott Hastings’ chagrin, Mozgov was physical with Aldridge and much more assertive on the offensive end. He’s been struggling with turnovers and rebounding, two areas in which he improved greatly tonight. Mozgov just needs to be more consistent in terms of production with his 20 minutes a night as he continues to prove himself as a valuable role player.
Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | +9
Afflalo’s shot was flat and he missed several big free throws, but outside of that his game was superb. Afflalo’s been much more confident in his offensive game and continues to improve by taking more shots in the flow of the offense. The only things missing right now are the three-point consistency and his reliability at the foul-line. If those areas improve and he continues the kind of production we’ve seen in the last two weeks, Afflalo could be safely considered one of better shooting guards in the Western Conference.
Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 18 PTS | +17
Lawson started slow after returning from injury and seemed to be going through an up-and-down night as he struggled to find his rhythm. On the other hand, the Nuggets offense looked so markedly different with him back in the mix it became clear how important he is despite not being able to make his shots. Lawson then exploded late and assumed total control of the game behind 6-9 shooting in the fourth quarter. His offense was brilliant most of the night and he delivered the win when the Nuggets needed someone to step up down the stretch.
Al Harrington, PF 31 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +8
Al played a good game, replacing Faried early and often but maintaining good enough defense and rebounding to avoid much of a drop-off in either area. Al was clearly worn out before the break and struggling to work off his teammates for shots. Harrington played 30 minutes and looked tired at the end of his stint, but there’s no denying he took much better shots and gave way better effort in other areas outside of scoring.
Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 4 PTS | +1
Miller was not as bad as his stats indicate, but just take a look at how dreadful his line was. Although Miller looked spry and was more “active” on the defensive end, he still struggled to rotate and close out on shooters. It should be stressed Miller was better on defense than he has been, but his game is still plagued by inconsistency and frequent stretches of flat-out horrible play. Miller took only four shots, two of which were three-pointers and he committed two bad turnovers late, when all Denver had to do was hold onto the ball in order to win.
Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Koufos was his usual productive self, providing a steady rebounding presence and decent enough offense in his limited time on the floor. Where Koufos really shined was in the closing stretch of the game, where Karl trusted him to close out the win in Nene’s usual role. Koufos defense was spectacular in some crucial late-game sequences and he never stopped playing hard. This is some of the most focused defense I’ve seen out of Koufos, who had two of his four blocks in a pivotal fourth quarter where the game was closer than it seemed.
Jordan Hamilton, G 14 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | +2
Hamilton was a mixed bag – but mostly good as he’s still finding his way through the first handful of meaningful games in his pro career. Hamilton was extremely aggressive on offense, dishing his way to three nice assists but also taking some bad shots, a couple of which he made in spectacular fashion. You have to love the energy Hamilton is playing with, but he failed to block out Batum on a fourth quarter putback which ended up getting him benched. A double-digit scoring game is progress and Hamilton just needs to work on his fundamentals and accept the short leash that comes with every rookie mistake.

Highway to the Danger Zone?

Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Timofey Mozgov, Arron Afflalo. They all have missed game this season with an ankle sprain.  Some have been serious (Gallo) some have been much less so (Afflalo).  However, I think I speak for Nuggets fans everywhere when I ask, “What is with all the ankle sprains?”

Let me propose two potential causes that are the two pillars of Denver’s offense, pace and paint points, two categories in which they lead the entire NBA.  Maybe the Pepsi Center should be known as the Danger Zone. (more…)

Nuggets News: Gallo’s return and a Chandler update

For those not following us on twitter, there’s been a couple more rumors swirling around the ongoing Wilson Chandler saga. The first coming out of hoopshype stating that the Toronto Raptors are actively trying to free up space for an offer sheet by trading Leandro Barbosa. The second and most compelling rumor causing much consternation amongst Nuggets fans is out of Sportando, an Italian basketball website which is reporting that Chandler’s agent Chris Luchey is “in serious talks with an Italian team to seal a deal for rest of season.”

Both rumors are sourced only to twitter and it’s fair to say they’re rooted in speculation more than anything else right now. As we’ve gone through several times with the Chandler situation, he is in a unique position and only able to negotiate in earnest with one team — the Denver Nuggets.

I would not put a lot of stock into the Leandro Barbosa rumors. He’s been on the trade block for a while and the Raptors know that desperately giving him away in a hurry is a questionable move considering there is no guarantee Denver does not just match their offer sheet. As has been reported by ESPN and Hoopsworld, the Raptors seem resigned to the fact that putting together an offer sheet at this late stage is not likely to work out well.

