The Nuggets kick off their first series of the 2013 playoffs against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. With injuries still lingering and a rotation in flux, there are certainly questions to be answered — which is what we plan to do below. As always, please feel free to play along and submit your answers to each of the following questions in the comments section.
Taking the pulse of the Nuggets at the end of the season
The Nuggets went undefeated in the last week of the season to clinch the third seed in the Western Conference. Kenneth Faried sprained his ankle early in Sunday’s game against Portland and sat out the rest of the week; he is listed as day-to-day entering the playoffs. In a closer than expected game against the Trailblazers, Evan Fournier capped his career high 24 point night with two late three pointers to seal the 118-109 win. The next night in Milwuakee, Ty Lawson hit a go-ahead jumper with nine seconds left and the defense held on for a 112-111 victory. The Nuggets jumped out to a big lead early against the Suns in the season finale on Wednesday, giving the end of the bench a chance to show their stuff. All twelve healthy Nuggets players made at least one basket and grabbed at least one rebound in the 118-98 win. Andre Iguodala averaged 20 points, 6.7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 2.3 blocks for the week.
Record this week: 3-0 (2-0 home, 1-0 road)
Overall record and standings: 57-25, third seed in the West.
Upcoming: the Nuggets have home court advantage in a first round playoff series against Golden State. Game 1 is on Saturday.
The Denver Nuggets clinched the three seed after smashing the Suns by 20 points in their final home game of the year. The sun sets on a historic regular season as the Nuggets now await their first round playoff opponent, either Houston or Golden State.
UPDATE: The Nuggets will face the Golden State Warriors in a 3-6 first round matchup with home court advantage. Playoffs start Saturday, April 20, at 3:30 p.m. MST, then continue on Tuesday, April 23, at 8:30 p.m. MST; Friday, April 26, at 8:30 p.m. MST; and Sunday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. MST. All other games are TBD.
The Nuggets defeated a bad, tanking Trailblazer team to win their franchise record 55th game this season. The Nuggets were up 18 in the second half and let the game get closer in the fourth quarter but were able to put the game away thanks to a dominant effort from Andre Iguodala and a great game from Evan Fournier. On a down note Denver lost Kenneth Faired with an ankle injury which right now is being reported as a sprain. Faried is listed as day-to-day at this point.
The Nuggets came up with a series of big plays late in regulation to tie the game, but couldn’t get it done in the extra period, falling to Dallas 108-105.
After news broke that Danilo Gallinari would be sidelined for the remained of the year (and well into the 2013-14 season) with a torn ACL, questions arose in the minds of Nuggets fans across the globe. There has been talk about who will step up in his place, whether the Nuggets are severely weakened and even speculation about how this will affect the team’s roster moves this off-season. In RMC’s latest 5-on-5 our writers aim to address these topics in hopes of shedding some light (and perhaps even a little optimism) on how the Nuggets will fare moving forward without their starting small forward. As always, please feel free to post your answers to the following five questions in the comments section below.
Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend
The Nuggets lost Danilo Gallinari to a season-ending knee injury this week and Ty Lawson has not yet returned to action, but the team rallied behind the play of Corey Brewer, Andre Igoudala, and rookie Evan Fournier to go undefeated over three games. Wednesday’s game in Utah showcased the Nuggets depth, with seven players scoring in double digits in a seventeen point win. Gallinari tore his ACL just before halftime the next night against Dallas and the Nuggets looked to be on the way to defeat after trailing for most of the game, but a late offensive rebound by Corey Brewer set up Iguodala’s go-ahead bucket and a last-second block by Brewer sealed the win. Denver fell behind the Rockets by double digits in the first quarter on Saturday, but Evan Fournier and Corey Brewer sparked two big runs that turned the game into a fourth quarter blowout.
Record this week: 3-0 (2-0 home, 1-0 road)
Current record and standings: 53-24, third seed in the Western Conference, 1.5 games ahead of Memphis and 2.5 games ahead of the Clippers
Upcoming games: Wednesday vs San Antonio, Friday at Dallas
After falling behind by double digits early, the Nuggets turned up the energy and outworked a tired Rockets team, outscoring them by 28 points over the last three quarters to win easily.
In a hard-fought battle to the wire the Nuggets proved they’re a team that thrives off heart and passion, rather than one that folds under emotional turmoil. Iguodala had a huge drive capped by a game-winning layup at the rim to put the Nuggets ahead by one point with only a few seconds remaining, while Corey Brewer dazzled with his energy and refusal to lose throughout the contest; however, the story of the game without question is Danilo Gallinari and his ostensibly torn ACL.
After a slow start that left the Nuggets up only 5 at the half, a combination of Andre Iguoduala and Danilo Gallinari helped the Nuggets blowout the Jazz in Utah. No starter played more than 33 minutes and six of the top eight Nuggets rotation players played under 30 minutes on the first night of a back to back.
Last Friday, rookie shooting guard Evan Fournier introduced himself to Nuggets Nation in a major way. In only 21 minutes of action he managed to score a game-high 19 points on 6-9 shooting from the field (6-6 from the line) to go with two rebounds, two assists and two steals. After this performance and with Ty Lawson still sidelined due to injury, it’s safe to say this is likely just the beginning of Fournier’s most descriptive and telling vignette as a member of the Denver Nuggets.
Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend
The Nuggets’ franchise record winning streak of fifteen games came to an end Monday in New Orleans. The team looked disinterested in a 110-86 blowout loss, giving up 17 offensive rebounds and 14 made three pointers. JaVale McGee led the way with a double double in San Antonio on Wednesday, and the Nuggets had a chance to win, but Andre Miller missed a tough shot at the buzzer and the Nuggets dropped their second straight, 100-99. Back at the Pepsi Center on Friday, Evan Fournier and Kosta Koufos helped the Nuggets get back on track against the Nets in a 109-87 win. Ty Lawson played sparingly all week due to a foot injury.
Record this week: 1-2 (1-0 home, 0-2 road)
Current record and standings: 50-24, third seed in the Western Conference, 0.5 games ahead of the Clippers and 1 game ahead of the Grizzlies
Upcoming games: Wednesday at Utah, Thursday vs Dallas, Saturday vs Houston
At a time when Nuggets fans are seeing dark clouds forming over Denver’s playoff prospects due to recent news of Ty Lawson’s plantar fascia injury, a silver lining emerged in the form of Evan Fournier. Seldom used this season, he led all Nuggets in scoring with a career high 19 points, and sparked the second quarter surge that put the Nuggets in control for the rest of the game. (more…)
This one was a loss from the start, as the Nuggets came out flat and never really recovered. Defense was nowhere to be found (especially from beyond the arc), offense was tough to come by and in the end the Hornets simply out-played the Nuggets in nearly every aspect of the game. Unfortunately for Denver, one game after losing to snap their franchise-record winning streak the Nuggets must go on the road to face one of the best teams in the league in San Antonio.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 12 PTS | +4
Truth be told, Gallo hasn’t been very good since the new year. He’s scored only four 20-plus point games in the last month and continues to take very questionable shots. He was pretty close to awful against the Sixers. He got to the line and made a few buckets but he took about three of the worst shots any Nugget has taken over the last month. The real Gallo is nowhere to be found right now.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 26 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | 0
Faried did nothing astonishing but his commitment to defending inside the paint was impressive and also an improvement on what he normally does. He had one great chase-down block and several other block attempts that altered his opponent’s shots.
|Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -1
When Koufos has a bad game, nobody notices. Aside from his three blocks he didn’t play too well. He got abused in the post on more than one occasion by no-namers and seemed to be a step behind his rotations most of the night (although to be fair, so was everyone else).
|Andre Miller, PG 40 MIN | 9-14 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | -12
I hate grading Andre Miller. I just hate it. If you were to look at his stat line alone, you’d have to wonder how he could get anything other than an A. But watch the game and you’ll wonder why I’m being so generous with a C-plus. He totally screwed the Nuggets pace this game. He didn’t even try to push the ball up the court. And on defense — I can’t even begin to tell you how awful he was. In the first five minutes there were about three plays where he willingly let his opponent slide by him without even trying to stop him. He had me laughing out loud his defense was so bad. Overall, Miller is just not a good fit for this team and the way Karl likes to play. Miller is a ball-dominant, half-court guard, who prefers to play at his own 90-year-old pace instead of pushing the pace like the rest of his teammates. Had it not been for Corey Brewer this loss would have almost been solely on Miller.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 40 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | +8
Iguodala was aggressive for about one half, then pretty much disappeared. This is a reoccurring theme with him. For playing 40 minutes he should be a little more effective than he is. Also, Holiday had his way with him on more than one occasion.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 21 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +11
Keep in mind: This is the first game Randolph has played more than 20 minutes in a over a month. He was a bit rusty but had several key plays. His hands were active (evident by his three steals) and his defense wasn’t bad. He had a nasty crossover drive earlier in the game and ended up blocking the final shot of the game to seal the victory for the Nuggets.
|Corey Brewer, SF 33 MIN | 10-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 29 PTS | +3
If there was a way to give Brewer a better grade I would. His performance tonight was nearly ineffable. When the entire team came out flat in the first, Brewer came in to save the day. When there was no sign of defense being played anywhere on the court, Brewer stepped it up and ignited (or at least tried to ignite) the fastbreak. And in the end, when the Nuggets needed a miracle shot to win the game, he somehow drew a 3-point foul and hit ALL THREE of his free throws to win the game for the Nuggets. Brewer takes a hell of a lot of heat from Nuggets fans for being a streaky shooter but he’s been one of the most clutch players on the team all season long, especially on defense where the Nuggets patented fast-break offense gets started in the first place. Brewer was the “Anti-Miller” in this game, basically willing the Nuggets to victory off the bench. This was without question one of the top three performances from any Nugget we’ve seen this season.
|JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 6 PTS | +1
JaVale was a headache most of the night. He had a few nice plays but turned the ball over four times and committed three fouls (which were pretty bad) in only 16 minutes.
|Evan Fournier, SG 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4
Fournier needs to show us something when he gets in the game. He needs to be something other than just a body with a pulse out there. He’s talented. He’s a first-round pick. So please, Evan, show us something. Thanks.
The only thing that caught my eye was why Fournier and even Randolph got in before Hamilton. Let’s assess: If your backup small forward is out and you have another really good backup small forward, why would you pass up the opportunity to use him and instead go with a rookie shooting guard and power forward? Hamilton must have done something behind closed doors, as there’s no reasonable explanation for him to be behind both Randolph and Fournier on the depth chart. Aside from that, Karl managed to figure out a way for the Nuggets to pull this one out when they never should have. He deserves credit for that even though he once again closed out the game playing small, which I promise you, will bite him in the ass one of these days.