To switch or not to switch?

Defensive systems in the NBA are predicated on rules, when and who to help off of, what type of pick and roll to switch on, where on the floor to direct this point guard, where on the floor to direct that wing, ect. Denver’s defense (currently 12th in the league in defensive efficiency and sixth overall in opponents points per possession) is starting to round into a more principled form following the stutters, stops, and fixes that defined the early part of the season. A specific mandate that is becoming more and more clear by the game, is when and how the Nuggets will switch on a pick and roll.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 106 Oklahoma City Thunder 101

Denver Nuggets 106 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Oklahoma City Thunder
Kenneth Faried, F 28 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-7 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | 0

Outside of some really poor free throw shooting, Faried was the player of the game. He made game-saving play after game-saving play down the stretch, whether it was a crucial block on Russell Westbrook or a monstrous putback jam off an Arron Afflalo miss. Faried really showed why he’s a special player by managing to outplay bigger, stronger, and taller competition through sheer will and an unwavering desire to win.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 3-13 FG | 6-7 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 14 PTS | +1

Gallo had a disastrous shooting night and couldn’t find his rhythm against an Oklahoma City team that defended him well. Since his return from injury, the Nuggets have looked for him regularly and created plenty of opportunities Gallo just hasn’t been able to convert. He’s doing other things reasonably well, but sooner or later Gallo has to assert himself and step up to his role. I thought Gallo grew passive as the game wore on and was little more than a spectator in the Nuggets’ offense at the end of the game

Kosta Koufos, C 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -4

Koufos made Denver’s first two shots of the game and was quiet the rest of the way. He played very solid defense on Kendrick Perkins, who picked up four fouls in the third quarter and was a non-factor for the Thunder throughout the night.

Arron Afflalo, SG 40 MIN | 6-15 FG | 2-3 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 15 PTS | +6

Like all of the Nuggets’ perimeter players, Afflalo struggled at times against the length and athleticism of OKC. He played very under control as he once again shouldered a huge part of the load on both ends of the floor. Afflalo’s solid perimeter defense helped spark the crucial fourth quarter run and his all-around contributions on offense produced the second-most points and assists on the team.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 8-15 FG | 6-8 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 25 PTS | +3

Lawson has now scored at least 20 points in seven of the last nine games. He’s been on an absolute tear and continues to keep the Nuggets afloat through thick and thin. Every time the Thunder found a surge of momentum, Lawson seemed to answer with a mini-run of his own. He’s playing at an unbelievable level right now and proven he can go toe-to-toe with the best scorers in the league.

Al Harrington, PF 23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | -1

Harrington’s lack of mobility only further hampered his ability to match up against OKC. While Harrington did his best and sank his threes early, he was a defensive liability with the Nuggets switching all pick and rolls in the second half. Harrington was visibly struggling to keep up and was eventually pulled mid-fourth quarter out of necessity.

Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 5 PTS | +1

Miller took too many shots (including two three-pointers), but generally played solid off the bench and had success igniting the sputtering Nuggets’ offense, finishing with a team-high six assists. I’ve come to expect the worst when it comes to Miller’s defense, but he was surprisingly decent against the Thunder, which was no doubt helped by the fact OKC relied heavily on Derek Fisher in the absence of James Harden.

Corey Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +12

Brewer is another player coming on strong at the right part part of the season. His energetic hustle was a key ingredient in Denver closing the game on a 7-2 run. Brewer played excellent defense on Russell Westbrook late and made the biggest shot of the game with a banked free-throw line jumper to put Denver up five with less than a minute remaining.

JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +7

McGee flat-out changes the matchup with the Thunder, who rely heavily on Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison off the bench. Neither of them could match the athleticism of McGee and both ended up contributing next to nothing. McGee on the other hand scored all ten of his points at the rim, where the Thunder had been able to keep the Nuggets’ relatively quiet. If he can keep up these types of performances in an extended role, McGee could be a series-changing talent for the Nuggets.

5-on-5: Pre-Playoff edition

It the latest edition of Roundball Mining Company’s 5-on-5 series we explore which potential playoff scenarios could benefit or hinder the Nuggets success in the postseason. Fellow readers T.J. McBride and Mitchell Carroll have been selected to participate this time around. If you’d like to contribute next time, be sure and follow Charlie, Jeremey and Kalen on Twitter. As always, please feel free to leave your answers to these questions in the comments section below.