The rumors of Chandler’s agent negotiating with Italy only reinforces our view that Denver holds all the cards in terms of Wilson returning to the NBA. It’s clear that he wants to be in the NBA, even going so far as to negotiate an early release from his Chinese team and seek an early letter of clearance from FIBA. As we have assumed for a long time, Denver has no interest in signing Chandler short term and granting him the holy grail of unrestricted free agency in exchange for a few months of service.

Wilson must feel he is being forced over to Europe due to Denver not willing to accept a one year deal. Chandler can certainly apply pressure by threatening to head over to Europe for the remainder of the season, but Denver would still own his rights whenever he returns. Not to mention Chandler runs the risk of serious injury while he remains a free agent and there is no guarantee he will be rewarded with the richer contract he’s seeking by waiting till the summer.

The Nuggets are playing hardball with Chandler, as expected. All it means as the process will be longer and more drawn out as Chandler exercises his leverage and continues to test Denver’s resolve to give him the long-term deal he seeks. The Nuggets clearly seem more interested in protecting themselves rather than just getting him on the floor and it looks like a 50/50 proposition in terms of whether or not he’ll be back.

I highly recommend following us on twitter, as I often discuss Chandler stuff there and the situation is such that we won’t post about every future development as it occurs. You can follow me here and go ahead and give Kalen and Jeremy a follow as well.

On to the current links and Nuggets news, bullet-style this time for convenience.

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The 12 Game Road to Recovery

The new year started out kind to the Nuggets, especially after beginning January with a franchise best 12-3 record. Although they went on to lose their final two games in January, coach George Karl still called it “maybe the best month I’ve ever had” as the Nuggets were talked about as legitimate contenders for a top four seed in the Western Conference.

That was three weeks ago. Even the worst case scenarios back then might not have predicted the precipitous slide the Nuggets would go on after losing those final two games in the month of January. Unfortunately the nightmares have come true as the Denver Nuggets limp into the All-Star break reeling and out of the playoff picture altogether. To say they have fallen on hard times would be a massive understatement.

The injuries have gotten so bad moral victories have the Nuggets feeling pretty good about themselves despite going 1-5 in their last six games. It seems ridiculous, but the optimism is not misguided. To say the Nuggets have a favorable schedule coming up would be putting it lightly. 10 of the next 12 are at home and the Nuggets will be playing on at least one day of rest for ALL of them. Let’s take a look.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 99 San Antonio Spurs 114

