Nuggets player trends over the first three months

The Denver Nuggets got off to a fairly rough start at the beginning of the season. Sure, they had one of the most brutal opening schedules of any team in the league, but the problems appeared to run deeper than that. Players like Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, who Denver was counting on to provide perimeter shooting that would space the floor, came out cold as ice.

The Nuggets started off right there in the hunt for being the worst team in the league in 3-point shooting and free throw shooting, and their defense, which was supposed to get a boost from the addition of Andre Iguodala, was flailing. They just could not seem to get it together, and it looked like Denver had team problems which ran much deeper than a tough schedule.

Then around mid-December, things started to turn around. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 128, Chicago Bulls 96

Chicago Bulls 96 Final

Recap | Box Score

128 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 30 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +26

Gallo had a more tentative game than he’s recently experienced but he still played solid basketball. He spent most of his time driving the lane and being creative with his mid-range game, which is always good. His defense was solid throughout the night as well.

Kenneth Faried, SF 26 MIN | 9-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +19

Had this game been close Faried likely would have finished with close to 30 and 15. This was the most energized he’s been in weeks. Why? Perhaps national TV had something to do with it. If so, someone needs to tell him the Nuggets are playing on national TV more often. One thing Faried does need to improve on is his pick-and-roll offense. He’s still setting pretty weak picks and rolling halfheartedly to the basket.

Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +16

Again, Koufos rebounded well but otherwise he was invisible. His interior defense has been his strong suit this year, but the last few games it’s dropped off tremendously.

Ty Lawson, PG 31 MIN | 5-11 FG | 6-8 FT | 3 REB | 12 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +40

I love seeing the 12 assists from Lawson. You have to remember: Every time he gets an assist the Nuggets get at least two points. That means he directly contributed to at least 40 points against the Bulls! His game was confident in nearly every aspect; however, he was having trouble defending the pick-and-roll. He needs to get better at fighting through screens.

Andre Iguodala, SG 26 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +21

Iguodala had a really good first half. His jump shot was falling everywhere. His offense dipped in the second half, but his defense stayed steady throughout. He had about three or four really nice baskets this night.

Anthony Randolph, PF 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +2

Pretty nice stat line for such limited time. Randolph is a very nice option to have this deep on the bench. The kid can play. He’s never going to be the stud we all thought, but he’s proven that he can be relied on when the Nuggets are in a pinch.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 8 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +4

I’m just saying: If this dude played for the Wizards or Bobcats or some other crappy team, he’d average 16 and seven — maybe better. It’s amazing how talented he is and how little playing time he’s earned in nearly two years of being a Nugget. Against the Bulls he missed his first three shots, then promptly dropped two deep threes all in the span of a few minutes time.

Corey Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +6

Brewer was pretty quite but his defense was great, as usual. He does an excellent job of switching with haste. While some Nuggets tend to switch lackadaisically, Brewer is always up in the face of his opponent, whomever that may be. He also did a great job of getting out on the break even though he didn’t score many baskets.

Timofey Mozgov, C 8 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +4

Mozgov looked good. He had an ally-oop and even hit a deep rainbow jump shot.

JaVale McGee, C 14 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +14

This was one of McGee’s best games of the year in terms of efficiency. He had several SportsCenter Top 10-caliber dunks and some very impressive, blue-collar like blocks. In fact, that’s how I’d describe McGee this game: blue collar. Yes, he was a little flashy at times, but never overly flamboyant like he has been in the past. I’ve made peace with the fact McGee is likely never going to be a starter under George Karl, but come on, the dude deserves more time.

Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +1

I really am enjoying this version of Andre Miller more than the myopic, scoring version we’ve seen throughout the year. He needs to be a facilitator, defender and all-around utility guy. When he does that, the Nuggets reserve squad becomes much better as a team.

Evan Fournier, SG 10 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | 0

Fournier just hasn’t looked good in recent games. He’s making a lot of rookie mistakes and fouling too much. He needs to be more aggressive and not think so much when he gets the ball.

Wilson Chandler, SG 19 MIN | 8-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 24 PTS | +7

What. The. Hell… Seriously. Chandler is like that dude you played ball with in high school who every blue moon would just go off and force everyone to look at each other in pure bemusement. You really can’t do anything but scratch your head. Chandler was shooting under 30 percent from the floor over the last five games coming into this one and suddenly goes off from downtown. I really wish he was a bit more consistent, but this is a good sign. He’s proven he can have incredible outbursts, it’s just a matter of getting more playing time before it all comes together.

George Karl

What is there to complain about? McGee deserves more time… And that’s about it. Karl had his guys ready to play this game and it showed in the final score. This might have been the best full game the Nuggets have played all year. Their defense was incredible the entire night. That’s where it all started. If they play this type of suffocating defense in the playoffs, they can get out on the break all they want. But it has to start with defense. That seems to be the message Karl is preaching these days and it’s one I can dig.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 112, Milwaukee Bucks 104

Milwaukee Bucks 104 Final

Recap | Box Score

112 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-14 FG | 5-7 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 22 PTS | +14

Gallo’s night was highlighted by an incredible, off-balance trick shot that was the pinnacle of the Nuggets surge in the fourth quarter; but he played well all night. This might have been the most confident I’ve seen him shoot in a while. He didn’t even think of hesitating. He also played excellent defense and had a few very impressive blocks. Gallo’s truly coming into his own right now.

Kenneth Faried, SF 30 MIN | 5-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | +8

Faried played very underwhelming for most of the night, but turned it on in the fourth quarter. And by turned it on, I mean TURNED IT ON. He was all over the place, getting blocks, steals, rebounds and nasty dunks. His energy has wavered lately but as long as he comes through when the Nuggets need it, that’s all that matters. He also played great defense in the fourth quarter.

Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | 0

Koufos was struggling most of the night. He missed really easy shots and even had trouble defending, which is something he’s usually best at. Just not a great night for Koufos all around, although it’s good to see he found way to contribute on the glass.

Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 6-11 FG | 9-11 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTS | +8

Ty struggles with his assertiveness at times. You could see this game. After getting his shot blocked by Sanders he wasn’t as driven to penetrate as he had been. What I’ve noticed is that he’s starting to overcome his hesitance faster than he has in the past. Against the Bucks he recovered from a lull in the middle of the game and was all over the place in the fourth quarter. His jump shot was smooth and precise and his defense was even on par with some of the Nuggets wings.

