In the race for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets greatly strengthened their position with their big Wednesday night victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
This cleared the most difficult remaining game on their schedule, and reduced their magic number (combination of own wins and opponent losses) with respect to both the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers to three. With four games remaining, Denver can lose one game and still clinch third even if Memphis and L.A. win out (though since they play each other, at least one of them can’t).
Here is a side-by-side look at the remaining schedules of the three teams competing for that third seed which carries the benefits of both home court advantage in the first round and a matchup with the No. 6 seed: (more…)
The Denver Nuggets recently clinched a berth in the 2013 NBA playoffs, meaning that they will soon be making their tenth consecutive postseason appearance. And while this is a very impressive streak, what they’ve managed to do less often is finish the regular season with a good enough record to secure home court advantage in the first round. (more…)
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
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +4
Gallo got off to a pretty good start, but pretty much disappeard through the second and third quarters. But he came up big in the fourth on a critical possession, when he knocked down a huge 20-foot jumper which began a great close out that put the game out of reach. The stat line may not impress, but the win has his fingerprints all over it.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 19 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-5 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +9
Faried had a pretty terrible first half. He was a non-presence for the most part. Marc Gasol had his way with him, partly because he could shoot right over him, but also because Kenneth repeatedly failed to close out on his mid-range shots. He got into early foul trouble, and his energy just wasn’t up to his usual par. But after Karl sat him through the third, he came out with ferocity in the fourth quarter and almost single handedly tilted the dynamics of the game to the Nuggets’ favor. In a game that demanded physicality, he stepped up to the challenge and then some.
|Kosta Koufos, C 31 MIN | 7-9 FG | 4-6 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +7
Koufos recently scored his career high in points, but tonight may have been the best game of his career as he grabbed a career high 16 rebounds and shouldered a large share of Denver’s paint points. I can’t in good faith give him an A+ simply due to giving up far too many offensive rebounds, but he still deserves high marks for hanging tough down low with one of the league’s best front courts.
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -5
We saw some shades of early season Lawson tonight. He lacked confidence, was very hesitant in his decision making, and Memphis’ physical style of play really seemed to knock him off his game. But he did seem to recognize that he would need to be effective in other ways to close out the game, and he did an admirable job of defending Mike Conley, who was held to just 4-13 shooting.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 34 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +7
Games like this foreshadow just how valuable Iguodala might be in the postseason. As Scott Hastings said, Memphis is an Eastern Conference team playing in the West, and Andre is right in his comfort zone in these grinding battles. He was effective on both ends with a great balance of defense and playmaking, he was second after Koufos in defensive rebounding, and in a faster paced game he would have bagged a triple double.
|Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +6
Like Faried, Brewer just did not seem to be his usual energetic self tonight. In the final sum, his gambling on defense did not pay off against a smart, sound Grizzlies team that knows how to take care of the ball and capitalize on defensive errors. My gut wants to give him a C, but like Gallo, he saved a key possession by hitting a big shot in clutch time that extended the Nuggets lead, and that outshiines the rest of his game.
|JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -6
JaVale only played 12 minutes in this game, and they were actually pretty good minutes for the most part. Karl probably pulled him for failing to keep the Grizzlies off the offensive glass (not that they weren’t abusing every Nuggets player in that regard). But for whatever reason, he played so little that there’s not too much to conclude about his performance.
|Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +18
Andre Miller had an outstanding first half on the offensive end, including one downright spectacular drive in which he took it straight at Tony Allen like a whirling Dervish. His stamp on the second half was less pronounced, but he played well throughout. I don’t put too much stock in single game +/-, but the second highest Nugget in that category was Koufos at +9. Dre was +20.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 2-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 5 PTS | -5
Chandler’s offensive game was off in a pretty big way tonight. It wasn’t just that his shot wasn’t falling. He seemed to be completely out of the offensive flow, ad when he got the ball, good things were not usually happening. What saves him from getting a D — and saves the entire team from being knocked down a peg for that horrendous third quarter — is defensive effort. That’s what kept the Nuggets in the game when their offense derailed, and he was solid on that end of the court.
There are times, when grading George Karl, that I feel ambivalent, that I see many more cons than pros throughout the course of the game — but then the Nuggets win and it’s hard to argue against results.But tonight was not one of those times. This is one game where I wholeheeartedly, unequivocally endorse the A+ for Karl. (For those who accuse me of being a hater, please bookmark this page for easy future reference). Simply put, George coached this hell out of this game.