San Antonio Spurs 114 Final

Recap
| Box Score
99 Denver Nuggets
Corey Brewer, SF 29 MIN | 9-17 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | -18
It’s really tough to rely on Brewer’s offense, but his constant energy and enthusiasm sure is fun to watch. Brewer was having a pretty poor start to his night before exploding in the fourth quarter where he scored 12 of his 23 points. In an interesting development Brewer guarded Tony Parker with Andre Miller off the floor and was able to pressure him. Brewer’s being asked to fill too big of a role with all of the injury problems and his all effort deserves praise.
Kenneth Faried, F 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 4 PTS | -18
He was benched for Al Harrington yet again, but Faried proved he is indeed still a rookie and struggled to keep the fundamentally sound Spurs off the boards. The “Manimal” has been expanding his game and showing flashes of offensive talent but needs to be more consistent on the rebounding front to solidify his place in the rotation. Games like these will happen for the inexperienced Faried and while he struggled to be effective you never once had to question his effort and his ongoing drive to improve.
Timofey Mozgov, C 20 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -1
Mozgov was playing solid ball before getting injured against the Lakers and he’s really struggled to get back into form since returning. He once again started poorly, showing his penchant for fouling and turning the ball over too much. Mozgov did play better as the game wore on, but was generally dominated by the Spurs front line and it’s hard to overlook the fact he’s largely ineffective in his minutes right now.
Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 7-10 FG | 5-6 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 20 PTS | -17
Miller is more reliable as a starter than a reserve, so his impressive stat line doesn’t come as huge surprise. What the numbers don’t tell you is that Miller held the ball a lot and struggled to create decent opportunities as Denver fell behind by as much as 28 points with him directing the offense. Staying in front of Tony Parker also proved to be a nightmare for the slow-footed Miller, who tallied four fouls in 27 ineffective minutes.
Arron Afflalo, SG 39 MIN | 6-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | -8
Afflalo is banged up, clearly feeling the effects of nagging injuries and being asked to assume a big-minute, high-responsibility role as the Nuggets battle through numerous injuries. Despite Arron tweaking another muscle and struggling with fatigue he battled through a 39-minute night the best he could and came within one point of another 20 point performance — which would have been his seventh in the past nine games.
Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Eight points on 10 shots and another tough performance to grade. While Big Al has continued putting up numbers in this injury-riddled stretch, the team is getting killed on defense as the ball movement on offense grinds to a halt. Harrington hasn’t missed a game yet and is clearly exhausted, but as a veteran leader he needs to focus on defending and getting the Nuggets offense back to their high-efficiency ways.
Chris Andersen, C 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -12
It wasn’t totally clear why Birdman entered the game, but he didn’t do anything of note outside of blocking two shots and badly missing a baseline jumper. Birdman could have come out with better energy, but he didn’t get much of a chance and was not in the game long enough to have an impact either way. It’s another example of why the Nuggets are struggling to keep Birdman involved considering they have no idea what to expect when he’s inserted into a game.
Kosta Koufos, C 19 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -2
Koufos played very few minutes until the game was well out of hand, but he was part of a unit that sparked a second half run and showed life for the first time all night. He grabbed three offensive boards and was clearly more effective than most of the other Nuggets bigs, most notably Harrington and Mozgov. On nights like tonight you’d like to see him get rewarded and show what he can do in a big minute role.
Julyan Stone, G 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 9 PTS | +2
When Stone becomes more of a threat to score the ball his game will really start opening up. Right now it’s clear he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his scoring ability and he gets out of control trying to attack and do too much. Defensively, Stone’s play was top-notch and sparked a run where the Nuggets actually put up some resistance to Tony Parker and threatened to get back in the game. Stone is a rookie who needs work, but he brings great energy and in terms of overall point guard play I believe he thoroughly outplayed Andre Miller despite not being able to score.
Jordan Hamilton, G 27 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -4
Rough night for Hamilton, who took some bad shots early and showed where he still has a lot of room to grow in terms of figuring out how to best use his array of offensive moves. Jordan was hesitant tonight and often caught in between trying to drive or shoot. Although Hamilton was a dud in the scoring department, he grabbed nine boards and showed off his versatility as a big guard who can compete on the glass. Ultimately Hamilton’s role is to score and while he needs to be more aggressive and decisive with his offense, Jordan showed there’s more to his game than just shooting.

Film Room – Offense: Movement vs No Movement

The Roundball Mining Company Film Room is back!  Today we are going to compare the Nuggets offensive execution against Oklahoma City in the second quarter to their offensive execution at the end of the fourth quarter.  Maybe there is a reason why they struggle at the end of close games.

The film does not lie.  Free flowing offense getting shots in the lane versus standing around and awaiting the inevitable horrible shot.  I have no idea why they get away from what works in an attempt to do things the way everyone else does.  The devotion to iso heavy stagnant sets with one player who is not suited for the role tries to play hero is baffling.  Surely over his long and illustrious coaching career George Karl has picked up a few nice plays to run in that situation.

What is interesting is the group that was moving so well was comprised of players who most fans would expect to struggle to score.  It looks to me like they could teach the starters a thing or two.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 103 Minnesota Timberwolves 101 (OT)

