Rapid Reaction: Portland Trailblazers 117, Denver Nuggets 97

Denver Nuggets 97 FinalRecap | Box Score 117 Portland Trail Blazers
Nene, C 27 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -18
It’s no secret Nene tends to struggle against taller, more talented big men. We saw it against the Lakers and again Saturday night against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers. Early on Nene attempted to go after Aldridge down low in the post but got turned back on nearly every occasion. From that point on he disappeared and never really attempted to get back in the game.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-14 FG | 5-5 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | -20
Gallinari drove aggressively to the hole and for that I commend him. This was a solid bounce-back performance after a few disappointing outings in which he took far too many outside jump shots. Gallo gave it his all for most of the game and looked completely pale on the sidelines at the end of the fourth quarter.
Kosta Koufos, C 34 MIN | 7-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | -5
This was by far Koufos’ best game as a Nuggets and quite possibly the best game of his career. He logged at least 30 minutes for the first time in a Nuggets uniform and put up season highs in both points and rebounds as a result. More than anything, against the Blazers Koufos proved that if he receives enough playing time, he’ll produce. His 12 boards were a career high and the most of any Nuggets since Nene had 13 against the New York Knicks. His 34 minutes were also a career high.
Arron Afflalo, SG 20 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -1
Something has to be up with Afflalo. Nuggets’ radio announcer Jason Kosmicki tweeted after the game that he might have a groin injury, which leads one to question why he’d be playing in the first place. Even if he was truly injured it still doesn’t change the fact that Afflalo has struggled mightily up to this point in the season and is without question the biggest disappointment of the year so far. This was his second game in the last six where he received at least 20 minutes of playing time and has gone scoreless in the process. Maybe Afflalo should just take a few games off, get refocused and come back when he’s ready.
Ty Lawson, PG 32 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 16 PTS | -19
Lawson was a standout in terms of effort. He was flying around the court all night, looking as if he was the only one who hadn’t succumbed to chronic fatigue like most of his teammates. He penetrated with precision and either ignited or got out on the break every time he was presented with the opportunity. This was clearly one of Lawson’s most effective games in the last week.
Al Harrington, PF 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -15
Harrington didn’t take a lot of shots but found a way to contribute in other areas, especially on defense where he played solidly against the much taller LaMarcus Aldridge. Once again Harrington’s passion for the game overflowed on to the court as he could be seen giving 110 percent even in the waning minutes of the game when the Nuggets didn’t have a shot at winning.
Andre Miller, PG 14 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -8
Miller looked absolutely lost. Granted, his 14 minutes didn’t allow him to make the type of impact he’s capable of, but there was probably good reasoning behind his lack of playing time in the first place. Batum’s career night began when Miller “attempted” to guard him, and in his first handful of buckets that went in from beyond the arc Miller didn’t even put a hand up to contest the shot. We’ve known Miller struggles on defense at times, but not even attempting to contest a shot is absolutely inexcusable. Because of this, Miller gets the first “F” I’ve handed out all season.
Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 4-10 FG | 6-7 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -7
Although a good chunk of his minutes came in garbage time, it’s hard to ignore just how energetic Brewer was in his time on the floor. Fourteen points in 20 minutes to go along with five boards, two assists, two steals and a block is nothing more than pure hustle numbers. His defense continue to impress, although he needs to work on not turning the ball over quite as often as he does.

Rudy Fernandez, SG
23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -19
Fernandez seemed somewhat hidden. Even in 23 minutes of action it was hard to tell what exactly he was doing on the floor. I did notice him playing stingy defense on a few occasions yet I also couldn’t help but look at the box score and “smh” at his five three-point attempts. Rudy simply isn’t hitting 3-pointers at a high clip, so why he continues to take so many is baffling. It would be nice to see him drive to the basket more than just once in a blue moon.
Julyan Stone, G 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +5
Stone, like all the rookies, didn’t play very much even though he should have. Still, his defense was great and his willingness to find nearly all of his teammates on offense continues to be a good sign from a young point guard. It’s hard to see Stone play with so much enthusiasm on the defensive side of the ball and not want to see more of him.
Kenneth Faried, F 5 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +2
Faried definitely still has a ways to go before he’s a sound NBA player and more than likely this is going to take a while. He’ll go through some growing pains in the process, although I cannot stress enough how his energy, defense and rebounding will cover up most of these flaws. Right now he should be focusing on making the right basketball play rather than the most electric ally oop; nevertheless, just like Stone it’s almost frustrating watching Faried play because you’re always going to want more.
Jordan Hamilton, G 3 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +5
You can tell, Hamilton has some offensive fire power up his sleeve. He hit yet another 3-pointer in the final seconds of the game to show off his range and displayed a fairly decent handle to go along with it. After seeing him get a little more comfortable each time out, you’re left to wonder just how effective he might be alongside the second, or first, unit in the heat of a real game.

The other side of the coin

Yesterday my wonderful colleague Jeremy detailed the Nuggets 2011-12 season outlook in a post titled, How Good Can the Denver Nuggets Be? In it he expressed his concern over how this year’s team would play without a “chip” on its shoulder, without enough good defensive players in addition to how the Nuggets would be affected by losing Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler to the Chinese Basketball Association. In the end Jeremy stated, “For Nuggets fans who could not stomach the thought of rebuilding, you got your wish. They will be a playoff team for the foreseeable future, but I fear that is all they will be.” Though this may be true, I’m here to tell you why that may not be such a bad thing after all.  (more…)