Firstly, the Nuggets came out solid in the first quarter. They were prepared, they had a plan, and within the constraints put on them by the Grizzlies’ defense, they executed it. Memphis did dictate the pace, but the Nuggets were ready to work within those parameters.
It’s always hard to know how much of what a team does can be chalked up to game plan versus just what the players do spontaneously on the court. But in this one they did seem to have a clear defensive game plan, and they executed it well. They got killed on the offensive boards, but don’t lose sight of the fact that Memphis shot only 35.3% from the field. Before this game, the Nuggets lost their first three games of the season in which they scored under 90 points. They won tonight largely because their defense held the Briz to 80.
Karl also gets kudos for minutes management in this one. It was a huge gamble to bench Faried in the third quarter due to foul trouble, but it paid off dividends bigtime when the Manimal came roaring back in the fourth. And his micromanagement of rotations at the end of the game might be the best coaching we’ve seen from Karl all season, or in years. Taking out both point guards to go with big, lengthy defensive lineups, followed by speedy playmaking lineups on the other end. George usually has his routine and he sticks with it. Tonight, he was responsive to the dynamics of the game, and perfectly so.
But my favorite thing of all was what Altitude reported from the huddle before the fourth quarter. They said Karl had told his guys that this was a great chance, a great experiencee, a great opportunity to prepare for the playoffs and to learn how to win these tough, gritty, frustrating games they’ll inevitably experience more of in the postseason. It was a great message to send, and the players obviously responded to it with the renewed energy and confidence they needed to win the game.
Starting with tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets have 25 games left in their regular season schedule. Here we’ll take a look at how the final stretch breaks down, what we might expect to see if Denver continues on its current trajectory, and the critical importance of improving their performance in road games.
The overall schedule picture looks (more…)
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 29 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -8After exploding for a career-high 39 points against the Mavericks last night, the Rooster laid an egg in this one, shooting two of seven and getting to the free line just twice. When Gallo settles for contested long range jumpers and fails to attack the basket, his consistency and effectiveness suffer, and tonight was a perfect example. On defense, he could do nothing to slow down Rudy Gay’s onslaught in the 4th quarter which ultimately sealed the victory for memphis.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 5-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -7Faried’s energy was a bright spot once again, as he started the game off strong with hustle and effort. But it was quickly dimmed as he got himself into quick foul trouble, limiting his minutes, and restraining the impact he could have as he held himself back to avoid fouling out. He did a good job on both ends of the floor, but ultimately had he avoided a few mental mistakes, he could have made a much bigger difference.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -1In the first quarter, Koufos couldn’t muster up any ability to stop Zach Randolph on defense. He played better over the course of the game, but the larger problem, for which he and Faried share much of the blame, was a lack of defensive rebounding. The Grizzlies beat the Nuggets 17 to 10 on the offensive glass, and scored a bunch of easy second- and third-chance points as a result. Koufos ended up fouling out midway through the fourth quarter, and as the Nuggets were fairly fatigued and Faried was also in foul trouble, this proved to be somewhat costly.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 28 MIN | 1-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -7Lawson was virtually invisible in this game, and when that happens it’s a pretty sure key to a Nuggets loss. Three points and one assist is simply an unacceptable performance from Ty, excuses about fatigue and a road-heavy schedule be damned. When he disappears, so do the Nuggets’ chances of winning.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 41 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 12 PTS | -12If the game had ended after the first half, Iguodala would have received an A. He opened up the game continuing his aggressive play, driving to the basket and creating easy scoring opportunities for teammates. (He was a better point guard than both Lawson and Miller in this game). But some very costly turnovers and otherwise head-scratchingly sloppy plays (360-degree pivot in the corner as he launches a wild, contested 3-pointer) down the stretch knock his grade down a few notches. But he did at least play with effort the entire time, and it’s good to see him putting that in more consistently of late.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 30 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | -7Brewer is another player who might have earned a higher grade if not for some careless turnovers. He did make a few big shots at some key points in the game to keep it close, and defended well throughout, but he really only thrives when the Nuggets are getting up and down the court, and this was not that game. He was mostly a positive, but had a fairly limited impact.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -5Mozgov was pretty good on defense and pretty bad on offense, where he looked pretty much lost. It may be a function of not always being in the rotation, but he doesn’t seem to really know how to fit into the offensive flow. It was unfortunate to see that in this game, because one would expect Timo to be one of the Nuggets players more adaptable to its slow-paced, half court style of play. There are rumors he is on the block, and it will not be in the least bit surprising if Mozzie is gone by the trade deadline.|
