Nuggets at 76ers Game Preview Q & A

With the Denver Nuggets heading into a huge matchup with the suddenly dominant Philadelphia 76ers Carey Smith from the TrueHoop Network 76ers blog Philadunkia hit me with a few questions.  Follow this link to check out what I have to say regarding Denver’s historical road woes, Gallo and of course the Manimal!

 

3-on-3: Danilo Gallinari Edition

It’s been nearly one year since Danilo Gallinari arrived in Denver and he has the Nuggets already talking extension. The energetic Italian is widely to believed to be primed for a breakout season as one of the most intriguing talents on a young Nuggets team. With the prospect of Gallo becoming a long-term Nugget soon, we go 3-on-3 with the full Roundball crew to discuss all things Gallinari. In case you missed our previous installments the format is simple – three questions, three TrueHoop bloggers and one spirited debate.

Rapid Reaction: Utah Jazz 106 Denver Nuggets 96

Utah Jazz 106 Final
Recap | Box Score
96 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C 35 MIN | 8-15 FG | 2-7 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 18 PTS | -4
I don’t grade the boxscores. Yes, Nene scored 18 points with decent efficiency, but he missed 5 free throws and had 5 turnovers on the night. Nene was the key to this game for the Nuggets and came up short when it mattered most. Poor rebounding, poor defense, and poor shot selection. He looked like Koufos out there with the array of underhand flip shots, soft floaters and hooks underneath the rim.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 30 MIN | 2-6 FG | 12-12 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 18 PTS | -9
Gallo must be more aggressive for the Nuggets to have a chance. He came into the fourth quarter with a grand total of 3 field goal attempts. Gallo gets credit for making all of his 12 free throw attempts and doing some creative work with the ball in his hands. I liked him running pick and rolls with the Jazz aggressively trapping Lawson. He tallied 4 assists and had no turnovers. Just way too passive and once again he was eaten alive at the power forward spot – which is purely a coaching mistake.
Timofey Mozgov, C 18 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -3
Mozgov’s rebounding instincts are really bad, but beyond that he was the best big man the Nuggets had in this game. He was active during his minutes but nothing about his performance really stood out. He needs to be tougher and the coaches need to trust him more.
Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 4-10 FG | 6-10 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -4
He certainly played hard, perhaps harder than anyone else on the floor, but his mistakes were costly and momentum killing. Two flat out terrible travels, a couple of out of control drives to the hoop and once again incredibly un-clutch shooting and huge missed free throws. I give him an A+ for effort, but results are all that matters.
Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 6-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 13 PTS | -6
What a tough game for Lawson. I think he would have easily scored close to 20 had he not missed some bunnies at the rim. Lawson’s energy was there, but his teammates looked slow and out of sync. Lawson should be able to have unspectacular, solid nights like this and still be in a position to win. Much like Afflalo, Ty couldn’t catch a break tonight but he made far fewer mistakes than anyone else on the floor.
Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | -3
Harrington deserves credit for being the only bench player showing fire and competitive spirit. He had 4 steals, scored fairly efficiently and really, you can’t complain about his numbers. His defense was atrocious and he was another one making crucial mistakes in a close game when it mattered the most. I’ll take less production out of Harrington for fewer fouls and smarter basketball plays. Harrington was worse than his numbers and that trend is not exclusive to this game.
Andre Miller, PG 20 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | -11
Looked like he didn’t care. Just a shocking performance all around. Failed to contribute anything and completely killed the team’s spirit and energy every moment he was on the floor. Miller looks lost and does not seem like he ever wants to be found.
Chris Andersen, C 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -2
Andersen had 4 blocks, but one was erroneously credited to him when it should have been Corey Brewer’s. Birdman put up somewhat of a fight, but he did not block anyone out and was bullied down low by the much more physical Utah Jazz. One rebound is not acceptable. Birdman’s game and his athleticism are broken down to a point he should not be in the rotation. It isn’t his fault because I do believe he is trying. On this team, he is the wrong guy and the wrong fit – Karl should have kept him on the bench and should continue to.
Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -2
Brewer’s energetic style finally produced his first sub-par performance of the season. He is too aggressive bodying up his man at the three-point line, giving up wide open lanes to the basket for no reason. He took some questionable shots and did not play a controlled game. Brewer needs to show he can be more than a crazed maniac running around the court creating chaos.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 9 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -6
Rudy got hurt, but he started the game poorly with little energy. This grade is an incomplete and losing him turned out to be costly. The Nuggets had to rely heavily on Andre Miller and we all know that ended
Kosta Koufos, C 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Koufos should have played more, but he only came in for a split second after Birdman tweaked a muscle. I can’t remember seeing him do anything, so let’s go with an incomplete.

