Denver brings its season high winning streak to five while New York's slide increases to eight.
Two weeks ago, debate raged through Nuggets nation around the strategy and integrity in which the team should approach its current season. For some, each victory represented progress for a young team and its first year coach. For others, those victories meant 2014 lottery favorites Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart slipping through the franchise's fingers.
Now, a win-win solution has emerged in which all Nuggets fans can root for their current team without worry about their lottery status. The answer? Root for their old team to lose!
The two dynamics converged at Pepsi Center on Saturday night. Denver, which owns New York's 2014 1st round pick (provided it's better than its own), downed the Knicks 97-95. Led by Carmelo Anthony, who was given the Kobe treatment by the Denver faithful each time he touched the ball, ex-Nuggets J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Raymond Felton dropped their 8th straight game, falling to 3-12 on the season. The hometown Nuggets improved their season high winning streak to five games and are now three games above .500 for the first time this season.
Denver continued its trend of strong first quarters with solid play on both ends of the floor. Andre Miller received a "member's bounce" on a last second three pointer, giving the Nuggets a 30-20 lead after one and improving Miller's three-point percentage on the year to 77%.
The Knickerbockers tightened things up in the 2nd as the majority of the Nuggets bench struggled to regain its effectiveness from the past couple of games. The exception from the bunch was Nate Robinson, whose 10 points in the frame accounted for just less than half of the team's overall tally. Overall, Denver's effort was good enough for a 51-45 lead at the midpoint.
The third quarter pace was slower than a Black Friday line at Best Buy. A late flurry of free throws from Ty Lawson stretched the lead to eight after three quarters of play.
Both offenses continued to slog through most of the 4th quarter. A couple of Tim Hardaway Jr. three pointers narrowed the score and a pair of Andrea Bargnani free throws cut the lead to two points with just over four minutes to play. Needing a response, ex-Knick Wilson Chandler came up with the shot of the night, splashing a three from the left wing and extending the Nuggets lead to five. The jumper kick-started an 8-0 run, capped off by three of Randy Foye's season high 17th point of the night.
Foye's lasting impact came on the defensive end of the floor. As Denver failed to close the game out from the line, New York received a chance to tie in the closing seconds. Defending Anthony, Foye stood his ground and forced the game tying jumper into an airball and a Nuggets victory.
Tonight's win boosts the team's winning percentage to 60% (something last year's 57 win team was unable to accomplish) in its first 15 games. Lawson turned in another strong performance with a team high 22 points and 8 assists.
The surging Nuggets now embark upon a six game whirlwind tour of the Great Lakes (Cleveland and Toronto) and Eastern Seaboard (Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston). In the longest road trip of his short head coaching career, it'll be interesting to see how Brian Shaw's squad responds (George Karl used to start these trips by predicting how many games he expected the team to lose). For now, Denver can revel in a victory that improves its record in the near-term and improves its draft hopes in the long term.
Stats to Ponder:
- After a 1-4 start, the Nuggets are 8-2 in their last 10 games
- The Knicks shot 6-22 from downtown (27%) while the Nuggets shot 9-24 (37%)
- Kenneth Faried left the game in the 3rd quarter with a "thigh contusion" and did not return
- Denver has two technical fouls on the year, both courtesy of Nate Robinson
- The Nuggets never trailed on the evening
- The Knicks are the least efficient offensive team in the league, with an average of 1.08 points per shot
- Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points to lead all scorers, but failed to register an assist
Wow, what a half.
Can you believe what happened that half? Me neither! Let's see how this one plays out and stuff.
It's time to talk Nuggets with your fellow Stiffs.
Don't look now, but Carmelo Anthony is back in town. Oh, you already knew that? Well look at you! Let's just forget about that then and talk about the game at hand!
In a very interesting and revealing interview with 850 KOA's Dave Krieger, George Karl vents about a myriad of subjects ... including if he believe's Andre Iguodala was "The Mole" in last year's playoff series vs. the Warriors.
Dave Krieger sat down with George Karl, former Nuggets coach, to talk about a fairly wide range of subjects. Of interest, Krieger asks about his feelings on this year's team ... as well as the subject we all want to know about, if he thought Andre Iguodala was "The Mole" in Game 5 of the Nuggets and Warriors series.
Q: Do you think Andre Iguodala was Mark Jackson’s "mole"?
A: No question.
Q: Does that bug you?
A: I just think that’s media hype. I mean, that series was not a physical series. Everybody wants to be more aggressive with the guy kicking your ass, so . . . .
Q: The media didn’t say it. Jackson said it.
A: I thought Mark had a lot of tricks in that series that were bush- . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what they were. Almost high-schoolish. They were beneath the NBA level. And they might have worked. They might have motivated his young team in a good way. You know, he’d announce a starting lineup and start another guy. C’mon, man. You think we’re not ready for that?
Read the entire interview right here.
Karl also covers his thoughts on JaVale McGee, the current Nuggets, ESPN and where he thinks he can coach next. As always with George, it was an entertaining interview. Agree or disagree, George will tell you exactly what he thinks.
Here's hoping Iguodala is healthy by the time the Warriros come to Denver in December to play. The boo's may deafen the Dubs.
With eight players finishing in double figures, the Denver Nuggets pulled off an admirably tough road win in Minneapolis.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Denver Nuggets fans have plenty to be thankful for ...
... a fourth straight victory (the second two coming in tough road environments).
... an eighth win in 11 tries.
... terrific balance.