|JaVale McGee, C 22 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +1McGee was arguably the best Nuggets player tonight. True, some of the “bad JaVale” was on display, with some wild shots and errant passes. But his defense and rebounding were at the center of Denver keeping the game close for as long as they did. He has six blocks on the stat sheet, but his presence in the paint altered many more, and really took a dimension away from the Grizzlies offense. It was a good example of why he needs more minutes, yet he had only 22 in this game despite both Koufos and Faried being in foul trouble.|
|Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 7 PTS | +1The question is not if Andre Miller took bong hits at halftime, but how many. I’m sure from a Memphis perspective, Rudy Gay single handedly won the game for them in clutch time. From a Denver perspective, it can be said that Miller single handedly lost it (in more ways than one). He was just laughing and chuckling away as, at the most critical juncture of the game, he started inexplicably throwing the ball away again and again. This could have been the 9th game in 10 days, and there would still be no excuse for that, and it canceled out every bit of good he might have done earlier in the game.|
|George KarlI was fully prepared to give Karl a good grade for this game until the fourth quarter, when things fell apart. His biggest transgression was when he all but conceded the game with 0:46 remaining and the Nuggets down by eight after a missed 3-pointer by Gallo. With a judicious use of fouling and timeouts an eight point deficit is not insurmountable in 46 seconds, but Karl did not have his players foul at all, instead allowing Memphis to wind down nearly the entire shot clock until Wayne Ellington connected on a 3-pointer to seal the game. It was Z-Bo who grabbed the defensive rebound after Gallinari’s miss. Had George instructed his players during the timeout to immediately foul the rebounder if they miss their shot, Denver may have had an opportunity, perhaps unlikely but at least extant, to contend for the win, or a chance to go into overtime. Instead, he waved the white flag. Another fourth quarter mistake was leaving Faried in when the fact he had five fouls was clearly inhibiting his effectiveness on the court. What makes Faried valuable is that he’s always full throttle, so when he’s afraid to step on the gas, he should be sitting on the bench. I also thought Evan Fournier should have been sent in, given how ineffective both point guards were. He’d at least have been a pair of fresh legs, and perhaps a spark of energy off the bench. All of that said, it should be noted that Karl did manage the game fairly well for the first three quarters. Specifically, he went big to good effect. But if mistakes cost the game in the end, the importance of any early game positives fades away.|
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +1Danilo sometimes kind of disappears for stretches of games, but he sure has a knack at times for finding ways to come up with some big plays at key moments. That was on display tonight, when a couple of big 3-pointers and, most dramatically, a pass to himself off the backboard for a dunk put the kibosh on Memphis extending leads, and got the crowd pumped up.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +6Kenneth for the most part was mostly a non-factor in this game. Sure, he had ten rebounds, but he really couldn’t get anything going offensively, and he really couldn’t compete with the Z-Bo/Gasol combo on the glass very well. He played great against Minnesota, but he’s only had 2 double doubles in his last 10 games, and he needs to find a way to bring out the Manimal more consistently.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 1-3 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +1As is usually the case when Kosta has a good game, the stat line doesn’t tell the story of how well he played, aside from his four blocks. Look instead to Marc Gasol’s 2-10 shooting. Koufos played admirably well against a frontcourt that has the potential to dominate him, and was a big contributor to Denver’s solid defensive performance.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 13 PTS | +5We’d still like to see more aggression from Lawson. When he’s not shooting, he’s not doing enough to keep defenses honest and prevent them from packing the paint. That said, this was one of his best defensive performances of the season. Mike Conley did get off a couple three pointers, but he was kept ineffective most of the game, held to 5-14 shooting with only four assists. Ty still needs to work on not turning the ball over, however.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 8-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 20 PTS | +10this is the Andre Iguodala the Nuggets need to see more often. Tonight he played with an intensity and aggression that has far too often been missing from his game this season, and it really paid off. As with Lawson, turnovers are still a problem, but it was great to see him running the court harder, disrupting the Grizzlies offense with the kind of scrappy defense his reputation is built on, and above all operate within the flow of his team in a comfortable way. If he can genuintely find his comfort zone, it’ll be great news for Denver.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -1This was a quiet performance from Brewer, mostly solid, but relatively understated compared to his recent play. He didn’t make too big of an impact on this game, but he was serviceable in the minutes he played, allowing Gallo and Dala some brief respite without much dropoff.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -11The five minutes Mozgov played in this game were probably his worst of the season. Karl sent him in after Koufos picked up his second foul, and should be credited with recognizing that tonight was clearly not Timo’s night, and pulling him out of the game quickly.|