Andre Miller is not long for the Denver Nuggets

After 13 years of NBA service, it’s fair to say Andre Miller has been one of the more overlooked and undervalued point guards of his generation. His ability to produce well into his thirties places him in the rarified company of Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, and Jason Kidd yet his lack of playoff success and individual accolades exclude him from being held in the same regard.

Playing with that chip on his shoulder has made Miller the successful, highly motivated player he is today. Unfortunately, it’s also put Andre at the center of another point guard controversy in Denver after candidly telling Chris Tomasson he’s unhappy with a backup role and prefers to go elsewhere in free agency next season.

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Is There Reason to be Concerned About the Denver Nuggets?

The Denver Nuggets are 6-4, they have a projected Pythagorean record, expected wins based on point differential, of 46-20 which is equivalent to a 57 win season.  They have been atop the league in defensive efficiency and feature possibly the deepest roster in the NBA.

That all sounds great, but if you have spent any time on this site you probably expect I am about to rain on the parade.  The truth is, buckle your seatbelts, I believe there are reasons to be concerned.

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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 81, Hornets 94

New Orleans Hornets 94 Final
Recap | Box Score
81 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C 30 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-6 FT | 11 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | -16
The one knock on Nene has always been his soft demeanor and his uncanny ability to disappear in big moments. That’s been the one caveat to his well-rounded game and tonight we saw all that all his athletic ability and efficiency comes at a price. Nene was a defensive sieve and after looking decent against Kaman and Okafor last Friday, he was dominated inside and couldn’t be bothered to put up much a fight.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 38 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -18
Gallinari didn’t play the fourth quarter till the game was well out of hand. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only factor that made his stat-sheet contributions an empty effort. Defensively Gallinari was awful against his fellow countryman Marco Bellinelli and any other Hornet lucky enough to find themselves guarded by him.
Timofey Mozgov, C 11 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +2
Not enough minutes to be a factor either way, but the Nuggets had some success guarding the rim and played better defense with him in the game. Nene and Mozgov continue to look like an odd pairing in the starting lineup. Karl’s quest to go small no matter how poor the matchup ultimately erased whatever small chance Mozgov had at making a difference against the Hornets dominant front line.
Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 2-8 FG | 8-10 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | 0
Not a good game. He was one of only two Nuggets putting up some kind of resistance on defense and it salvages his passing grade. Afflalo continues to set a poor example with questionable shot selection. Don’t be fooled by the 10 free throw attempts – Afflalo is a poor ballhandler and not a great finisher. The Nuggets need him playing his game and instead he forced offense all night – with poor results.
Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -9
Lawson was awful on Jarrett Jack. He made poor decisions with the ball and just couldn’t sustain what little momentum the Nuggets were able to get. There’s a caveat to Lawson’s grade – he injured his ankle towards the end of the first half and looked hobbled the rest of the way. I would’ve liked to see him rest and he probably should have, but Lawson was a warrior and battled through.
Al Harrington, PF 18 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | -11
Is Al Harrington as good as his torrid start to the season suggests? Absolutely not, and it would have been totally unreasonable to believe so. Harrington won’t be able to defend consistently and that limits the impact of his offensive talents. When he can’t hit shots, it’s just pure disaster as we saw tonight. Really awful defense and if Al Harrington’s 13-year career is any indication, there’s more to come.
Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 PTS | -13
To get an ‘F’ it goes beyond having a bad game. That happens to everyone. You have to be actively hurting the team every minute to be this bad. Miller did just that, making selfish decisions with the ball and doing the same thing he’s been doing all year – shooting too much. Miller’s contributions to this team have been overstated and I don’t like the way he’s played all year. He is an odd fit on this team to be honest.
Chris Andersen, C 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -1
Incomplete. For whatever reason, he received a few charity minutes from George Karl and didn’t do enough to affect anything. Considering how poorly he’s played as of late, I’m not sure why Koufos didn’t get the call earlier.
Corey Brewer, SF 8 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | 0
Incomplete. Despite earning minutes, Brewer was another charity case given a few scraps for no apparent reason. Unlike Birdman he probably deserved his shot but just didn’t do enough to make any fair judgement concerning his play.
DeMarre Carroll, F 1 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +6
He saw a minute in garbage time, perhaps confirming suspicions that Faried won’t see a single meaningful minute of court time no matter what. Incomplete.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 27 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -9
Fernandez made shots, but they were awful ones. I really would have liked to see Brewer eat into his minutes. Rudy plays with energy and reckless abandon, but he is not an explosive scorer and I fear that this coaching staff somehow believes he is. Energy and effort were there, but he just took terrible shots and he doesn’t take enough pride on the defensive end. Another empty statline.
Kosta Koufos, C 10 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +4
Incomplete. He was called in during the second half, but unfortunately the Nuggets were already getting blown out and had no shot. Like Mozgov, the coaching staff has zero trust in him and refused to give him a chance in a game dominated by size.

