|Danilo Gallinari, SF 27 MIN | 1-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -9
I wish I could say it’s surprising, but it’s not. Gallo was due for another one of his duds and he predictably chucked his way to a 1-10 shooting nightmare. It’s the seventh time this season Gallo has failed to reach double figures in substantial minutes. I wouldn’t be so hard on Gallo if he hadn’t pulled the same tired act all last season. Gallo had an embarrassing moment towards the end, where he avoided a Damian Lillard poster by pretending to block out Koufos, his teammate.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 18 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -13
3-10 shooting in just 18 minutes doesn’t even begin to tell you how bad it was. Faried was dominated by JJ Hickson from the opening tip and it never really got any better. Defensively, he looked totally lost yet again.
|Kosta Koufos, C 20 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -5
Koufos recovered from two quick fouls to put forth one of the few respectable performances from a regular rotation player. He cannot provide anything on offense, which limited his impact in an ugly game like this.
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 6-15 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 13 PTS | -10
A really disjointed game from Lawson, who was able to penetrate but didn’t consistenty put pressure on Portland’s defense throughout the night. His speed and energy were not a factor in the game as Lawson mostly faded into the background save for a few garbage baskets towards the end.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 27 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 13 PTS | -9
Not awful, but his shot selection is disappointing as his growing complacency with the Nuggets’ culture of indifference on the defensive end. He was supposed to be a part of the solution for Denver’s abysmal perimeter defense, a system so broken it’s shown little, if any, sign of improvement from last season.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 8 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -1
I continue to maintain that the Nuggets should be giving Randolph a look. His post defense isn’t any worse than Mozgov or Koufos and he outruns any center in the NBA with ease, a skill which shouldn’t go unnoticed in the Nuggets’ second unit. He is also one of the few Nuggets able to change and alter shots with weak side help, a fundamental skill often lacking in Denver’s regular front court play.
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 13 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +6
He still can’t really get minutes or show he can consistently knock down a three. I would love to see Jordan be able to change games with his rebounding, passing and defense but right now he looks to be struggling a great deal with his overall confidence and shot selection.
|Corey Brewer, SF 29 MIN | 4-10 FG | 5-6 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +4
A near double-double and lots of hustle, but the Nuggets offense is in a bad way when Brewer is playing 29 minutes as the main scoring threat off the bench. Brewer did his job but he should be earning minutes with his defense, not the other way around.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 10 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -5
Not traded yet, but the nuggets are obviously still trying. They don’t seem interested in giving him a chance or just moving on, so it’s likely he’ll continue to be showcased for other teams. We saw some bad hands and decent defense out of Moz, which is nothing new and doesn’t really change things for the Nuggets either way.
|JaVale McGee, C 15 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +2
He looked winded and flat out spent at the end of the game. As much as I think the Nuggets have to trust JaVale more and give him room to grow, McGee did not look like someone I’d trust to maintain effort for 30 minutes. He needs to play at the same level energy-wise throughout the game, something JaVale isn’t close to doing right now.
|Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | 0
He had a near triple-double and did a great job limiting his turnovers, but color me unimpressed with Andre Miller as a floor leader. He should have posted up Lillard 20 times tonight, but instead we got some truly awful shot selection including two hopeless threes on a night the Nuggets were desperately looking to him for leadership. As a defender, he looks washed up and near useless.
|Evan Fournier, SG 9 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | 0
Thrown into the fray after a bizarre first quarter in which Karl briefly emptied his entire bench, Fournier looked surprisingly comfortable. He struggled with his handle, but got pressure on the ball and was disruptive on the defensive end. If he can learn how to make shots, Fournier looks good enough in everything else to be a quality rotation piece.
|Corey Brewer, SF 26 MIN | 5-14 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +4
14 shots in 26 minutes is a lot, but Brewer has never been shy about letting it fly and he’s continued to develop into a more consistent offensive player. I thought it was a very tough matchup going against Gerald Wallace and Nic Batum, but Brewer held his own. Karl did a fantastic job managing his minutes and not forcing him out there in a super-small lineup where he’s likely to be overpowered by bigger players.