Minnesota Timberwolves 101 Final
Recap | Box Score
103 Denver Nuggets
Corey Brewer, SF 43 MIN | 4-15 FG | 4-6 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | -3
Brew logged huge minutes in this one and kept himself useful by shooting less. He hasn’t found his touch from outside in the past two games but has been much more reliable on the defensive end. Zero turnovers is a positive development and he continues to do a good job using his length to disrupt the passing lanes.
Kenneth Faried, F 36 MIN | 4-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +6
Faried had the rebounding outburst many have long been expecting. He tallied 14 total boards and extended crucial possessions late in the game. The Manimal finally shined in big time minutes and made several game saving plays, most notably tying up Love for a jump ball in the closing seconds. Faired will put double doubles reliably when he becomes a part of the regular rotation.
Timofey Mozgov, C 11 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -17
Mozgov had a forgettable game. His conditioning was an issue last night against the Thunder and he was laboring up and down the court from the opening tip. He didn’t really fight for position much and despite being on the wrong end of some terrible passes by Miller 4 turnovers in 11 minutes just can’t be afforded.
Arron Afflalo, SG 44 MIN | 6-18 FG | 8-10 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | +3
Afflalo was big, especially after he rolled an ankle and stayed in the game to battle through. The Nuggets are reliant on him to pour in points during this difficult stretch and he seems to be embracing the added responsibility. Arron is carrying the largest load in terms of everything he is asked to provide on a nightly basis. His shot selection is improving as is his willingness to step up in important moments.
Ty Lawson, PG 17 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | +2
Lawson was well on his way to turning around a a horrible start when he went down with another left ankle sprain in the second quarter. Ty did finish the half but was held out of the game following halftime. While he’s still struggling to execute the most basic of concepts on offense, Ty had the pace going in the Nuggets favor early. His loss will be costly if he’s out for the upcoming back-to-back and it was unfortunate to see him go down right as he started to get himself going.
Al Harrington, PF 40 MIN | 14-29 FG | 0-5 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 31 PTS | +17
I’ll give Harrington credit, he took 29 shots en route to a season high 31 points and were it not for his early offense Denver might not have mustered enough energy to erase their big deficit. He was not badly exposed defensively save for an awful mistake against Kevin Love with the Nuggets up four and in position to close with 14 seconds remaining in the game. Not only did Harrington inexplicably foul but he gave Love a great look at the rim and was fortunate to avoid the and-one. Harrington also missed all of his free throws including two that could have prevented overtime, but Denver probably doesn’t even get there without his help.
Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 0-8 FG | 5-6 FT | 6 REB | 12 AST | 5 PTS | +15
Miller had a perplexing game, carelessly turning the ball over early and getting himself ejected on a routine bad call after Lawson had already been lost with an ankle injury. He just was not there when the Nuggets needed him and didn’t have an excuse to get thrown out when he did (though it was a bad call and I understand why he was upset). Andre Miller is smarter than that and the Nuggets need better leadership out of him along with a bit more consistency.
Kosta Koufos, C 19 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -2
I expected Koufos to log big minutes after Karl denied him well-deserved playing time in OKC. It didn’t happen thanks to breakout performances by Faried and Harrington, but Koufos still received a decent chunk of backup minutes and performed admirably. His production did take a serious hit and it’s hard to judge Koufos performance as I barely remember seeing him do anything in his limited time on the floor.
Julyan Stone, G 18 MIN | 1-2 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | -3
Stone saw some really unexpected minutes as it initially seemed like Hamilton would be the beneficiary of Ty Lawson going down at halftime. Stone ultimately had to step in after Miller was ejected and his defense changed the game. Julyan still struggled pushing the ball in transition and controlling his dribble, but he made perhaps the most important play of the game by bothering Ridnour’s layup attempt just enough to prevent disaster. Stone’s versatility was also on display as he did a great job chasing Rubio around and switching onto Beasley a couple of times.
Jordan Hamilton, G 9 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -8
He saw insignificant minutes, but they were not all that encouraging. Hamilton routinely lost his man on defense and was caught ball watching more often that you’d like. It’s too early to judge where Jordan might fit in but his defense on small forwards isn’t yet up to par and his overall awareness needs to improve. One thing I do love about Hamilton through is that he gets his shot off in a hurry unlike Afflalo for instance, who’s shooting motion is just painfully slow and drawn out.

Nuggets Defensive Shortcomings Continue to Haunt Them

I have written about how the Denver Nuggets have a low defensive IQ.  There have too many breakdowns in communication and positioning that should not be happening at this point in the season.  In their hard fought 124-118 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder there was a perfect example of that.  On a key play in the game where Denver needed a stop, they had two players fail to think and communicate.  The result undermined very solid defense by their teammates.

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Rapid Reaction: Oklahoma City Thunder 124, Denver Nuggets 118 (OT)