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An opportunity knocks

The sentiment that George Karl is a defensive-minded coach is nothing more than a pure fallacy. During his seven-year tenure in Denver not once have the Nuggets ranked better than 18th in the league in defense. Right now, Denver ranks near the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive statistical category imaginable. From points per game, to field goals made, to field goal percentage, to 3-pointers made, to three-point shooting percentage — in each of these areas Denver is no better than 25th in the league.

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Rapid Reaction: Oklahoma City Thunder 124, Denver Nuggets 118 (OT)

Denver Nuggets 118 Final
Recap | Box Score
124 Oklahoma City Thunder
Corey Brewer, SF 30 MIN | 5-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | -10
Being so reliant on Brewer’s offense is not a good look for the Nuggets, I commend Brewer for doing his best, but he remains a limited player with negligible dribbling and passing skills. Brew didn’t have his shot going and while he played commendable defense, he was an offensive liability and couldn’t stay on the floor down the stretch. This is the wrong role for Brewer and he’ll be much more valuable when asked to do less. I do wish he’d pass up the occasional shot and focus more on working off the ball.
Kenneth Faried, F 11 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -11
It’s baffling. After a career game, Faried can’t get the slightest bit of leeway with Karl. Nevertheless he again failed to make an impression out of the gate. His issues with defensive positioning and executing on offense are fixable. I honestly believe Faried would be better off were he not battling the incumbent Al Harrington for minutes. The only way he can get into games is to come out relentless on an absolute tear. It’s important not to overlook the fact Faried did have a very poor game and was overshadowed by Koufos and Birdman.
Timofey Mozgov, C 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -18
I don’t like how Karl managed his minutes, leaving him in almost the whole first quarter after it was clear he was too gassed to keep Ibaka under control. Mozgov makes a huge difference in the Nuggets being able to run an effective pick and roll offense. Unfortunately, he needs to be more consistent and at least prove himself capable of playing a more substantial amount of minutes. This is such an unenviable position for Karl to be in because there will be nights like tonight where Koufos is the much better option. How do you decide who to play?
Arron Afflalo, SG 43 MIN | 10-21 FG | 5-6 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 27 PTS | -16
At times, like everyone else on the team, Afflalo struggled with defense quite a bit. OKC is such a poor matchup because Durant is too tall for Denver to use their best defender on him consistently. What was most apparent about Arron’s effort was his tenacity and commitment to staying aggressive. The shorthanded Nuggets actually played like the more aggressive team despite losing and I believe the bulk of the credit can go to Afflalo’s leadership, a quality he hasn’t displayed nearly enough this season
Ty Lawson, PG 46 MIN | 8-17 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 17 PTS | -4
These are great numbers for any starting point guard, but without a win it just feels very forgettable. Lawson has no feel for where his teammates need the ball and he’s often reduced to getting everything off dribble penetration. Ty had the ball two crucial possessions down the stretch and failed to get off a quality look on either of them. We know Ty can create a quality shot whenever he wants and what’s so disappointing is that a signature game winning moment is still missing from his Nuggets career.
Al Harrington, PF 32 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +3
Harrington had a double double, and managed to make two three pointers after he’s been unable to deliver offense for the better part of the month. That’s where the praise ends for me. I just don’t like where the Nuggets are going with Harrington in this huge role where he plays nearly the whole second half and defends the oppositions best player night in and night out. Harrington needs a much smaller role for the Nuggets to have any success going forward.
Andre Miller, PG 36 MIN | 9-19 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 10 AST | 21 PTS | +3
It was refreshing to see Andre come alive off the bench and play with purpose. This was one of the fineest performances I’ve seen all season as long as we don’t include the overtime. Miller had 3 turnovers in the extra period and his frustration boiled over in the loss. I can’t praise Miller enough for giving the Nuggets an edge that should have won them the game in the second half. Andre seemed to know how poorly he played in the overtime period and was seen leaving the court in total disgust. We haven’t seen that kind of emotion out of Miller all season and hopefully it becomes a turning point for him. While he was abysmal in OT, Denver never gets there without him.
Chris Andersen, C 29 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +17
Another energetic performance from Birdman. He made countless hustle plays and defended the rim with the type of tenacity that made him the best backup Center in the league 2 seasons ago. Consistency is underlying issue surrounding everything Birdman does.
Kosta Koufos, C 13 MIN | 6-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -3
Koufos was nothing short of a monster in his first half stint. He managed nearly a double double in less than a quarter. He was everywhere, from knocking balls loose and defending Durant at half court to throwing down jams in transition. It was a sight to behold considering Koufus might not have seen the floor had Al Harrington not racked up three quick fouls. Jeremy made a great point about how trusting the inexperienced Faried over Harrington may have cost Karl in Memphis and he seemed resolved not to reward Koufos tonight.
Jordan Hamilton, G 4 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +9
Hamilton saw his first real minutes of the season and made a few nice plays as the Nuggets enjoyed a successful run. Then he was abruptly pulled from the game. There’s just not enough to judge here and I don’t know what to say other than Hamilton has decent size and solid offensive skills.