|Kenneth Faried, F 17 MIN | 6-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +8
It sounds ridiculous for a player who only saw 17 minutes, but if I had to give an MVP award for this win it would undoubtedly go to Faried. He was instrumental in setting the tone for the Nuggets, defending with vigor and dominating the paint on both ends. Seven offensive rebounds is the most any Nuggets player has gathered this season, and Faried did it in less than 20 minutes. The “Manimal” is growing up quick and when you imagine what he might do with more minutes and a more polished offensive game — it’s downright scary.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +3
Mozgov had a very solid performance. Although he struggled defensively at times, much to Scott Hastings’ chagrin, Mozgov was physical with Aldridge and much more assertive on the offensive end. He’s been struggling with turnovers and rebounding, two areas in which he improved greatly tonight. Mozgov just needs to be more consistent in terms of production with his 20 minutes a night as he continues to prove himself as a valuable role player.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | +9
Afflalo’s shot was flat and he missed several big free throws, but outside of that his game was superb. Afflalo’s been much more confident in his offensive game and continues to improve by taking more shots in the flow of the offense. The only things missing right now are the three-point consistency and his reliability at the foul-line. If those areas improve and he continues the kind of production we’ve seen in the last two weeks, Afflalo could be safely considered one of better shooting guards in the Western Conference.
|Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 18 PTS | +17
Lawson started slow after returning from injury and seemed to be going through an up-and-down night as he struggled to find his rhythm. On the other hand, the Nuggets offense looked so markedly different with him back in the mix it became clear how important he is despite not being able to make his shots. Lawson then exploded late and assumed total control of the game behind 6-9 shooting in the fourth quarter. His offense was brilliant most of the night and he delivered the win when the Nuggets needed someone to step up down the stretch.
|Al Harrington, PF 31 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +8
Al played a good game, replacing Faried early and often but maintaining good enough defense and rebounding to avoid much of a drop-off in either area. Al was clearly worn out before the break and struggling to work off his teammates for shots. Harrington played 30 minutes and looked tired at the end of his stint, but there’s no denying he took much better shots and gave way better effort in other areas outside of scoring.
|Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 4 PTS | +1
Miller was not as bad as his stats indicate, but just take a look at how dreadful his line was. Although Miller looked spry and was more “active” on the defensive end, he still struggled to rotate and close out on shooters. It should be stressed Miller was better on defense than he has been, but his game is still plagued by inconsistency and frequent stretches of flat-out horrible play. Miller took only four shots, two of which were three-pointers and he committed two bad turnovers late, when all Denver had to do was hold onto the ball in order to win.
|Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Koufos was his usual productive self, providing a steady rebounding presence and decent enough offense in his limited time on the floor. Where Koufos really shined was in the closing stretch of the game, where Karl trusted him to close out the win in Nene’s usual role. Koufos defense was spectacular in some crucial late-game sequences and he never stopped playing hard. This is some of the most focused defense I’ve seen out of Koufos, who had two of his four blocks in a pivotal fourth quarter where the game was closer than it seemed.
|Jordan Hamilton, G 14 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | +2
Hamilton was a mixed bag – but mostly good as he’s still finding his way through the first handful of meaningful games in his pro career. Hamilton was extremely aggressive on offense, dishing his way to three nice assists but also taking some bad shots, a couple of which he made in spectacular fashion. You have to love the energy Hamilton is playing with, but he failed to block out Batum on a fourth quarter putback which ended up getting him benched. A double-digit scoring game is progress and Hamilton just needs to work on his fundamentals and accept the short leash that comes with every rookie mistake.
After 13 years of NBA service, it’s fair to say Andre Miller has been one of the more overlooked and undervalued point guards of his generation. His ability to produce well into his thirties places him in the rarified company of Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, and Jason Kidd yet his lack of playoff success and individual accolades exclude him from being held in the same regard.
Playing with that chip on his shoulder has made Miller the successful, highly motivated player he is today. Unfortunately, it’s also put Andre at the center of another point guard controversy in Denver after candidly telling Chris Tomasson he’s unhappy with a backup role and prefers to go elsewhere in free agency next season.