Andre Iguodala, SG 32 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 4 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +10

Excellent defense from Iguodala. Every time you turned around he had his arms in the dribbling vicinity of his opponent, knocking the ball loose. He did struggle a bit offensively and got caught several times trying to find one of his teammates after dribbling into the lane and stopping, instead of making a move one way or the other. But again, his defense was overwhelming this game.

Corey Brewer, SF 27 MIN | 6-13 FG | 7-9 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +14

This is a patented Corey Brewer-Denver Nuggets basketball game. He’s done this so many times throughout the season and it’s helped the Nuggets win so many games in the process. How he does it is by being active — more than anybody else on the floor. He’s up and down, in and out, cutting, finding the open spots on the floor and then converting when his team needs it most. His defense was great, not only the fourth quarter, but the entire game as well.

JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -11

I thought McGee was sound for about 17 minutes. He had a few mistakes (i.e., fouls) but otherwise, he was exactly what the Nuggets need him to be. I can’t even remember how many nice tips, deflections and rebounds he had that were savvy and helped his team recover the ball. He also played very good help defense, evident by his four blocks on the night.

Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -2

Miller got a little selfish at times and took some ill-advised shots, but otherwise he was fantastic. His distribution was up there with some of the best games he’s had all year. Not only were his passes on target, but they were smart and deceptive.

Wilson Chandler, SG 21 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -1

Chandler needs to figure out how to take better shots. I think this means driving more. The Nuggets offense is predicated of driving to the lane and Chandler is usually at his best when he’s participating. He also can’t settle for jump shots. He’s just not a good jump shooter. His defense and rebounding were awesome though. As long as he keeps those up, his offense will fall into place.

George Karl

Talk about a complete shift in momentum. I was baffled most of this game. I could not believe how well the Bucks were playing and how poorly the Nuggets were defending. Above all else, I could not understand why Karl didn’t come up with a better scheme to prevent the Bucks from penetrating. I know it’s not his style, but even trying a zone defense would have at least given the Bucks something else to try and combat. Instead, Milwaukee pick-and-rolled the Nuggets to death until the fourth quarter came around and their backcourt started hoisting up jumpers. Additionally, the Nuggets were getting killed inside and not once did Karl go with a taller lineup so that one big could roam with the pick-and-roll while the other stayed home to protect the paint. Where he deserves credit is for the fourth quarter. He obviously had a great speech before the final 12 minutes and implemented an effective gameplan that relied on energetic, suffocating defense and getting out on the break.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 113, New Orleans Hornets 98

New Orleans Hornets 98 FinalRecap | Box Score 113 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 8-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +24

For the last month, Gallo has been playing with a high level of intensity. His shot wasn’t great tonight, but it was adequate to space the floor well, and he took advantage with some nice passes including a no-look to Brewer for a layup. He was responsible for three Hornets turnovers, made a couple great defensive stops, and drew several off-ball fouls as well. He wasn’t dominant in any facet of the game, but he was pretty good at everything.

Kenneth Faried, SF 29 MIN | 6-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +17

Kenneth only committed three fouls this game, but two of them were terrible decisions. He also took two questionable jumpers with plenty of time on the shot clock. But his positives outweigh those negatives by a good margin. He was active defensively, disrupting drives and affecting shots. He was his usual energetic self rebounding, getting up high to take two potential rebounds away from Davis, and even running a one-man fast break off a Hornets miss.

Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +16

This was a quiet night for Kosta. His defense was solid, keeping Lopez out of the paint except on one misplayed drive. He mostly stayed out of the way on the offensive end, even on occasions where he was being guarded by a much smaller player.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 6-14 FG | 8-8 FT | 0 REB | 13 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +25

Ty started out looking a little tentative on both ends of the court, but that didn’t last long. Over the final three and a half quarters, he played an excellent game. He was getting to the rim, creating for others, drawing fouls, getting steals, and hit a huge buzzer-beating 3 to create some momentum going into the fourth quarter. Best of all, he took care of the ball, with no turnovers.

Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 10-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +9

The Nuggets’ best defender held Eric Gordon to 0-2 shooting with four turnovers in the first half, and only nine points for the game. He also improved his shot selection from previous games, taking eight attempts at the rim (including two great dunks off of lobs) and five uncontested jump shots (not counting an end-of-quarter heave.) Only a couple of sloppy turnovers kept him from a perfect grade.

Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +2

Brewer hit some difficult shots to bail his teammates out during the first half. His gambling on defense paid off more often than not tonight, including a nice breakaway dunk. He did have two occasions where he got badly out of position, once on defense leading to a layup, and once on offense leading to a turnover, but this is fewer than his average number of mistakes.

Timofey Mozgov, C 11 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -12

This was a truly awful game for Mozgov. He was responsible for three of the five offensive rebounds the Hornets grabbed tonight. The only rebound he managed to grab was off of a missed free throw. The Hornets came right at him when he was in the game and he didn’t rise to the challenge. Even when he caught the ball right under the rim, he couldn’t make a positive play, turning the ball over on a traveling violation.

Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +5

As has been the case in a few recent games, Andre Miller provided a hilarious “old man saving his energy” highlight when he hit a late three pointer and then walked off the court rather than playing five more seconds of defense. Surprisingly, he provided some good energy through most of the fourth quarter, helping turn a tight game into a solid win with a late layup, some nice passing, and a little bit of defense. These were all notably absent from his game in the first half, though.

Wilson Chandler, SG 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 7-8 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -11

Most of Chandler’s touches on offense were as the trailing man in fast break situations, which resulted in several trips to the free throw line. He didn’t get into any sort of offensive rhythm otherwise. Defensively, he caused a few missed shots, but combined with Mozgov to give up far too many offensive rebounds.

George Karl

Coach Karl played his best three players more minutes than usual tonight, realizing they’ll have plenty of time to rest before the next game. This was crucial in a game where he was missing a key bench player and the backup wasn’t producing. Still, I’m surprised Koufos played only 22 minutes, and more surprised Mozgov was allowed a full 11.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 118, Houston Rockets 110

Houston Rockets 110 Final

Recap | Box Score

118 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 10-17 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 3 TO | 27 PTS | +8

This was one of Gallo’s best games on the season. He was efficient and played excellent defense, evident by his four blocks on the night. He also hit countless big shot, four of which came from downtown with a hand in his face. I’ve often said one of the true marks of a star is his ability to hit tough shots with consistency; and while Gallo is by no means a star, he’s hitting tougher shots with more frequency as the season progresses. If nothing else, he’s the Nuggets star at the moment.