Nuggets News: Mini Road Trip Preview

After three straight solid home wins, the Nuggets are carrying nice momentum into their second road trip of the season. It’s a quick back-to-back in New Orleans and San Antonio against two teams which provide unique challenges for this new Nuggets team. While the Hornets and Spurs appear to be reeling from injuries, let’s not forget these are still road games against well-rested opponents.

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Breaking down ESPN’s #NBArank of the Denver Nuggets: Part 2

In Part 1 of this short series we examined the Denver Nuggets who landed outside the Top 100 of ESPN’s #NBArank list, which attempted to tabulate the best 500 players in the entire league. To conclude our analytical process of determining just how accurate these rankings are, we’re going to inspect the remaining Denver Nuggets — those who are perceived by our fellow TrueHoop family members, as some of the best 100 players in the entire NBA.  (more…)

Nuggets News [UPDATED]

It’s been a while since the last — or first, depending on how you look at it — version of Nuggets News graced the front page of Roundball Mining Co. For this we apologize. We know how important it is to keep the Nuggets community as up-to-date as possible on everything concerning its favorite sports franchise, but this lockout has taken a serious toll on our passion… and that’s hard to do. (more…)

Nuggets win Game Four, Still Alive

After five straight losses in April alone the Denver Nuggets finally managed to win a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  In a nutshell it was desperation and pride pushing Denver to overcome their struggles long enough to avoid an embarrassing first round sweep. Down three games to one it was certainly not a series-changing win but nevertheless it was a statement that this team has worked too hard to end their season at home on such a sour note.

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2011 NBA Playoffs – Game Three: Fin

It was the finest defensive performance in a series that has been defined by Oklahoma City’s domination on that end of the floor. For a few brief moments it was also a glimpse at the depth and balance that made Denver the NBA’s top scoring team in the regular season. Nevertheless as we’ve seen five times in a row it simply was not enough.

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2011 NBA Playoffs, Game 2 Recap: Game. Set. Match???

The Oklahoma City Thunder is better than the Denver Nuggets. After four games against the Thunder, and four straight losses, this is the overwhelming sentiment I have gathered. (more…)

Nuggets Found Wanting in Game 1

In the Denver Nuggets’ attempt to turn conventional wisdom on its head, score one for conventional wisdom.  After posting exceptional offensive efficiency numbers early in the game, weathering a furious charge in the second and third quarters, and batting tooth and nail in the fourth Denver found themselves leading the Thunder 101-100 with three minutes left.  They would not make another basket the rest of the night.

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An Overly Verbose Denver Nuggets/Oklahoma City Thunder Playoff Preview

The Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder are both teams who benefited significantly from midseason trades.  Each squad tore through the league over the final few weeks of the season and as a result we have had plenty of evidence for what these teams can do.  To make things even more interesting we have two games worth of film to study, with both teams hosting the other late in the season.

The question is how germane were the results of those two games to the playoff series we are about to experience? Denver played both games against the Thunder without their third big, Chris “Birdman” Andersen and starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo.  Obviously Denver is a better team with those two than without them.  Health is certainly going to be a very important theme in this series and we will address those concerns a bit further down the page.

Despite the Nuggets missing some significant pieces I believe both games gave us some fairly significant insights into what to expect from the upcoming best of seven conflagration.

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2010-11 Game 79: Denver Nuggets 89 Oklahoma City Thunder 104

Box Score | Highlights

Since the trade of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, one of the more interesting storylines of the season has been the Nuggets’ success abandoning a conventional star-centric roster for more of a team-oriented approach. While there’s no doubt Denver’s transformation has re-invigorated the team by allowing more of the role players to shine at once, it’s the Oklahoma City Thunder and their two-man show that’s consistently outclassed their Northwest Division rivals and most of the western conference as well.

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2010-11 Game 77: Oklahoma City Thunder 101, Denver Nuggets 94

If basketball were a semester of college drinking, this game would be classified as The Hangover. After coming off one of the best wins of the season against the Lakers on Sunday — just like a wild night of partying — the concerns of the after-effects were the last thing on our minds. But tonight, we were sobered up and pushed back into the realm of reality as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant reminded us that, as Prince would say, “Parties weren’t meant to last.” (more…)