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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 96 Hornets 88

Denver Nuggets 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
88 New Orleans Hornets
Nene, C 24 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -4
Nene played a few possessions where he looked dominant, but once again was passive during any key stretch where it looked like Denver could seize momentum. He played Birdman-like defense meaning one out of 3 or so possessions was fantastic and the rest was cringe-worthy.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 39 MIN | 9-17 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 23 PTS | +12
Gallo did more off-ball work than we’ve seen all season. Despite still missing a ton of shots from distance, he was aggressive and confident throughout the game. Gallo also recorded six assists on a night where the guards had a tough time creating shots for the team. Gallo played a very well rounded game tonight.
Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -3
Look, Mozgov just wasn’t in the game much. I was baffled as to why he or Koufos weren’t allowed to play in the first half despite New Orleans’ size causing so many problems. Timo missed a dunk and he misses a ton of tip-ins which is likely keeping him off the court. Although he wasn’t the worst defender on the floor, he was part of a dysfunctional unit that didn’t communicate on defense and couldn’t get out in transition.
Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +8
He still isn’t taking the greatest shots and for whatever reason, missing open threes causes him to keep shooting contested ones. There’s nothing to do but wait out Afflalo’s long range slump, and at least on defense its business as usual. His third quarter defense was fantastic and played a major part in the Nuggets’ second half surge.
Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 3-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 12 PTS | -7
For once, Lawson had to rely on his teammates to push the pace in Denver’s favor. He should have gotten a few more calls at the rim, but Lawson didn’t show a lot of patience running the offense instead opting to wildly drive the ball into traffic where the size and length of New Orleans bothered him.
Al Harrington, PF 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +9
Al Harrington has somehow made himself a solid defensive player. He played perhaps the most efficient minutes out of any Nugget and once again stepped up big when no one else was willing. He is the only one shooting with any confidence and he’s been a major factor in gutting out every tough win of the season.
Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 4-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 13 PTS | +13
Miller gets his first ‘A’ of the season as he seemed to really settle the Nuggets down at the moment they were able to seize the game. I still don’t like his shot selection and some of the passes he’ll attempt in a half-court set, but Miller’s steady floor presence was great on a night Lawson struggled a lot.
Chris Andersen, C 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -7
Birdman’s act is tired. I’m shocked the numbers make him look like a competent player. He looks great one game and then is consistently the worst guy on the court in the next. He’s completely awful on the road and the Nuggets won this game because Koufos finally cut into his playing time in the second half. Birdman’s energy just isn’t something to rely on – it’s a gimmick more than anything else.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | 0
Fernandez did exactly what he needed to do when called on. With Afflalo having one of his better games of the year, the minutes weren’t there but he gave maximum effort on both ends during his time. Fernandez isn’t taking unnecessary threes anymore and his play is steadily improving after an up and down start in Denver.
Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +19
Koufos wasn’t really allowed in the game till the second half when the Nuggets looked morbidly bad on both ends. He proceeded to play like the best big on the floor and almost singlehandedly sparked Denver to the pivotal run that sealed it. His pick and roll defense was awesome and the Nuggets rotated much better with him anchoring the middle. I’m not sure why the coaches are so hesitant to trust him but he clearly deserves more time on the floor. Give Koufos credit for MVP in this difficult road win.

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Nuggets News: Mini Road Trip Preview

After three straight solid home wins, the Nuggets are carrying nice momentum into their second road trip of the season. It’s a quick back-to-back in New Orleans and San Antonio against two teams which provide unique challenges for this new Nuggets team. While the Hornets and Spurs appear to be reeling from injuries, let’s not forget these are still road games against well-rested opponents.