Kenneth Faried, SF 33 MIN | 6-8 FG | 7-8 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | +14

This was weird. I was watching Faried all game. He was playing with high energy, as usual. He was getting to the line and scored a bucket here and there. Then all of a sudden I looked up and he had 19 points. I couldn’t figure it out. I guess it goes to show just how effective he can be when he brings it on a consistent basis and doesn’t back down.

Kosta Koufos, C 20 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -5

Koufos was pretty standard. He came in when the Nuggets needed a defensive presence up front and did his job.

Ty Lawson, PG 33 MIN | 4-12 FG | 7-8 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +1

Lawson was incredibly passive for three quarters of the game. He wasn’t driving or shooting with the type of confidence we’ve seen of late, yet he still managed to finish the game with 16 points. It wasn’t his best outing, but he was influential late in the game when the Nuggets rallied for a huge fourth quarter lead.

Andre Iguodala, SG 37 MIN | 5-13 FG | 4-6 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 15 PTS | -7

Take away the six missed 3-pointers and Iguodala has another excellent outing. His defense on Harden was great — that’s to be expected — and for most of the game he played well on offense. But there was a stretch where he took one three after another, all of which clanked hard against the rim and had no chance of going in. Just to clarify: Iguodala is shooting .312 percent from downtown on the season. It would be nice to see him ease up on the long-distance shots every now and then.

Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 2-8 FG | 4-7 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +4

Brewer had a rough night shooting but his defense and energy was there. That’s about all you can ask for. He did a nice job of getting out on the break too.

Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -2

I continue to be amazed at the phenomenon that is Timofey Mozgov. He’s been in the league for three years now, yet often looks like he arrived last week. He’ll go from shooting an air ball to knocking down a nothing-but-net 10-foot jumper in the span of a few plays. He’s improved, but he’s also remained inept in more ways than one. Nevertheless, he sets solid picks and plays the best man defense of any big on the Nuggets roster. That’s worth something. Let’s just hope another team realizes this so that he can get to playing and Anthony Randolph can get to being the rightful backup power forward on the Nuggets roster — like he deserves to be.

Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +22

Miller drives me up a wall; yet I love his game so much. This is the story of my grading experience with him. Against the Rockets he sagged off his opponent way too much and played lazy defense in general, but he also had 12 huge points and controlled the offense like the true veteran that he is. Did I mention his 12 buckets were big?

Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +5

If we know anything about Wilson Chandler it’s this: He’s a good rebounder, he plays hard on defense and he also takes one too many awful shots. I love his tenacity on defense and the way he goes after loose balls, but somebody has to take him aside and teach him the art of shooting in rhythm and in the flow of the offense.

George Karl

I will continue to stand by my mantra: winning matters most. I don’t care how it happens. The fact is, at the end of the game you either win or you lose and right now the Nuggets are winning. I did not understand why they decided to switch on defense. That was a game-plan that clearly backfired. Also, the Nuggets defense in general was bad. Giving up 110 points to anybody is unacceptable. But Karl clearly got to his team before the fourth quarter started because the Nuggets came out with a vengeance and energy that we’ve only seen the likes of several times this season. If the Nuggets play more consistent on defense and don’t switch as much, Karl would likely be getting an A here.

Instant Reaction: Nuggets 102-Pacers 101

Sorry for the delay in the post. The site was having some problems last night and this morning so I am just now able to get on and post it. We are working on fixing the issues with the site.

 

 

Indiana Pacers 101 Final

Recap | Box
Score

102 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF
38 MIN | 9-16 FG | 6-7 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 27 PTS | +4

As has become the norm for Gallo, he exploded in the second half after being mostly invisible for the first half; as he tallied 19 points an assist, and a rebound in the games final two stanzas. He also provided some physicality that the Nuggets needed in the fourth quarter. On the downside though, Gallo gave up a big offensive rebound to David West in the fourth and got his final shot blocked with under 30 seconds left in the game. As with many of the Nuggets late game possessions this year Gallo went on an iso and took an ill advised shot as he fell down, over the outstretched extendo-arms of Paul George. Luckily for the Nuggets the wasted possession turned out not to hurt them but it did knock Gallo’s grade down a half a grade.

Kenneth Faried, SF 12 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +7

Faried was flat out awful for the mass majority of the twelve minutes he played on Monday. He was limited to only 4 first half minutes because he picked up three fouls, two of which were incredibly boneheaded and when he was in the game he was picked apart by David West. In a game that the Nuggets played without their normal backup power forward and center Faried needed to provide plenty of important minutes and he did just the opposite. A really bad night for the Manimal.

Kosta Koufos, C 36 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB |0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -2

Kosta had his moments in this one, two big time blocks on back-to-back possessions that both led to fast break buckets for the Nuggets were the highlights, but the long range hook shot he took was one of the low lights. After Faried got in early foul trouble the Nuggets needed more minutes than Koufos normally gives them, as they were also minus Chandler and McGee, and Kosta was up to the task. Along with Mozgov, Koufos brought a lot of physicality to the Pepsi Center on Monday, something that the Nuggets desperately needed against a tough Indiana team.

Ty Lawson, PG 41 MIN | 7-17 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB |7 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | 0

During stretches of the game Lawson was the best player on the floor Monday, as he flew around the court on defense and got into the paint at will on offense, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. But with the Nuggets late game offense floundering someone needed to take control and Lawson was unable, or unwilling, to do so. That is a problem now, and will only get worse as the season goes on if Lawson continues to be unable to help the Nuggets offense run smoothly late in games.

Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 4-11 FG | 5-10 FT | 10 REB| 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -2

It was a very up and down night for Iguodala and one that is hard to grade. One one hand he came up three assists shy of a triple-double and played terrific defense on Paul George, making George work for every catch and shot throughout the night. On the other hand were the late game free-throws and his shooting from the field. First came the foul that he committed on George as George hit a three, while the Pacers were in the middle of their run from 14 down to tie the game. Then he missed four free-throws in a row as the Nuggets allowed the Pacers to climb back and tie the game in the final minute plus. Finally, he got lucky when his late game steal of Paul George was deemed not a foul as the play could have gone either way. But he hit his biggest free-throw and was credited with the steal so his grade stays good, barely.

Anthony Randolph, PF 4 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -8

It was Randolph’s time to try and earn more playing time with the absences of JaVale McGee and Wilson Chandler and instead he just gave George Karl more reason to sit him on the bench. In four minutes Randolph took and missed 3 shots including a layup and his only rebound came on his own miss. On the other end of the court he was bullied into a foul nine seconds after he came into the game by David West. Not exactly the best way to seize an opportunity.