The Nuggets played the first of what will undoubtedly be many ugly games in Portland tonight. It was a messy affair from the start, dominated by fouls, turnovers and questionable shot selection. Ultimately the game came down to a 2-minute stretch in which the tougher, more composed Blazers held it together and came out on top.
It was something the Nuggets haven’t had to worry about in a very long time. With the ball, shot clock turned off and one bucket away from winning the game. If it wasn’t a straight up inbounds to Melo in isolation, it was a failed high pick and roll with Chauncey and Nene, the ball ending up in Melo’s hands anyway. Just as the Nuggets adapt their style of play to an overhauled roster, the coaches are in uncharted territory trying to re-learn how they are going to close games.
I had to listen to most of this one on the radio, so excuse this recap for being fairly bad and shorter than usual. Long story short, Denver puts together a composed defensive effort and unleashes their dormant offensive attack in the second half to walk over Portland in familiar home court fashion. Like many teams playing the supremely difficult Denver back to back from Pacific-time zone cities, the Blazers fatigue was a factor. However the Nuggets weren’t able to simply run them out of gas early. The Nuggets patiently played to their strength inside and leaned on a combination of defense and size to break Portland.
With 8:50 to go in the fourth quarter, Carmelo Anthony picked up his fifth foul and was forced to the bench. With 3:08 left, Portland’s Nicholas Batum drew a charge on Melo to foul him out of the game. Denver scored 12 points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-13 shooting.
That pretty much tells you how this one turned out.
The Nuggets posted a combined 54 points in quarters one and three, while only scoring a dismal 29 points in periods two and four. The story of Denver’s season encapsulated in 48 minutes at the Rose Garden on Thursday night.
In a slow-paced game which clearly suited Portland’s style of play more than Denver’s featured two very different tales of how this game would turn out. Denver’s shot selection, aggressiveness of taking the ball to the basket and defensive intensity was night and day in those two halves of the game. The whole game was one of runs, with Denver blowing multiple double-digit leads and Portland feeding off their electric crowd to pull this one out. Portland was without All-Star guard Brandon Roy whose knees are giving Blazers’ fans nightmares of Sam Bowie and now Greg Oden, who will miss the entire season with another microfracture surgery on his bad knee.
Portland coach Nate McMillan only went with an eight-man rotation, and all of his starters played at least 36 minutes (that distinction would go to Marcus Camby), so you’d think Denver could take advantage with a somewhat deeper bench and a clear advantage in the backcourt (on paper). Lets take a look at some postgame thoughts in bullet form:
Next up for Denver is the Nets on Saturday night back at The Can. New Jersey is playing without Troy Murphy who is still suffering from a foot injury. The rookie Derrick Favors (rumored to be coming to Denver in that four-team trade before the season) and Kris Humphries should pose no threat to Denver’s frontcourt, but you never know what kind of production Denver’s bigs will give you. Brook Lopez is a double-double threat, Anthony Morrow can shoot the lights out and Travis Outlaw has big-time potential, but if Denver doesn’t win by 15+ I will be shocked and disappointed. Plus Carmelo Anthony has another chance to audition for his possible next destination, right? (too soon? sorry guys.) After dropping 120 points on the Knicks earlier this week, expect a similar high-point total in this one. A loss would drop Denver below .500 for the first time this season; I don’t know about you but with all the speculation and rumors surrounding this team, with this level of competition out West, that does not bode well for support or confidence in Nuggetland anytime soon.
The Northwest Division was recently featured in the annual CelticsBlog season preview smörgåsbord and you can peruse the various posts from the list of links below:
How will Big Al fit in out in Utah? Will the Blazers stay healthy? Will Melo still be a Nugget on opening night? Can the Thunder avoid a sophomore slump? Just what is the plan in ‘Sota? All this and more in the Northwest previews.
Recaps: All Previews
Daily Dime Live also spent a day on the Northwest where the consensus was that it will be probably the toughest division in the league, as least as long as Melo dons the garb of the Nuggets, and the Thunder are getting a little too much hype, a statement I do not agree with. You can follow all the heavy hitting analysis right here.