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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets vs. Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers 90 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C
4-7 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -1
It was a little funny seeing him stare down his teammates and almost scream out for help whenever Bynum or Pau made a move on him. Nene was solid but not much of a factor in the win to be honest. The Lakers bigs easily pushed him around down low while he continues to put up poor rebounding performances. As I said before, the move to power forward is not paying off for Nene and I am confused why he had to throw such a fit about playing center – where he is better.
Danilo Gallinari, F
7-16 FG | 5-7 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +11
The Rooster still can’t find his touch from distance, but he did shoot 6-9 on non 3-point attempts. Gallo also recorded five steals and was a key factor in the fourth quarter run that sealed the victory. It wasn’t a perfect game from Gallinari, but he played his best when it mattered.
Timofey Mozgov, C
0-0 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -14
Mozgov racked up five fouls in 13 minutes and clearly let the officiating get into his head. He spent most of the night trying to get a call and once again struggled denying Bynum position. Timo showed a few flashes defensively but he needs to learn to fight for position and contribute on the glass like a starting center should.
Arron Afflalo, SG
2-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -10
He’s contributing defensively like you’d expect, but it’s been a rough road getting Afflalo involved on the offensive end. He looks tentative, dribbles too much and jumps away from contact rather than finishing through it. The Nuggets need to get him some shots and work him into the offense more.
Ty Lawson, PG
5-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 17 PTS | +18
Everything was there for Lawson tonight. The Nuggets came alive with him on the floor and were consistently able to speed up the game and run on the tired Lakers. He scored, he got 10 assists despite poor shooting from teammates and his defense was the key to the fourth quarter run that sealed the win. His presence makes Andre Miller extraneous late in games and the Nuggets need the ball in their best player’s hands every big possession.
Al Harrington, PF
3-7 FG | 6-6 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | +15
Once again, Harrington was all the Nuggets had going the first half of this game. As I tweeted earlier things could be looking grim if Al were to cool off before the offense got itself sorted. Luckily, Ty Lawson stepped up in the second half and Al Buckets wasn’t asked to carry the Nuggets again. Harrington continues to contribute in all areas of the game and grabbed a team-high 11 boards. I would have liked to see more Afflalo in the fourth quarter but you can’t deny Harrington is playing well right now.
Chris Andersen, C
5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +17
After playing a combined 12 minutes in the past two contests, Birdman bounced back with his best game of the season. His conditioning and leaping ability still aren’t there, but he continues to give a better effort on the floor and finally saw some results. His defense remains wildly inconsistent, but Bird was solid tonight. He scored with efficiency, rebounded well and recorded his first blocked shot of the season.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Rebounding matters. For the first time in two games the Nuggets hold up their end on the boards and match their opponent’s total. They continue to struggle on the offensive glass, grabbing only five despite missing 38 shots.
  2. Pace is the key to victory. The Nuggets were only able to pull away thanks to Ty Lawson pushing the tempo. The half-court offense remains a mess and unless they want to play Lawson 40-plus minutes a night, the Nuggets must get better in the half-court game.
  3. Getting to the line equals wins. It’s as simple as that. The shooting struggles continue yet Denver stayed alive by attacking the Lakers big men and forcing the issue at the rim. Thirty seven free throw attempts is a season high and the Nuggets made a respectable 31 of them.
  4. The bench is missing something. As much as I hate the constant dwelling on the departure of JR Smith, the Nuggets are missing his explosiveness and energy off the bench. The offense is bogged down and slow with Andre Miller. Rudy Fernandez is little more than a passer and spot up shooter. The Nuggets couldn’t take advantage of Kobe resting and part of what kept them in the game is the fact the Lakers lack bench scoring as well.
  5. The defense is promising. Kobe had an off night shooting the ball, but the Lakers as a team shot less than 40 percent. This was a rare feat for past Nuggets teams and they have shown an ability to compete in low scoring affairs. The Nuggets continue to communicate and improve their team defense despite foul trouble. Strangely, their offense is letting them down in their 2 losses.

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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets at Lakers

Denver Nuggets 89 Final

Box Score | Recap

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

Five Things We Saw

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

2011-12 Game 3: Denver Nuggets 102 Portland Trailblazers 111

Box Score | Highlights

The Nuggets played the first of what will undoubtedly be many ugly games in Portland tonight. It was a messy affair from the start, dominated by fouls, turnovers and questionable shot selection. Ultimately the game came down to a 2-minute stretch in which the tougher, more composed Blazers held it together and came out on top.