Denver Nuggets 118 Final
Recap | Box Score
124 Oklahoma City Thunder
Corey Brewer, SF 30 MIN | 5-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | -10
Being so reliant on Brewer’s offense is not a good look for the Nuggets, I commend Brewer for doing his best, but he remains a limited player with negligible dribbling and passing skills. Brew didn’t have his shot going and while he played commendable defense, he was an offensive liability and couldn’t stay on the floor down the stretch. This is the wrong role for Brewer and he’ll be much more valuable when asked to do less. I do wish he’d pass up the occasional shot and focus more on working off the ball.
Kenneth Faried, F 11 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -11
It’s baffling. After a career game, Faried can’t get the slightest bit of leeway with Karl. Nevertheless he again failed to make an impression out of the gate. His issues with defensive positioning and executing on offense are fixable. I honestly believe Faried would be better off were he not battling the incumbent Al Harrington for minutes. The only way he can get into games is to come out relentless on an absolute tear. It’s important not to overlook the fact Faried did have a very poor game and was overshadowed by Koufos and Birdman.
Timofey Mozgov, C 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -18
I don’t like how Karl managed his minutes, leaving him in almost the whole first quarter after it was clear he was too gassed to keep Ibaka under control. Mozgov makes a huge difference in the Nuggets being able to run an effective pick and roll offense. Unfortunately, he needs to be more consistent and at least prove himself capable of playing a more substantial amount of minutes. This is such an unenviable position for Karl to be in because there will be nights like tonight where Koufos is the much better option. How do you decide who to play?
Arron Afflalo, SG 43 MIN | 10-21 FG | 5-6 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 27 PTS | -16
At times, like everyone else on the team, Afflalo struggled with defense quite a bit. OKC is such a poor matchup because Durant is too tall for Denver to use their best defender on him consistently. What was most apparent about Arron’s effort was his tenacity and commitment to staying aggressive. The shorthanded Nuggets actually played like the more aggressive team despite losing and I believe the bulk of the credit can go to Afflalo’s leadership, a quality he hasn’t displayed nearly enough this season
Ty Lawson, PG 46 MIN | 8-17 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 17 PTS | -4
These are great numbers for any starting point guard, but without a win it just feels very forgettable. Lawson has no feel for where his teammates need the ball and he’s often reduced to getting everything off dribble penetration. Ty had the ball two crucial possessions down the stretch and failed to get off a quality look on either of them. We know Ty can create a quality shot whenever he wants and what’s so disappointing is that a signature game winning moment is still missing from his Nuggets career.
Al Harrington, PF 32 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +3
Harrington had a double double, and managed to make two three pointers after he’s been unable to deliver offense for the better part of the month. That’s where the praise ends for me. I just don’t like where the Nuggets are going with Harrington in this huge role where he plays nearly the whole second half and defends the oppositions best player night in and night out. Harrington needs a much smaller role for the Nuggets to have any success going forward.
Andre Miller, PG 36 MIN | 9-19 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 10 AST | 21 PTS | +3
It was refreshing to see Andre come alive off the bench and play with purpose. This was one of the fineest performances I’ve seen all season as long as we don’t include the overtime. Miller had 3 turnovers in the extra period and his frustration boiled over in the loss. I can’t praise Miller enough for giving the Nuggets an edge that should have won them the game in the second half. Andre seemed to know how poorly he played in the overtime period and was seen leaving the court in total disgust. We haven’t seen that kind of emotion out of Miller all season and hopefully it becomes a turning point for him. While he was abysmal in OT, Denver never gets there without him.
Chris Andersen, C 29 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +17
Another energetic performance from Birdman. He made countless hustle plays and defended the rim with the type of tenacity that made him the best backup Center in the league 2 seasons ago. Consistency is underlying issue surrounding everything Birdman does.
Kosta Koufos, C 13 MIN | 6-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -3
Koufos was nothing short of a monster in his first half stint. He managed nearly a double double in less than a quarter. He was everywhere, from knocking balls loose and defending Durant at half court to throwing down jams in transition. It was a sight to behold considering Koufus might not have seen the floor had Al Harrington not racked up three quick fouls. Jeremy made a great point about how trusting the inexperienced Faried over Harrington may have cost Karl in Memphis and he seemed resolved not to reward Koufos tonight.
Jordan Hamilton, G 4 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +9
Hamilton saw his first real minutes of the season and made a few nice plays as the Nuggets enjoyed a successful run. Then he was abruptly pulled from the game. There’s just not enough to judge here and I don’t know what to say other than Hamilton has decent size and solid offensive skills.

Nuggets Issues Exposed by Warriors

The closest thing to an easy win the Denver Nuggets have on the schedule in February are home games against the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns.

So much for any easy wins.