Corey Brewer, SF 30 MIN | 5-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB |1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -7

Another night and another important performance from Corey Brewer. Along with his typical energy and defense Brewer brought along some shooting to help spread the floor as he knocked down three three-pointers on the night, all of which looked very good from the moment they left his hand. He also helped make life tough on Paul George and George Hill, though he had a couple of bad gambles that lowered his grade from an A to an A minus. But all-in-all another great game from Brewer, who is forcing himself to the top of many 6th Man of the Year lists.

Timofey Mozgov, C 25 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 10 PTS | +8

Thrust into duty due to injuries Mozgov played very well in 25 minutes. He finished in the paint on offense and battled Roy Hibbert all night on the other end of the floor making life tough for the Pacers center. While Mozzy could stand to improve his hands, the impact he had on the game is not shown in his numbers; without his contributions it is hard to imagine the Nuggets winning this game.

Andre Miller, PG 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 5 PTS | +5

Yuck. Miller had a rough night on Monday as he struggled to really do anything well at all. He had five of the Nuggets 14 turnovers, got torched on the defensive end of the floor by Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson, and for some reason, Paul George and even his lob at the end to Andre Iguodala was not good, as it just missed sailing out of bounds without the great catch by Iggy. At least George Karl realized it enough to not go to the small lineup at the end of the game or who knows what the results could have been.

George Karl

Karl made a couple of important in game adjustments that helped the Nuggets win the game, and drew up the lob play that gave Denver the win but the night was not all good for the Denver head coach. On the good side, despite being ready to play Anthony Randolph heavy minutes to replace McGee and Chandler, Karl went with what worked and played a lot of minutes with the ultra big Koufos/Mozgov front line and it payed off against a physical Pacers squad. Second sensing bad minutes from Andre Miller, Karl limited Miller’s minutes to only 17 and let Lawson, Iguodala and Brewer pick up the slack. But again the Nuggets late game offense broke down and almost cost them the game and at a certain point that falls on Karl and his staff. Clearly isolation plays to end games do not work with this roster, and Karl must recognize that and start using sets late in games to create movement and open looks. Also why in the world did Karl think Andre Miller could check Paul George as he asked him to for a bit in the first half?

Two Things We Saw

  1. Same Old: Another game against a physical stretch four, and another game of ineffectiveness for Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets need to figure out a solution to the problem fast, because come playoff time teams will find ways to get stretch or physical fours on Faried and it will spell doom for the Nuggets. In the end the Nuggets were lucky to steal this game when their best active big played only 12 minutes.
  2. Same Old: And right along with the first problem was another reoccurring one; the Nuggets late game offense that almost helped give the game away. This team is not built to play with one guy isoing against a defender and four players standing and watching. There just aren’t enough shooters or big men with good hands on the team for that. Yet the Nuggets continue to use it as their only late game offense and continue to get tough shots. There have to be set plays that they can use in situations like that, or George Karl needs to be drawing up plays during timeouts because it is going to again cost the Nuggets dearly at some point, and probably multiple points, this year.

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Inside the Problem: A Breakdown of the Nuggets Turnovers

As anyone who has followed the Nuggets this seasons knows, a couple things have plagued the team all season; inconsistency, a lack of perimeter shooting, and turnovers. I decided to look further into that turnover issue to see why the Nuggets continued to turn the ball over at such an alarming pace, 14.8 per game good for fifth worst in the league.

To figure out what Denver’s problem was I decided to take a look at each turnover the Nuggets have committed all year via synergy and keep track of three factors; who committed the turnover, what kind of turnover was it, and was it a live or dead ball turnover.

After tracking 667 turnovers (I must have missed a game somewhere but have no idea which) I did a bit of analysis of the numbers and found some interesting facts.

I have attached the document as a link to a public google doc at the end of the post so readers can download it and look for themselves.  (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 121, Sacramento Kings 93

Sacramento Kings 93 FinalRecap | Box Score 121 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 26 MIN | 3-7 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +32

This was a quiet but efficient game for Gallinari. He didn’t shoot particularly well, and even missed a dunk, but made a couple of three pointers and did a good job getting to the line. His passing and defense were also solid.

Kenneth Faried, SF 27 MIN | 4-6 FG | 3-5 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +30

Kenneth played with his usual energy and effort. He was great on the glass and mostly made his shots. His defensive rotations seemed crisper than usual. His worst mistake was an out of control drive leading to a turnover.

Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 5-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +24

Kosta Koufos rose to the occasion of defending DeMarcus Cousins for much of the night, limiting the Kings’ big man to 3 points and 2 rebounds. He stayed active in the paint, getting five shots at the rim and making them all. He had a little bit of trouble not fouling.

Ty Lawson, PG 26 MIN | 11-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 26 PTS | +32

Ty was on fire tonight. He was hitting threes, getting good midrange looks, and getting to the rim. He also had several nice passes, with only one turnover in the first half. Defensively he had a few lapses, but also broke up two Kings fast breaks and had several steals.

Andre Iguodala, SG 31 MIN | 8-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | +30

Iguodala had a nice showing. He harassed the Kings into a couple of turnovers and a bunch of bad shots. He was also finding his teammates for great looks. A couple of his three point attempts were ill-advised, but most were good looks.

Anthony Randolph, PF 11 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -2

He made a couple of nice stops, including a big block on Thomas Robinson. He showed good energy with his rebounding. A big dunk put the Nuggets over the taco line for the game.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 13 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -3

Shot selection continues to be an issue for Jordan Hamilton. He also continues to make positive plays in other ways, including a couple of good rebounds against bigger players and a big block that led to a layup on the other end.

Corey Brewer, SF 17 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -3

Brewer made a couple of very nice passes and created some easy points off of steals. On the minus side, he took a couple of terrible long two point shots and made a couple of weak passes that led to easy points the other way.

Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

He missed his only attempt in the paint, and for some inexplicable reason took two midrange jumpers and a corner three. He got outworked for rebounds by much smaller players.

JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +6

In limited minutes, JaVale did something on almost every possession, sometimes good and sometimes bad. He altered several shots, but also allowed some easy layups and second chance opportunities for the Kings. On offense, he got to the rim and made his shots.

Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 1-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -4

The oldest player on the roster used his veteran talents to find several open players, racking up nine assists and play worthy of a solid B before garbage time. Late in the game, he was tasked with leading the young guys, where his age really showed. On several plays, he simply gave up, including a few times where he remained on the defensive end of the court while his teammates played 4-on-5.

