Film Room: JaVale McGee’s improving defense

During his days on the Washington Wizards, JaVale McGee became tragi-comically famous among NBA fans, known much better for his gaffe-packed blooper reels on YouTube than for the actual quality of basketball player he was. With frequent assists from Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segment on TNT, and the spread of the “That’s so JaVale!” meme, McGee’s many bizarre, head scratching blunders went viral, and the “knucklehead” label stuck so hard that he’s still trying to shake it off.

But he is in fact making progress, and many around the league – including Shaq – are starting to take notice that there’s more to JaVale than just being the NBA’s court jester.

Which is not to say he’s all the way there yet. He continues to be (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 119 Los Angeles Lakers 108

Los Angeles Lakers 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
119 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, SF 32 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -6

Faried obliterated the Laker bigs on the boards. Earl Clark and Metta World Peace played a combined 54 minutes while grabbing only one defensive rebound. His defensive awareness on the perimeter and in pick and rolls needs a lot of work, but rebounding is what Kenneth does best and when he plays with this kind of energy he can’t be stopped.

Kosta Koufos, C 14 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +3

He was bothered by foul trouble and couldn’t really handle Howard’s sheer girth, but Koufos bottled him up about as well as you can in the first half. Koufos is not bruiser and is a great example of how big men can be effective on defense without having to be the most physical guy around. Koufos was constantly moving his feet and fouled when he needed to — he’s been a near-perfect role player which is exactly what the Nuggets have asked him to do.

Ty Lawson, PG 41 MIN | 8-19 FG | 5-7 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | +11

Seven straight games of 20+ point performances speaks for itself. Lawson is playing at a very high level right now which will make this critique difficult for some fans to take. Lawson was tentative and didn’t get to the paint outside of transition. He was also very hesitant to take open shots and didn’t create at the same outstanding level we’ve grown accustomed to. Solid game, but Lawson is capable of much more and should play better against the likes of Nash and Blake.

Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 10-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 23 PTS | +6

Chandler was extremely solid in his first start of the season, shining in a brand new role Nuggets fans haven’t seen him in much since Chandler joined the team. He was asked to space the floor and create on the perimeter a little bit, both of which he did admirably despite having played almost the whole season from a big spot off the bench. Chandler can regularly produce these kinds of numbers in a starting role, which is a fantastic luxury to have behind Gallo.

Andre Iguodala, SG 37 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-5 FT | 4 REB | 12 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +6

Iguodala dominated the game, but not like you would expect. He took only 9 shots, going a perfect 5/5 in the paint and 1/4 on jumpers. He also tallied an outstanding 12 assists to just two turnovers filling in for Gallo as a secondary creator. But Iguodala’s stifling defense seemed to thwart every substantial Lakers push and made even modest leads appear insurmountable for the visiting Lakers. He is a special defensive talent.

Anthony Randolph, PF 6 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +10

Really solid minutes. Randolph ran the court hard and pretty much stayed out of the way on offense. The less he touches the ball and the more he runs the better. Randolph is very active and amazingly quick up the floor for a 7-footer. His energy played a big part, along with Brewer, in terms of getting the pace going.

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

Another very solid performance all things considered. He took one questionable heave from three but otherwise looked good in the Nuggets up-and-down offense. Four minutes isn’t enough to tell too much but it’s safe to say Hamilton is more than capable of contributing when the Nuggets need him to fill in.

Corey Brewer, SF 26 MIN | 6-15 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +17

Brew doesn’t do anything halfway. When he misses, he shoots BRICKS. Two of them were extremely ugly airballs from three, yet Brewer ended up being perhaps the Nuggets’ most valuable offensive contributor on the night. I would love to give Brew a better grade, but 15 shots is kind of a lot for Brewer to take unless he makes more of them.

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

Incomplete.

JaVale McGee, C 23 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +8

The numbers don’t pop out at you but his defense was game-changing. He continues to produce with monster efficiency on the offensive end while steadily improving his poise and consistency on defense. McGee has earned more minutes and it’s only a matter of time till he starts seeing them. Despite not playing a lot of minutes his production has been eerily consistent this season. Can he continue to do it in bigger role? That’s the million dollar question.

Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 3-4 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +3

Andre’s attitude and demeanor on the floor are markedly improved since the All-Star break. He is a problem match up for LA and exploited it from the opening tip. The Lakers had to adjust, putting Kobe on him for a while and later Metta World Peace in the second half. The Nuggets don’t win this game without Andre and don’t take LA to seven games last year without him either. It’s in these kind of matchups Andre really proves his worth. I would just love to see some consistency.

George Karl

The Nuggets did exactly what they needed to do: dictate the pace and control the boards. Even without Gallo, the Nuggets came out prepared to play to their strengths and execute an offense that would lull the Lakers into a track meet. They did a particularly good job containing penetration and fouling on every layup opportunity. The Lakers just had to work too hard for everything they got and didn’t have the defensive chops to keep up. The Nuggets also played with a swagger and an expectation to win, something that I just haven’t seen much of in big games this season.

Keys to extending the series

There was nothing more surprising in Game 4 than how easily the Lakers won. Not easy as in, playing the Charlotte Bobcats easy… but rather, easy as in… they played slow, uninspired basketball for about 46 minutes and still ended up winning without doing anything special. Some may say the Nuggets handed the victory to the Lakers, but I see it differently. Usually when a team hands over the game to its opponent, there is visible frustration or a dazed glare in the player’s eyes as if they’re in disbelief of what’s happening. On Sunday, the Nuggets didn’t show any of these signs. It was as if they didn’t even realize what was actually going on until the game had finally concluded — something eerily similar to what we’ve seen all season long.

(more…)

Lakers preview with ESPNLA’s Brian Kamenetzky

Sitting at a comfortable 2-1 record coming out of the gate, the Denver Nuggets is about to face its toughest test of the season with back-to-back bouts against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday and Sunday. To better prepare for this all-too familiar foe, ESPNLA’s Brian Kamenetzky graciously offered up his insight on this year’s Lakers team in exchange for Roundball’s take on the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets. Be sure and check in with ESPNLA’s Land O’ Lakers blog tomorrow for our analysis on the Nuggets upcoming back-to-back series against the Lakers, but before you do, first read world-class journalist, Brian Kamenetzky’s exclusive interview with Roundball Mining Company regarding his thoughts on the current Lakers squad and its chances of contending for a title this season.
(more…)