|JaVale McGee, C 24 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | +13Tonight’s JaVale McGee is George Karl’s dream JaVale McGee. His defensive presence set the tone for the entire team. He didn’t try to do too much or force things on offense. He played a fundamentally sound game, making few mistakes and, like Koufos, played great against one of the league’s best 4/5 duos. And man, he just blocked the hell out of that ball. There are four on the stat sheet, but easily more than two or three times that were altered because of his presence in the paint. And his block-catch was reminiscent of LaPhonso Ellis’ classic play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVFSfRVzQ8s|
|Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 6-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 18 PTS | +1Miller continues to struggle defensively at times, but at least the effort is there this season. Like most Nuggets fans, I’m not a big supporter of the two point guard lineup, but I can empathize with wanting to have your best players on the floor when the game is on the line, and Dre probably gets some undeserved runoff from that fan frustration. But if the “crafty veteran” tag seems cliche, that’s not because it isn’t true. His handle on the game and his ability to post up have been among the most consistently reliable pluses for the Nuggets this season. A Marc Gasol and-1 brought Memphis within one point with 0:53 remaining, but four made free throws by Miller sealed the game for Denver.|
|Kenneth Faried, F 17 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -14
Faried played with lots of energy, as usual, but got in foul trouble early which forced Karl to limit his minutes in the first half. However, why he didn’t see more time later in is a bit perplexing considering the Nuggets desperately needed the two things Faried is best at providing: energy and defense.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 21 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Gallinari isn’t exactly picking up where he left off. Whether he’s still injured or just extremely out of shape (or both) is up for debate, but either way Gallinari isn’t very effective on the floor at the moment. More playing time should heal his struggles, but it’s a little discouraging seeing how far he’s fallen since injuring his foot in February.
|Nene, C 26 MIN | 4-13 FG | 7-8 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +2
Even though he shot a low percentage from the field, Nene finished with a very respectable stat line overall. His aggressiveness against the much taller Marc Gasol was one of the few highlights of the game.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 32 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | 0
Afflalo had another “invisible night.” While he played 32 minutes, it seemed as if he was only on the floor for 10. It’s crucial that he remains assertive on the offensive side of the ball in order for the Nuggets to reach its full potential.
|Ty Lawson, PG 31 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 5 PTS | +3
Similar to Afflalo, Ty Lawson was also nowhere to be seen for much of the night. He hit one big 3-pointer near the end of the game but otherwise spent most of the evening shying away from the spotlight. He had more turnovers than assists and deferred to his teammates far too often rather than attempting to make something happen himself. After winning the Western Conference Player of the Week award, Lawson has since been underwhelming.
|Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | +4
Harrington did what the Nuggets pay him to do: score of the bench. He was one of the few players that displayed constant emotion throughout the game and actually looked as if he wanted to win.
|Andre Miller, PG 30 MIN | 5-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 14 PTS | -4
Looking at Miller’s stat line is the epitome of deception. Getting 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals from your backup point guard is every team’s dream; however, you’d also think a win would come included with such numbers. And that, right there, is really the problem with Andre Miller. His game and numbers right now don’t translate into winning basketball. He plays no defense, is selfish on offense and is consistently inconsistent. In the fourth quarter, with only seconds left on the clock and the Nuggets down by three, Miller committed one of the more baffling turnovers I’ve ever seen. He essentially just handed the ball over to Memphis without any defensive pressure whatsoever. At this juncture, Miller seems to be hurting the team more than he’s helping it.
|Chris Andersen, C 19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -3
Birdman finished with yet another solid night. He rebounded particularly well and didn’t commit any glaring errors. With a more steady role, Birdman would likely flourish, which is why a trade might be best for both he and Denver moving forward.
|Corey Brewer, SF 29 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-5 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | -1
Brewer was fantastic in terms of energy, which also reflected in his stat line. He had numerous fastbreak dunks and showed passion on defense. Late in the fourth quarter when the Nuggets were desperately in need of some points, he followed up one of Nene’s missed free throws which resulted in him shooting a few of his own. This is the type of effort the Nuggets absolutely must get from Brewer on a nightly basis.
|Jordan Hamilton, G 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -2
Hamilton didn’t see much time, which is somewhat unfortunate as he played well in the five minutes he did see. In a game where the Nuggets needed something, Hamilton might have been able to provide it, as none of the normal rotational players were able to get it done.
