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.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -18
Faried was quite bad, getting routinely abused on defense despite San Antonio having no one remotely athletic enough to match up with him. Couple that with a measly one offensive rebound and it sure looks like he was simply outhustled and outworked by a hobbled, inexperienced Spurs front line. He made a big defensive play and secured a key rebound late, but his 25 minutes were pretty generous considering the way he played most of the night.
|Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -10
Koufos had a confusing game. He’s never been much of a rim protector but he normally beats opposing bigs to the paint and takes away the easy angles. Koufos’ paint defense alternated between sublime and uninspired in this one, but he saved his best play for when the Nuggets needed it most. At this point I expect some consistency and something more than a total zero on offense, where Koufos seems to have lost some confidence.
|Andre Miller, PG 34 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -7
Miller was not a net positive in this game. He was a spectator for the first 10 minutes and most every meaningful stretch of play. Miller closed the game like a pro and his ability to make free throws and manufacture offense paid off late, but he was not on the floor for the crucial stretches where Denver looked dominant.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 41 MIN | 11-20 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 29 PTS | +6
What a great performance, and it’s really easy to forget that Wilson has already scored 30+ two other times this season, both off the bench. Wilson caught fire in the second half and practiced much better shot selection than we’ve seen in the past. He stayed off the midrange stuff the entire night and created several running opportunities with his defense. He has not missed a beat since moving into the starting five.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 43 MIN | 5-11 FG | 1-4 FT | 13 REB | 10 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 12 PTS | +5
Yes, he had seven turnovers and still hasn’t looked decent on offense all year. He also nabbed the first triple-double by any Nugget since Marcus Camby in 2008 exactly one game after predicting he’d soon get one. There were a lot of things working against the Nuggets early and Iguodala’s unwavering effort anchored the defensive push that got Denver back in the game and kept them there.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 8 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | +6
I gave his grade a bump because he looked good as part of an uptempo bench that reinvigorated the Nuggets’ transition attack. Brewer went nuclear off the bench so it just wasn’t his night to see many minutes.
|Corey Brewer, SF 34 MIN | 12-25 FG | 2-5 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 28 PTS | +30
Is this not a match made in heaven? Teams generally don’t want bench players hoisting 25 shots a game but Brewer’s outburst was just what the Nuggets needed after starting the game with two Miller turnovers followed by two Miller isos and predictably, zero points. Karl went small with Brewer early which paid immediate dividends for Denver’s anemic offense. I worry about where else Brewer will play if the Nuggets can’t bring him back because this is just too fun to watch.
|JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +18
Much like Brewer did for the offense, we saw a drastic change in the Denver defense pre-McGee and post-McGee. Denver was flat out soft in the paint until his resounding arrival in the second quarter with three huge blocks. JaVale capped off a nice night with an improved effort on the defensive glass and his second straight game with no turnovers
|Evan Fournier, SG 18 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +20
He should have played much more. Fournier was assertive with the ball in his hands and was the Nuggets second-best creator behind Iguodala. He wasn’t great on defense and didn’t have his shot going but the guy showed remarkable poise under pressure and has a knack for finding Denver the right kind of shots. With Lawson out and the offense quite frankly struggling under an overused Andre Miller, he could use more minutes.
Karl waited way too long to get Miller out of the game. Other than that, his adjustments worked and he got the most out of a small Brewer-Chandler lineup San Antonio had no answer for. He’s pushing his players hard and getting results, but Koufos, Miller, and Chandler all looked gassed after long second-half stints with no relief. Karl should be more trusting of his bench, who clearly got him the win and turned around one of the most dreadful starts in recent memory.
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.
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
The Nuggets dropped a heart breaker in San Antonio tonight as they struggled for stretches to contain Tony Parker and Danny Green. Denver had a shot at the buzzer but things broke down and Andre Miller was unable to hit a difficult shot in the lane. (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.
The Nuggets escape with their franchise record 15th straight win, 101-95 over the Sacramento Kings. It was also the Nuggets’ 17th straight win at the Pepsi Center. Grades follow the break.
|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.
Staking a Claim is a new column that will be taking a look at all things Nuggets through the eyes of an outsider. As those who follow me on Twitter know I am a Bucks fan, so it will give Nuggets fans an opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who follows the team closely but isn’t necessarily a fan. Please leave any subjects that you would like to see addressed in the future in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @Matt_Cianfrone.
As the Nuggets have caught fire recently on their way to winning 13 straight games things have finally come together in the frontcourt, as all five of the main minutes getters at the center and power forward spots have taken turns playing well.
This week I wanted to take a look at that front court rotation and talk about a couple things I like and don’t like in that rotation.