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2011-12 Game 1: Denver Nuggets 115 Dallas Mavericks 93

Box Score | Highlights

The Nuggets crushed the Mavs in Dallas for their third straight blowout victory in a season opener. Just like the last few years they showcased a high powered offense with plenty of depth and cruised to a big lead they never surrendered. Ty Lawson was the star in this one, scoring 27 points with incredible efficiency and generally picking apart the slow, flat-footed Mavericks defense.

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George Karl talks about defending the Pick And Roll

Benjamin Hochman’s Christmas special is up at the Denver Post, and it’s an absolute must read for Nuggets Nation. Hochman breaks down the opening day roster and George Karl shares some candid thoughts on his offensive philosophy and the challenges of winning without superstars. The most interesting bit comes at the end when Karl admits the Nuggets are likely to move away from the most maddening aspect of Denver’s pick and roll defense – switching screens.

Having Kenyon with Nene was huge, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it with team concepts and philosophies and giving guys pride and responsibility to do it on their own. … He was a veteran, defensive-minded guy who was a big part of our toughness. Filling Kenyon’s minutes is probably the most difficult to do, but in the same sense, I think it can be done. Nene was basically always the B defender. Now he has to be the A defender. Nene can be in a similar category. The only problem is when you had two of them, you didn’t worry about foul trouble. Now can we get a team concept to camouflage that (by rotating in other big men for short snippets)? We also might jump in the pick-and-roll rather than switching all the time

Karl says a lot of interesting things with this statement and makes it well known that replacing Kenyon’s presence on defense is no easy task. Kenyon was a quick, physical defender whom the Nuggets could trust to guard one through five and either force a tough shot or funnel the ball into help. There is no player on the roster who can replace what he brings to the table defensively and it’s a very good sign the coaching staff realizes that.

Instead of switching, Karl suggests the Nuggets are going to use more traps and hedges against pick-and-rolls. Jeremy Wagner and I have been clamoring for the Nuggets to stop switching and adopt such a scheme since before this blog even existed.

This strategy itself won’t be a cure-all for Denver’s defense without Kenyon. The Nuggets bigs have the added responsibility of jumping out to stop the ball while being able to quickly recover to their man. Nene will have to do a better job as he’ll often show a very soft hedge and sag back allowing the ballhandler plenty of room to drive towards the basket and make a play.

When defending the pick and roll in any situation, the team has to make the right reads and rotations together as a cohesive unit. Instead of relying on Kenyon’s versatility to dictate  the scheme, I feel that hedging more will encourage a more aggressive team defense and create accountability for everyone on the floor to be active on the defensive end.

By using these team concepts and a “camouflage” approach, Karl also suggests he’ll use a deep frontcourt rotation and Kenyon’s minutes could be divided among three or four players given the situation. This is good news for those hoping to see the Manimal crack the rotation sooner rather than later. The Nuggets need to evaluate not only Faried but the rest of the young big men on the roster. Which one of these athletic young guys can hedge and recover on picks, while also being able to get back and compete for the rebound? That’s the one who deserves minutes and the Nuggets won’t know without letting all of them compete for the job.

The problem isn’t the concept of switching itself, but the extent to which the Nuggets used it as a primary method of defending pick and rolls. After playing great team defense and reaching the conference finals in 2009, the Nuggets kept reverting to switches like a bad habit. They would do it impulsively on every screen regardless of who was being switched onto who. Anytime you voluntarily enter into any mismatch on the floor, a good offense is going to be patient and find the weakness. That happened far too often in past years and I think we are finally seeing the coaches realize the time for change is long overdue.

It sounds small, but it’s tiny fundamental changes like these that are going to dictate whether or not the Nuggets can build a contender this season.

3-on-3: Arron Afflalo’s Shiny New Contract

Nuggets fans the world over are rejoicing in the new 5 year, $43 million contract Arron Afflalo has agreed to with the Nuggets.  Now that Afflalo has been retained the Nuggets have fulfilled their vision of re-siging Nene and Afflalo and once again have a tremendously deep team to put on the floor.  With the team now in place and Afflalo’s contract ready to go let’s do a little 3-on-3 to see if Denver has spent wisely, or if they will end up back in the financial doghouse.

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How Good Can the Denver Nuggets Be?

How good are the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets?  Now that the opening night roster is largely in place, Arron Afflalo is not officially signed, but I anticipate he will be in the next few days, we know what Denver has to work with.

Earlier today we Kalen, Charlie and myself made some high level projections in our second 3-on-3 installment as to how good Denver will be this season.  As I am wont to do, I would like to delve into the roster with a little more depth as we attempt to determine what should be expected of this team.

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