Sorry for my lack of posts recently, but I am working on a research intensive post which requires me to watch a lot of film. I think it will be well worth the wait. I also have the long promised defensive scouting report of Al Harrington waiting in the queue so look for that soon as well.
We are close enough to the end of the season to start projecting what might happen with some level of certainty. Honestly, I have no idea what order Dallas, Utah and Phoenix will finish in or how the bottom three spots will be sorted among Oklahoma City, Portland and San Antonio. I do believe two spots are locked in place. Obviously the Lakers will be the top seed and I think the Nuggets are all but guaranteed to finish as the fifth seed.
While that is a very frustrating sentence to type, Denver can be a dangerous fifth seed or they can be a pushover as the fifth seed. It all depends on how the finish the regular season and the Nuggets’ closing schedule is an interesting one. Almost every contest features a team playing at the end of a difficult stretch of games.
Portland comes to town Thursday playing their fifth game in eight days. Wednesday they bombed the Knicks, but still have to travel for the fifth straight game. Denver has been sitting at home since Monday night dwelling on how badly they have sucked for the past week. If we do not get a big effort from the Nuggets against Portland, it will be very bad news. I think the result is a win for Denver.
Next the Clippers, without Baron Davis who is out with back spasms, arrive in Denver on Saturday in the only battle between two rested teams remaining on the docket. The Nuggets will be on one day of rest while the Clippers will have had two days off after getting blown out in Toronto on Wednesday. That game should absolutely be another win for the Nuggets.
Denver then has three days off before their final five games in seven nights stretch to close out the regular season. The first outing is in Oklahoma City. The way Denver has been playing this would seem like a sure loss. However, this game will be the fourth game in five nights for the Thunder, who play in Utah the night before, and will have traveled before each of the four games. That smells like a win and a three game winning streak.
The next night the Nuggets return home to play the Lakers who are having some serious struggles on the road right now and really have nothing to play for. Even so LA/Denver has become a heated mini-rivalry and with the Lakers enjoying three days off I expect them to play well. Denver will be motivated to do well also with the division crown still within their grasp, but without Kenyon Martin and Coach Karl I suspect they drop this one.
After a day of rest Denver gets a visit from the San Antonio Spurs who will be playing their fourth game in five days. It will be interesting to see if the Spurs will knock themselves out in an attempt to avoid the eight seed and a first round matchup with LA. I suspect the Spurs will sit Tim Duncan and/or Manu Ginobili against Denver and I think this is another Nugget victory.
Two days later in the penultimate matchup of the regular season the Grizzlies come calling. It will be Memphis’ fifth game in seven days as they provide another victim for the now rolling Nuggets.
That brings us to game 82, a visit to Phoenix. The Nuggets will arrive in Phoenix with a solid stretch of five wins in six games and sporting a 53-28 record a half a game behind the Jazz who will be 53-27 and playing a game at Golden State on the same night. Denver will be playing their fifth game in seven nights, although unlike their recent horrific five in seven trip out east, they only have two travel days of which this is the second. The Suns enter the battle after a day off. Phoenix is a very difficult matchup for Denver when the Nuggets are full strength and the chances of earning a W in Phoenix are slim. Chalk that one up as a loss with Denver finishing the season 53-29, fifth overall in the conference.
These final seven games will be a test of Denver’s mental attitude and determination as there are “official” reports backing up my intuitive suggestions that they very well could be without Kenyon and Karl even after the playoffs begin.
Thursday night is the Nuggets’ fight or flight moment. Do they fold the tent and enter the playoffs a slumping has been or embrace the fact they can still capture the Northwest Division and remain relevant? Momentum changes come at unexpected times and as bad as they have looked recently all it will take for the Nuggets to recapture some of their lost mojo is a well played victory against the Blazers.
Merry Christmas to everyone. As you come down from your sugar high and get ready for the big showdown between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers check out the 5-on-5 comparison between the Nuggets and Blazers featuring Henry Abbott, Kevin Arnovitz, J.J. Adande, John Hollinger and David Thorpe. Plus swing by the Daily Dime Christmas Day marathon chat which I will be a part of by tip off.