|Nene, C 33 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -16
It’s tough to put a lot of blame on Nene for what transpired tonight, especially because he’s carried the Nuggets throughout the last two games. While Nene’s production trailed off it’s hard to ignore just how badly he was outplayed by Marc Gasol. Although Nene had a decent individual performance, he took a grand total of three second half shots and disappeared late when the Nuggets sorely needed him to step up
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 1-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +2
Did not show up to play. It’s a simple as that. Hardly worth mentioning anything he did because it was just a bunch of terrible jumpers. Gallo found himself benched for most of the fourth quarter and entire overtime (for the second time this season).
|Timofey Mozgov, C 10 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -8
Five fouls in 10 minutes is too much. He started off on Speights instead of Gasol so it’s actually hard to even credit his defense on the Memphis bigs. While he was more physical in terms of defending the rim and blocking shots, he just looked lost and couldn’t stay on the court long enough to help. The turnovers need to stop at some point too.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -9
He’s regressed big time. Afflalo was one of the best role players in the game last season and he’s currently lost with no idea what his role should be. The shots he is taking are indefensible. Fadeaways with 20 on the clock and contested turnaround jumpers over Rudy Gay? Welcome to this year’s Arron Afflalo. He’s hardly looking for his three point shot anymore which makes spacing a big issue too. More importantly, he just isn’t having the sort of positive impact on defense we’ve all been accustomed to.
|Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | -11
There was a stretch in the third quarter Lawson came alive and looked poised to take over the game. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long as Lawson spent most of his time struggling to find a rhythm after missing nearly three games with an ankle injury. The turnovers keep piling up and although his threes started falling, Lawson looked tentative going to the rim. He lacked his usual bursts of speed off the dribble and let’s hope he continues to work himself back into form for the upcoming stretch of three games in a row.
|Al Harrington, PF 38 MIN | 8-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 23 PTS | +3
The Nuggets can’t waste a game like this from Al Harrington. He was outmuscled and outmatched on defense and still managed a double-double with 24 points off the bench. Harrington’s primary role is to score and he delivered. Buckets nearly made what could have been the play of the game by almost taking a charge on Memphis final possession of regulation that ended up tying it. Harrington badly wanted to win this game and it has to be disappointing seeing his teammates lacking the same resolve.
|Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 8-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 20 PTS | +5
It’s a tough grade to give Miller, because he really played pretty well. Except of course for the most crucial moments where he made a ton of uncharacteristic mistakes as the Nuggets melted. Missed free throws, untimely turnovers and just flat out bad decision making. It might be a little unfair to say this, but if he just makes one less bad play the Nuggets win – and he certainly had every single opportunity down the stretch.
|Chris Andersen, C 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +6
Birdman gets an incomplete. At some point this has to stop — either give him a role or take him out of the rotation. Although I was disappointed in Birdman’s defense, it’s not fair to expect him to play well under these conditions. George Karl needs to show some faith in him or just put him behind Koufos in the rotation. This can’t continue.
|Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +1
A little too high? I really don’t think so — Brewer was a part of the big runs that gave the Nuggets every opportunity to close out this game. He outplayed both Afflalo and Fernandez. Although he was in for defensive purposes late, it was disappointing to see him have such a good game and be off the court for the most important stretches of play. Brewer’s body of work is starting to suggest he should be seeing close to 20 minutes every night.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 19 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +6
Rudy was the only Nugget to go scoreless and clearly didn’t have it tonight. Although he’s coming off two solid scoring performances his defense has been incredibly erratic and unreliable. Combine this with turnovers and he just had a pretty disastrous overall game.
|Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | +6
Koufos played only a few minutes in the second half due to Mozgov getting in foul trouble. Although he played nine minutes, one rebound is the only evidence he isn’t actually the invisible man. Although the stats are lacking, Koufos played respectable defense and I was impressed with his hustle in the limited minutes he received. I wouldn’t mind seeing Koufos get regular minutes as the first big off the bench as he’s had his moments and a little confidence might go a long way into making Koufos a more reliable option.
The 2011-12 NBA schedules were released early Tuesday morning in the event that an NBA season does in fact transpire next year. The Nuggets, as usual, will open up on the road against a heated division rival (Portland) on national TV. Two weeks later, Carmelo Anthony will return to Denver in a non-Nuggets uniform on November 16. The crowd reaction that night will likely be the best gauge to date of how the Nuggets fan-base feels in regards to Anthony’s departure from Denver. Would you boo? Would you cheer? Would you — as I would — sit in silence, counterbalanced by an equal amount of appreciation and disappointment? Or would you simply, and nonchalantly, clap slowly just as you would any other player? (more…)