Evan Fournier, SG 12 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -4

Evan Fournier was careless with the basketball, turning it over on two bad passes. He struggled to stay with his man on defense. Back-to-back three pointers marked his most significant contribution.

Wilson Chandler, SG 8 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

His rebounding and defense were solid. Offensively, he did very little with very few touches.

George KarlCoach Karl limited his use of the 2 point guard lineup to around a minute in the first half, allowed JaVale McGee to play through some mistakes, and let the end of the bench play when the game was truly out of reach. Solid coaching effort.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 105, Houston Rockets 95

Denver Nuggets 105 Final

Recap | Box Score

95 Houston Rockets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | +4

Gallinari might be the quietest 17 points-per-game scorer in the NBA. It seems like every time I turn around he’s scored in the high teens or low 20s, yet I never remember anything outside of a few threes, free throws and drives to the basket. His game has really evolved over the last month or so. What stood out most this game, however, was his three blocks. Gallinari’s defense continues to impress and shows he’s committed to his team, and not just himself.

Kenneth Faried, SF 20 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | +2

Faried had a monster block and several big rebounds. Other than that he was nowhere to be found. Contrary to popular belief, Faried has been pretty inconsistent at times this season. He’s had plenty of games like this where he simply doesn’t show up. If he’s gonna be a big part of this team moving forward he needs to be held accountable like everybody else.

Kosta Koufos, C 29 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -6

Where did he go? Koufos started off the game with a bang. He was active on the offensive glass and had multiple follow-ups and hook shots that were surprisingly well executed. Then, he just disappeared. It should also be noted that Koufos played strong man defense throughout the game.

Ty Lawson, PG 33 MIN | 8-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 21 PTS | +2

This was one of Lawson’s best games of the year in terms of pushing the pace. He also shot the ball and attacked the rim with great confidence, which is something he has struggled with this season. In the second half (specifically the third quarter) Lawson utilized his speed to create for himself and his teammates in such a forceful manner that the Rockets defense simply broke down. He making himself look good, no doubt; but more importantly, he was making his teammates look even better.

Andre Iguodala, SG 36 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +3

Iguodala might very well be the most talented player on the Nuggets roster, but he’s had a difficult time realizing his abilities in George Karl’s offense. Every now and then we’ll see flashes, but often these acts of brilliance are watered down by what appears to be indecisiveness. I’d say without question Iguodala is the smartest player on the roster; however, his cerebral approach to the game can be more of a hindrance than an asset at times. Moving forward, it would be nice to see him handle the ball more and create for his teammates, as this would allow him to exercise his brain and help his team out in the process.

Anthony Randolph, PF 2 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -5

Incomplete.

Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +12

Brewer was quiet for most of the game but played good defense, as usual. He also hit a big 3-pointer and did a solid job of getting out on the break. When Chandler, Iguodala and him are on the court together, playing lock-down defense, the Nuggets have a whole new dimension to their team — and one that’s a joy to watch.

JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 6-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +16

If JaVale rebounds slightly better, he’d likely receive an A-plus for this game. This isn’t to say he wasn’t without mistakes. He took a few bad shots and did normal JaVale things that worry you, but overall he was quite effective. Aside from scoring at an incredibly high rate, he also ran the floor extremely well and was focused for most of the game. The biggest storyline of JaVale’s performance was an ally-oop he threw to himself, which I’m sure you’ll see on SportsCenter sometime over the next day or so. This was of course capped by an odd celebration in which JaVale ran down the court, eyes wide as can be, holding his index finger (with a handlebar mustache tattooed on the inside) up to his lip. Though he’s turning George Karl’s hair more grey by the minute, you simply have to admire his fun-loving approach to the game.

Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | +5

I’m surprised to see Miller had such a simplistic stat line. I though he played fairly decent for most of the night. He didn’t make much of an impact, but he always seemed to be in the right place to move the offense along.

Wilson Chandler, SG 24 MIN | 7-15 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +17

This was Chandler’s best performance in a Nuggets uniform — at least, that I can remember. He started the game hoisting up jumpers but eventually they started to go in. Though his points are what might catch your eye, it was his defense and rebounding that were the story of the game. I cannot stress just how impressive his defense was. It was on par with what Brewer and Iguodala have been bringing all year. It was utterly fantastic. And the best part was how it immediately led to fast-break points. In the third quarter Chandler was wrecking havoc on the Rockets and was without question the catalyst that turned the game around for his team. If he plays with this type of defense effort every game, Nuggets fans are in for one hell of a treat the second half of the season.

George Karl

I have no reason to give Karl anything but an A. For once the Nuggets came out prepared to play in the first quarter and never really hit any low points throughout the game. In fact, this was one of the first times all season that I actually remember being happy watching the Nuggets. (Sad, I know.) Their offense in the third quarter was a work of art. Ignited by Ty Lawson, the dribble-drive was in full effect and executed to perfection. At one point Nuggets broadcast announcer Chris Marlowe even emphatically stated, “That’s exactly what it’s supposed to look like!” I could not agree more. But of course, it was the defense that was the story of the game. The Nuggets were committed to this side of the floor for almost 48 minutes and played like they actually wanted to tear the Rockets up by stopping them, rather than shooting over them. This, to me, is how basketball should be played.

The Two Point Guard System – By the Numbers

In February of 2003 the Milwaukee Bucks acquired Gary Payton from the Seattle Supersonics in exchange for Ray Allen at the trade deadline.  That trade has sent a ripple effect through time that has ultimately caused much consternation amongst Nuggets fans.  It reunited Payton with his former coach in Seattle George Karl.  The thing is, the Bucks just so happened to have another high quality point guard on the roster in Sam Cassell.

Although Cassell and Payton had entered their mid-30s, they were still very effective players, both posting a PER above 20 and the two were the Bucks leading scorers once Allen was no longer on the team.

Karl was faced with a conundrum.  What do you do when you have two really good point guards on the roster?  The answer was simple, you play them both.