Despite getting almost no good production from their starters from most of the night the Nuggets pulled out an ugly, hard fought win in Chicago. The team now travels to Oklahoma City to battle the Thunder tomorrow night on NBA TV.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 39 MIN | 2-7 FG | 6-9 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +1
Gallo was on the court for almost 40 minutes but for most of them you would never know. 7 field goals attempted is way to low when the rest of the starting lineup struggled, especially when Gallo was being defended by Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah for stretches in the fourth quarter and overtime. The rebounds were nice and the defense was ok but Gallo has to be more aggressive in a game like that.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 15 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -7
Faried was out of the game early and when he returned he didn’t do much to earn himself more time. Two rebounds in 15 minutes is way to low, especially for someone who’s biggest strength is rebounding and energy. Not a good night for Faried.
|Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +1
For as well as Koufos had been playing lately tonight was a clear step back. He struggled to finish inside and didn’t have a defensive rebound in the first half. Like most Nuggets starters he just didn’t play well tonight.
|Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -12
Lawson was one of the players torched for 34 points by Nate Robinson, unable to get a good shot at the end of regulation and really just below average most of the night. He should have taken advantage of Nate Robinson and dominated on both ends of the floor, instead like the rest of the Nuggets starters he came out very flat.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 3-14 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | -6
Let’s not let the big 3 get in the way of the overall picture. Iguodala was again abysmal shooting the ball and unlike most nights he didn’t assist a big number of scores either. And unlike most nights Iguodala wasn’t matched up with a great scorer tonight as he spent most of the night on Marco Belinelli. The rebounding, late three and deflections in overtimes helped the Nuggets get the win but if he played any better in regulation the game doesn’t get to that point.
|Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | 0
The offense was good but some of his decision making left things to be desired. Brewer gambled late on some plays he shouldn’t have in the middle of the Bulls run to get back into the game. He also had a late turnover in the same run. It was typical Brewer, but those typical plays that are ok early in the game against opposing team’s bench aren’t as ok late in close games.
|JaVale McGee, C 22 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +9
The rebounding could have been better but overall JaVale was pretty darn good tonight. He finished in the paint and changed some shots for the Bulls with proper rotations. I thought he should have closed the game but George Karl thought otherwise. Clearly he was the best of the Faried/Koufos/McGee true big trio tonight.
|Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 13 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +11
For most of the game Miller was great, the second best Nugget great in fact. He was posting up and making the right passes, or attacking when no help came and even rebounding a bit. In fact I advocated for him to close the game. Then the late game came and everything fell apart. He went under on the screens that allowed Nate Robinson to get off the game tying three in regulation then had some out of control drives late in overtime, including the drunk drive that somehow led to Iguodala’s game winning three. It was a great example of the two sides of Andre.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 39 MIN | 13-21 FG | 8-9 FT | 9 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 35 PTS | +8
Chandler was the best player on the floor for the Nuggets tonight and it wasn’t even that close. The most encouraging part about it was the way he scored. Almost everything was at the rim, where Chandler got any time he wanted. The easiest way to describe his play tonight compared to his teammates is this: at halftime Chandler was outscoring all of the starters combined 20 to 16 and he also added 5 rebounds and 2 assists to those 20 points. A terrific night from Ill Will.
I was fully ready to give Karl a good grade as the Nuggets entered the 4th quarter with a comfortable lead despite getting nothing from their starters. Then things completely fell apart. Karl went to bizarre lineups such as one with Gallo at center, refused to play any center despite JaVale having a great game, left Miller in for a key defensive possession after a timeout then put him on the player the ball was clearly going too, and not getting Wilson Chandler touches late in the game. It was just about everything Karl could have done to let the Bulls get back in the game and that was exactly what happened. Also why did Karl choose to make his team go the length of the court to end regulation? Let them have more time in the half court and run some type of set to get a look for Lawson or Chandler. Just a bizarre way for Karl to finish a game he seemed to have complete control over through three quarters.
Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend
Current record: 45-22
Last week: 3-0 (2-0 home, 1-0 road)
Current playoff seed: #5, 0.5 games behind #4 Memphis and #3 LA Clippers. The Clippers hold the tie breaker over both Memphis and Denver (due to winning their division), while Denver holds the tie breaker over Memphis (due to a 3-1 head to head record).
The Nuggets finished another undefeated week by taking down the Memphis Grizzlies in a slow-paced, grind-it-out game, picking up an important tiebreaker in the process. They also embarrassed the Knicks in Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver, and picked up a road win in a blowout in Phoenix. Denver has the longest active winning streak in the Western Conference at 11 games. Kosta Koufos had the best week of his career, averaging 15.3 points and 12 rebounds over three games. Coach George Karl had the team ready to play all week and made good substitutions in the face of individual players’ game-to-game inconsistency.
This week’s games: Monday at Chicago, Tuesday at Oklahoma City, Thursday vs Philadelphia, Saturday vs Sacramento