The Nuggets were demolished by the Warriors in a game that cast light on Denver’s biggest issues.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 101 Golden State Warriors 109

Golden State Warriors 109 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Denver Nuggets
Rudy Fernandez, SG 37 MIN | 4-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 9 PTS | -17
Rudy’s up and down season continues as he got his first start of the year and failed to make an impression. He is too small to match up with small forwards and his defense so wildly erratic it’s hard to trust him with a significant role. While Rudy plays hard, he does nothing consistently well and it’s hard to depend on him for anything. The biggest problems for me is he can’t make open threes and he puts his teammates in poor positions on defense by gambling for steals and failing to rotate.
Kenneth Faried, F 23 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +1
Faried had a fantastic start, posting up David Lee for a score and forcing him into a turnover on the other end. Unfortunately he really tired out about 5 minutes into the game and it became clear Karl didn’t plan on playing him much anyway. I like the small steps he’s taken towards becoming a better offensive player and I think it’s becoming clear that whenever this kid starts getting minutes he’ll put up double doubles. He lost his minutes to Harrington in the second half which was Karl’s plan all along.
Nene, C 31 MIN | 6-7 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | -9
Nene moved over to Center and while he was clearly the Nuggets best option offensively, he played passive and couldn’t be counted on for consistent scoring. Nene just sort of went through the motions expecting his teammates to pick it up and start winning the game. The team has no flow or rhythm on the court and without that Nene doesn’t know how to get himself going. He just didn’t affect the game one way or the other and kind of blended in. Although he scored 15 total, 3 points is all he contributed in the second half.
Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 8-16 FG | 5-5 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 26 PTS | +3
Afflalo clearly had his best statistical performance of the season but he was a complete black hole on offense. No assists and another string of poor shot selection despite the fact he was hot most of the night. Afflalo getting his confidence and swagger back is good, but he continues to make bad mistakes in transition at the worst possible times. I would trade some of his scoring output for the defensive consistency we saw last season, but he just ended up fouling a lot and failing to get his teammates to work together. Now that Afflalo’s playing better, perhaps he can have a more positive impact as a leader.
Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 4-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 11 PTS | -13
He was just destroyed by Stephen Curry. The fact Lawson can have his worst game of the season and end up with a double double says a lot, but you can’t give him credit for doing anything well tonight. He came out tentative and attempted nothing at the rim. Defensively, Lawson was abused by anyone he guarded and he just sort of lost his will in the second half.
Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -7
Harrington has had a long career in the NBA. For more than a decade he’s been known as a guy who puts up numbers on bad teams and doesn’t play any defense. He’s falling back into that familiar role in Denver after a promising start to the year. One thing I just can’t help noticing in all these losses is how badly the defense falls off when Harrington and Miller come in off the bench. He needs to rededicate himself to defending and trying to raise the intensity level of the second unit.
Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 8 PTS | -11
Remember George Karl’s infamous speech about not holding the ball? There is no bigger offender than Andre Miller. He’s just kind of coasting through this season, a clear indication it’s just not the right long-term fit. When he comes into the game he just casts a dark shadow of indifference over the team’s collective spirit. The speed of the game comes to a total halt and the Nuggets can’t hang with anyone. I just don’t see how it makes sense to keep him here. He will certainly seek a better situation during free agency when his options open up. For now, he’s stuck and so are the Nuggets.
Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +1
Koufos had another extremely productive stint in limited minutes. Although he’s proven himself worthy of a significant role, Koufos is stuck in the same boat as the rookies as guys who will play limited minutes no matter what so that Karl can get the veterans in. 2K was assertive on the offensive end and while you’d like to see him get closer to the basket, he’s showing improvement and that’s all you can ask of the promising young Center.
Julyan Stone, G 10 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 2 PTS | +2
Stone was a victim of Karl’s rotations yet again. He saw some early action as one of the first guys off the bench, but was subsequently banished to the end of the bench until garbage time. It’s very difficult to assess where Julyan might fit in until he gets a fair shot at proving himself. During garbage time, Stone played point guard and got the Nuggets playing their most energetic ball of the night. The Nuggets seem to want him and Faried involved more despite Karl’s refusal to give either a real shot.
Jordan Hamilton, G 5 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | +10
This is more of an incomplete, but I couldn’t help but notice he was extremely active and a nice compliment to Afflalo in his garbage time stint. Hamilton is very aggressive with the ball in his hands and sometimes loses control, but he seemed like an unselfish player capable of making things happen off the dribble. Jordan has a quick release and good form on his jump shot so you wonder how he might do with some more confidence in a real game situation.

One Thing We Saw

  1. The Nuggets are starting to give up on themselves. It goes beyond struggling with injuries and a rough patch of schedule. Getting blown out at home for the fourth time this season under these circumstances is an eye opener. It’s a sign of a young, vulnerable team struggling with adversity. Beyond that, it’s reached a point where you just can’t keep selling the idea of holding on and keeping the faith. At this point you have to look at the organization from all sides and realize that the Denver Nuggets are a franchise moving in the wrong direction.

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