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Rapid Reaction: Washington Wizards 112, Denver Nuggets 108

 

Washington Wizards 112 Final

Recap | Box Score

108 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 5-16 FG | 5-5 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +10Gallo had a pretty solid first half, despite his jumper not falling. Got to the rim quite a few times. He sat for too long in the fourth quarter, and when he finally came in he took several bad shots.
Kenneth Faried, SF 27 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +12Faried didn’t bring a lot of energy, didn’t finish at the rim, and couldn’t stop anybody on defense late in the game.
Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +2Koufos was solid for most of the game. He didn’t get credit for any blocked shots, but I counted at least 3 that he altered significantly. Leaving Seraphin alone for an offensive rebound late in the game was a big mistake.
Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 11-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 29 PTS | -5Ty started out slow and had trouble finishing in the first half, but turned it on in the third quarter with 23 points scored in a variety of ways. He also had a couple of steals and played decent defense for most of the game. A poor decision to drive into traffic hurts his grade here.
Andre Iguodala, SG 30 MIN | 0-4 FG | 2-6 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -1When your shooting guard shoots this poorly from the field and from the line, it’s going to be hard to win. He did have several nice defensive plays, including stopping a fast break singlehandedly early in the game.
Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-4 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | -8If the game ended at halftime, I would have given Cold Brew an A- for the game. He was wreaking havoc on the defensive end and hit most of his shots. In the second half he gambled and ended up in the backcourt without possession several times, leading to easy buckets that allowed the Wiz to close the gap. He started missing shots, but at least decided to feed Ty Lawson when he was hot.
JaVale McGee, C 14 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -12JaVale was aggressive in the paint to close out the first half. He was exactly the opposite at the start of the fourth quarter.
Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 8-10 FG | 1-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | -6By far the hardest player to grade tonight. On the plus side, he was scoring pretty much at will in the fourth quarter. On the minus side, he had several defensive lapses and missed two key free throws.
Wilson Chandler, SG 20 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -12He played a lot like Brewer, except he wasn’t hitting shots at any point in the game.
George KarlI try not to give out F’s very often, but when you lose a game like this, the coach has to take the blame. The Wizards had several stretches of the game where they were getting everything they wanted on offense. GK took too long to adjust, and the adjustments he made weren’t very effective.

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Rapid Reaction: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Denver Nuggets 97

Denver Nuggets 97 Final

Recap | Box Score

117 Oklahoma City Thunder
Danilo Gallinari, SF 26 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -21

Gallo had trouble defending Durant and that was all she wrote. His impact on the game outside of making a few shots was minimal.

Kenneth Faried, SF 21 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -24

Faried was almost not even present. As is often the case with more physical and larger power forwards, Faried was swallowed up.

Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 6-6 FG | 4-6 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -8

Koufos was the best player on the team. That’s all you need to know to figure out the direction this game went. He was great all night on the glass and around the basket. He converted misses as well as entry passes with the execution of a veteran. His defense was also solid, yet again.

Ty Lawson, PG 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 2 PTS | -14

It’s hard to achieve this stat line in 20 minutes of action. Lawson was clearly stifled by Westbrook, which isn’t a good sign for the playoffs. Lawson relies on his speed, yet Westbrook is one of the few players in the league who’s probably faster than Lawson. He’s also stronger, more athletic and more talented.

Andre Iguodala, SG 30 MIN | 4-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -17

While Iguodala had one of the better stat lines of the starting unit, it was still pretty bad. He was missing shots by a wide margin too. He got most of his points of easy baskets, meanwhile his defense wasn’t particularly great either.

Anthony Randolph, PF 16 MIN | 1-6 FG | 6-8 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +5

Randolph was one of the bright spots against the Thunder. He drove the basket and got fouls. He didn’t make a lot of shots, but he was aggressive. He also played pretty well on defense, evident by his three blocks and three steals. This is one player I’d like to see get some more action every now and then, considering the Nuggets don’t really have a backup power forward.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 9 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +3

What can you say about Hamilton? He clearly didn’t belong with the group he was playing with tonight. He’s a big small forward who can drive, drain threes and score at will. You have to wonder what he’s done wrong in light of Fournier ostensibly moving ahead of him on the depth chart.

Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 1-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -8

I hardly remember Brewer at all. There were a few sequences where he played solid defense but he was MIA other than that. It would have been nice to see him on Durant more…

Timofey Mozgov, C 10 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +8

Mozgov logged decent minutes. He missed some pretty easy buckets and got hit in the face with the ball, but he was active, which is always good.

JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 5-6 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | -19

JaVale finally overcame his slump — or so it appears. He was under control for most of the night and only made one or two “bonehead” plays. Other than that, he played with composure and verve, especially on offense.

Julyan Stone, PG 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1

I like Stone; always have. I just like the way he quarterbacks the offense. He’s a floor general at heart. He’s always looking to get others involved first and he never forces anything. It would be interesting to see how well he could defend guys like Durant…

Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -8

Miller’s assists are where he gets his grade. He did do a fine job of sharing the rock, I’ll give him that. But his tunnel vision scares me. I feel like he’s always on the verge of thinking he has to throw his team on his back and score every time down the floor — which should never happen.

Evan Fournier, SG 15 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +4

Fournier’s stat line is deceiving. For about 10 minutes of his floor time he was turning the ball over and committing awful fouls. He played better as the game progressed, but I still have no idea how he got inserted before Hamilton.

George Karl

Karl’s team was totally unprepared from the start. They were never in this game — not even in the first few minutes. It was like watching JV vs. Varsity. Durant and Westbrook are two of the best player in the league, but the Nuggets have several of the best defenders in the league. Why was Iguodala not on Westbrook more? Why was Brewer not on Durant more? Instead Westbrook schooled Andre Miller and overpowered Ty Lawson all night, while Durant took Gallo to the hole repeatedly. And it all starts with defense. The Thunder had almost 70 by half and finished with 117. That’s inexcusable. I don’t care if you’re coming off a week of hiking in the Rocky Mountains with little to no sleep — that kind of defensive effort just won’t cut it. I felt like this was a game Karl had no problems conceding from the start. At least, that’s how it looked.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 115, Portland Trailblazers 111

Portland Trail Blazers 111 Final

Recap | Box Score

115 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 42 MIN | 8-14 FG | 6-8 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 25 PTS | -1

What I loved most about this game was how efficiently Gallo scored. He didn’t force anything. He mixed long-range shots with drives and put-backs. I know Gallo has been playing very well lately, but consider this: In his last 10 games he’s averaging 20 points (on nearly 49 percent shooting from the floor), six boards and 2.5 assists per game. If Gallo keeps letting the game come to him, we’ll likely see this spike in production continue the rest of the season.

Kenneth Faried, SF 31 MIN | 9-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +7

As is often the case, Faried was the heart of his team’s performance for much of the night. At half he was on pace for a 30-point, 15-rebound game and while he didn’t achieve that feat he still put up a 20-and-10 night to go with an incredible enthusiasm that none of his opponents could match. If Faried doesn’t come out and play like the true Manimal that he is, there’s a good chance the Nuggets get caught sleeping and lose this game.

Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +15

We can’t always be hypnotized by numbers. There are many nights when players affect the game in ways that numbers cannot show. This was one of those nights for Koufos. He played solid defense throughout the game and did many little things that helped the Nuggets win.

Ty Lawson, PG 40 MIN | 10-19 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +7

This was one of the best games I’ve ever seen from Lawson. He’s put up these types of numbers before, but the way in which he did it was remarkable. He started the game off on a tear, cooled down, then experienced a resurgence in the fourth quarter that essentially won the game for the Nuggets. In the last four minutes of the fourth quarter he scored eight points and then continued his damage in overtime. What stood out to me most is how he got his shot blocked at the rim on several occasions but kept pounding it inside (with great success) until the final whistle. He displayed great resiliency and a will to win that only the truest of leaders possess.

Andre Iguodala, SG 41 MIN | 4-16 FG | 0-3 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +9

This may seem like a harsh grade, but let’s be completely honest: How many big games has Iguodala either showed up in, or better yet, won for the Nuggets? He’s had quite a few impressive outings but they never seem to come when the Nuggets need them most. Defense alone won’t cut it either. The Nuggets (and the fans) expect him to be much more than just Tony Allen. He’s paid about $10 million more per year than Tony Allen and if the Nuggets plan on retaining him that figure likely won’t drop much. This is only one game, of course, but Iguodala needs to start showing up when his team needs him, and not just when he decides to.

Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -4

I thought Brewer’s defense was some of the best he’s played all year. The Nuggets got a huge spark from their defense in the second half and Brewer was the often catalyst, as far as I could tell. It’s an absolute joy watching him play when he puts so much effort into stopping his opponent. Truly, an absolute joy.

JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -9

McGee has hit a rough patch. That much is clear. He’s having some problems on the court which seem to have finally driven him crazy. He’s over-thinking and yet, not thinking at all. He’s not relaxed. He’s not composed. It’s as if he’s nervous about making mistakes, which is naturally causing him to make mistakes. Now, I don’t know that this is exactly the case. I’m no psychologist. This is just a guess. But we’ve seen this before with guys Karl keeps on short leashes. Instead of being themselves (which entails making more mistakes than they probably should) they retreat to this frenetic, neurotic, bad-decision making that just compounds the problem. McGee had a few huge plays down the stretch but spent most of the game wondering about in his own mind.

Andre Miller, PG 30 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -4

Miller seemed bound determined he was going to score tonight, which he totally did not do. He took countless bad shots and had tunnel vision the whole game — yet he still got to play meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter. If not for the several minutes of solid defense in crunch time, he’d likely be flirting with an F.

Wilson Chandler, SG 19 MIN | 5-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | 0

This is a tough performance to grade. Throughout the middle of the game Chandler took one contested jump shot after another. His defense was great, but his offense was perplexing at times. Then, Chandler hit what was basically a game-winning 3-pointer and all was immediately forgiven. Overall, he’s been fantastic since coming back from surgery; much better than I expected. If he can limit his bad shots, drive to the hoop more and continue to play lock-down defense, the Nuggets will get a huge spark from his return to the rotation.

George Karl

Karl gets the grade he does because the Nuggets won. No matter how awful we may think he is at times, winning cannot be denied. That said… Karl did many things against the Blazers that also jeopardized the Nuggets chances of winning.

First, the Nuggets lost every timeout throughout the game. Every single one. After the Nuggets fought to gain a lead, the Blazers would immediately call a timeout and proceed to pound the Nuggets into submission. What does this mean? I’m not sure, really. Do Karl’s players listen when he is talking during timeouts? Is he being as fiery as he needs to be? Again, I don’t know. I’m not in the huddle so I can’t say. Nevertheless, this has been a problem all year and will likely continue into the postseason, sadly.

Next, Karl’s absolutely inexplicable reluctance to adapt to his opponents tactics, yet again, nearly cost the Nuggets the game. After playing McGee in the fourth quarter and building up a nine-point lead with nearly four minutes to go, Karl (again!) baffled every Nugget fan with an ounce of brain power by deciding to play Faried at center and Andre Miller at shooting guard down the stretch. The Blazers then casually went inside time after time with great success only to fully erase the Nuggets once nine-point lead and send the game into overtime. While Karl admitted his mistake and played McGee in overtime, the fact remains: IT NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED!!! We’ve seen this entirely too many times already and we’re only halfway through the season!!! Why does Karl not understand that every scenario in the NBA is going to be different!?! He cannot simply trot out the same small-ball gameplan and expect to succeed when each team has different players and different strategies! He really, REALLY needs to adapt to different situations so that Nuggets Nation can continue to keep the remaining hair they have and not pull every single last strand out of their skulls!

All that said, I liked Karl’s defensive schemes and lineups throughout most of the game. Portland only scored 41 points combined in the second and third quarters, which I thought were some of the best defensive quarters the Nuggets have had all year in terms of activity and commitment to stifling their opponent.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 116 – Golden State Warriors 105

Golden State Warriors 105 FinalRecap | Box Score 116 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 7-12 FG | 4-6 FT | 8 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | +17Gallo had a very effective night, helping in almost every aspect of the game and coming up big in the second half. He had 15 second half points and a big three that put the Nuggets up 11 late and virtually sealed the game. Gallo also posted eight rebounds, including a couple of big offensive boards, and six assists, which were nice additions to his scoring and helped him post the highest plus/minus on the team for the night, with a +17.
Kenneth Faried, SF 30 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +2While Faried put the exclamation point on the Nuggets fourth quarter run with a dunk and a block, his night was average at best. A continuing problem, Faried struggled with David Lee, allowing Lee to post 23 points , 13 rebounds , and 6 assists. Faried also left his guards out to dry at points, as he played to far underneath screens to help, allowing Steph Curry to bomb away. With the Warriors looming as a potential playoff opponent, the Nuggets need to figure out a way to get around Faried’s struggles with stretch fours.
Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +2Kofous was solid but unspectacular in his 20 minutes. His first half, where he scored 6 points and had 4 offensive rebounds, helped the Nuggets stay close but he only played 9 minutes in the second half; as the Nuggets went small with Gallo and Chandler both seeing time at the four, and most of the remaining center minutes went to JaVale.
Ty Lawson, PG 33 MIN | 6-14 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | 0Lawson was the other main reason the game was close at halftime, as he got off to a scorching start scoring 16 first half points. While those 16 points were as many as the rest of the starters combined, he let Steph Curry catch fire and added just four points and three assists in the second half. Still without his energy and scoring punch in the first half who knows where the Nuggets would have been at halftime.
Andre Iguodala, SG 32 MIN | 4-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -3Iguodala was another Nugget who only really appeared for a half, but he gets a half grade edge over Lawson because of his defensive effort. The game seemed to swing after Iggy stole a pass away from Klay Thompson for an easy dunk then forced Thompson to throw the pass out of bounds giving the Nuggets back the ball, and continuing Thompson’s miserable night. But as good as his second half was Iguodala seemed to sleepwalk a bit offensively in the first half as he went 1-6 from the field, including 0-4 from behind the line. For someone who is expected to be aggressive and help create offense for teammates it was an ugly, passive half.
Anthony Randolph, PF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | 0Inconclusive.
Jordan Hamilton, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Inconclusive.
Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +10Brewer really showed up in the second half, scoring 9 of his 13 points and along with Miller and Iguodala really turned up the pressure on the Warriors guards. That defensive intensity really swung the game and allowed the Nuggets to make their run so it was no surprise that Brewer posted a +10 for the night.
JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 2-3 FG | 5-8 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +10JaVale wasn’t spectacular tonight but he was effective, and he made his foul shots, which allowed him to stay on the floor late in the game. But as impressive as the 5-8 from the line was, the one rebound (which was offensive) wasn’t. Simply put as a seven footer with incredible athleticism McGee needs to grab more rebounds when he is on the floor, especially on the defensive end.
Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +12Miller was fantastic tonight. Offensively he was in control and attacking the basket and his ball pressure defensively, along with Iguodala and Brewer, helped change the game. His strip of Jarrett Jack and ensuing layup came right in the middle of a big Nuggets run that gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter. Add 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists to that defense and it was hard to find a problem with his game.
Evan Fournier, SG 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Inconclusive.
Wilson Chandler, SG 21 MIN | 6-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +5Chandler was great in his return, and for a while was one of the only Nuggets playing well offensively. He attacked the basket when available, knocked down a couple threes and made some steals defensively. There were a couple of questionable shots, but that could be expected due to some rust that was sure to be there. For a while I wondered if Karl would use him to close the game, instead of Faried, but it turned out to not be a problem. The addition of Chandler to the bench as another versatile athlete and scoring threat should really help the Nuggets.
George KarlThe Nuggets game plan of pressuring the Warriors guards and trapping side pick-and-rolls was great, and unexpected. While it took so long into the season to start to see, the defensive effort has to be attributed some to Karl. Now the real question is, will it last? Chandler should help some as the Nuggets now gain another bench body to use, and a versatile, athletic one at that. The combinations that will start to be seen should be interesting and for Nuggets fans after tonight, exciting.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 112- Los Angeles Lakers 105

Denver Nuggets 112 Final

Recap | Box Score

105 Los Angeles Lakers
Danilo Gallinari, SF 32 MIN | 6-20 FG | 5-6 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | +1

Gallo had a strange game for sure. He didn’t shoot well from the field, but he hit the big shot and combined with Iguodala and Brewer helped limit Kobe to 29 points on 26 shots, including two prayer threes at the end of the game. It was tough to grade but the Nuggets won and Gallo hit what was the biggest shot so he gets a good one.

Kenneth Faried, SF 32 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | -8

Faried’s first half was absolutely brutal. He went to halftime with only 2 points and a rebound and looked like he didn’t belong on the court at all. His normal energy returned a bit in the second half and made things better but overall it was a pretty ugly game for the Manimal.

Kosta Koufos, C 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -8

Like Gallinari, a lot of what Koufos did well doesn’t show up in the box score. He was a physical presence for the Nuggets and battled Dwight Howard whenever he was on the floor. With Faried lacking his normal energy it was important for Kosta to bring some of his own, and he did that very well.

Ty Lawson, PG 33 MIN | 9-18 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 10 AST | 21 PTS | +1

Lawson absolutely abused Steve Nash tonight. He got to the rim at will, and while he struggled to finish a couple times good things normally happened when he went to the basket. The three he hit was a big one as well, as it put the Nuggets up 10 late in the fourth. It was a return to the Lawson that people expected, and not the one from late in games early this year.

Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 6-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 15 PTS | +14

Iggy did a bit of everything tonight. He knocked down some threes, finished in transition, rebounded, defended and found teammates all throughout the night. His plus-14 on the night seemed right, as he was always in the middle of everything on both sides of the court when the Nuggets would make a run. In another good sign, the growth of chemistry between Iguodala and the rest of the team continued as he celebrated as much as any Nugget whenever something good happened for him or his teammates.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 4 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -4

Ouch. A tough night for Hamilton, even in such a short amount of minutes. He missed layups, turned the ball over on a shot clock violation (where he seemed to lose track of the remaining time), and got called for a goaltend. A learning experience for a young player hopefully.

Corey Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 6-14 FG | 1-3 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +15

Brewer completely changed the game when he entered it in the first quarter. His energy was infectious as he attacked the basket and the glass, and he knocked down a couple mid-range jump shots as well. His second half was a bit rougher, but without his early contributions the Nuggets may not have been in the position they found themselves in during the second half.

JaVale McGee, C 26 MIN | 7-9 FG | 3-7 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +14

JaVale was good JaVale again tonight. His energy and athleticism were on full display, and aside from a iffy goaltending call and a pull-up jumper from the foul line, there really weren’t any bad moments for him on the night. While he could still stand to grab a couple more rebounds, which will happen if he stops trying to tap them to people and grab them himself, there isn’t really anything to be mad about tonight.

Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 12 PTS | +10

Miller continued to be an enigma as he has most of the season. A second quarter sequence summed up his night pretty well. On one possession he threw a gorgeous lob to McGee for two points, but came right down the court the next possession and tried to force a lob to Faried for a turnover. A bit later in the quarter he hit his only three of the night, but the next possession he air balled a fadeaway contested two. Just a very up and down night again.

George Karl

Karl did a good job for the most part but a couple of things made me scratch my head. First off why did Andre Miller get the late possession instead of Lawson, or in the best case scenario an actual set play? Lawson was beating Steve Nash off the dribble all night but instead Miller was asked to beat Jodie Meeks. It ended up working out for the Nuggets because of luck, but I hated the call. Second why did Faried get more minutes than McGee and Koufos? The other two bigs were clearly more effective in the physical game than the Manimal, and they didn’t play terrible together. I thought it was strange. But the Nuggets won so Karl gets the benefit of the doubt.

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