... the Nuggets are actually starting to make free throws!
During the Altitude pre-game show, Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw said that he isn't playing his players enough minutes for any of them not to play hard when on the floor. And we certainly saw that tonight. From the starters to the bench, just about every Nugget player who participated in Wednesday's affair against the Minnesota Timberwolves played hard and they have the results to prove it: eight players in double figures scoring, 11 steals and a tough road win against a talented Wolves squad that seems to faltering while the Nuggets are ascending in the Western Conference standings.
Unlike the heartbreaking loss at Oklahoma City a week earlier, the Nuggets were able to withstand their opponent's late fourth quarter run and a boisterous opposing home crowd. But thanks to some stingy defense, some awful three-point shots by Wolves' star Kevin Love and aggressive around-the-basket play by the Nuggets' power forward duo of J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets delivered their third road win of this young NBA season.
If there's a common thread among the Nuggets' four straight wins of late it has been their balance. Over these past four wins, the Nuggets have seen at least six players put up double figures in scoring with tonight's win at Minnesota featuring eight contributors in the double-figures category. Moreover, the Nuggets' bench far out-dueled the Wolves' bench by outscoring them 47-10.
And like last season's (regular season) Nuggets, these guys are figuring out ways to win - despite seemingly troublesome momentum shifts late in games. Tonight, regrettably, featured yet another of those momentum shift situations when Minnesota erased a substantive Nuggets' lead late in the fourth quarter and came within a point at 103-102. But just when it seemed like the Nuggets might give away another would-be road victory, Andre Miller pulled off a spot-on Fat Lever impersonation by grabbing a few key rebounds and setting up his power forwards - Hickson and Faried - for success. For all the crap Miller takes here among our readers and elsewhere in Nuggets Nation, we must collectively admit that the Nuggets don't win at Minnesota on Wednesday without Miller's efforts.
Speaking of players the Nuggets needed to pull off Wednesday's victory, look no further than the small guards Ty Lawson and (yes) Nate Robinson. Lawson continues to make his case for All-Star Game consideration by playing solidly from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Meanwhile, Robinson (yes, Robinson!) did what Robinson does best: score in short bursts. When Robinson is on, it seems as though he can turn a five-ish point lead into a double-digit lead almost instantaneously.
Beyond the Nuggets own admirable effort, it must be noted how the Wolves turned a furious comeback into a frustrating loss. Just when the Wolves appeared to have our Nuggets on the ropes at that 103-102 point in the fourth quarter, they gave up three straight dunks (two by Hickson, one by Faried) while Love chucked an ill-advised three point shot and Wolves' center Nikola Pekovic missed a chip shot layup. And the Wolves would later compound their stupidity when Love took yet another ill-advised three pointer a few minutes later. I suppose that's why Minnesota is 8-9 while Denver is 8-6.
Non-Stiff of the Game
-Ty Lawson: Multiple Nuggets probably deserve the Non-Stiff of the Game award, but Lawson stands out for his consistency. The once-so-inconsistent Lawson has become the Nuggets most reliable player of late, and his 8-10 free throw shooting tonight is hopefully just a sign of more reliable free throw shooting to come.
Stiff of the Game
-The Timberwolves Bench: I'm looking at you, Dante Cunningham, J.J. Barea, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved and Robbie Hummel!! Totally worthless. And while the Nuggets starters logged between 19 and 33 minutes, the Wolves starters all played at least 36 minutes with Love, Corey Brewer and Ricky Rubio playing over 40 minutes apiece. It's no wonder the Wolves comeback sputtered at the end of the fourth quarter while the Nuggets surged.
Looking backward, it's hard to fathom how this Nuggets team was so bad so early to begin the season. Just a month into the 2013-14 campaign, our Denver Nuggets appear to found some semblance of a rhythm - and yet they have much room to improve. But for now, Nuggets fans and the organization itself can enjoy a Thanksgiving that seemed most un-enjoyable just a few weeks ago.
Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Stiffs!!
Place your thoughts on tonight's game right here
Place your thoughts on tonight's showdown with the Timberwolves right here.
It's time to get to know Evan Fournier a little better, away from the court.
The Nuggets selected Evan Fournier with the 20th pick in the 2012 NBA draft. As a rookie he appeared in 38 games (started four of them) for the team and averaged: 11.3 minutes, 5.3 points, and 1.2 assists. So far in his second season, Fournier has appeared in all 13 games and is averaging: 13.9 minutes, 5.8 points, 1.1 assists, and 1.9 rebounds per game.
That's Fournier the basketball player, now let's try to get to know him a little better away from the court in this Q&A; style interview.
Nate Timmons: What's your favorite form of social media?
Evan Fournier: It used to be Facebook, but I signed onto Twitter two years ago. At first, I was lost, but now I'm addicted. Instagram sometimes is a little too much. You can use social media to be funny, you can use it for business ... you can use it a lot of ways; I'm trying to be funny and to talk to fans.
Does your family make it over here for games?
Fournier: My family is coming here for Christmas: my parents and I have some cousins coming too. [My parents] came here last year, that was their first time in Denver. They loved it, they said it was nice weather - a little cold - it was Christmas time, but they said it was beautiful.
What did your parents do for work when you were growing up?
Fournier: My parents used to be Judo athletes. So now, my dad works at INSEP the famous school with all the athletes and my mom, she is a Judo teacher.
Did you do Judo growing up?
Fournier: I did, but I was playing basketball and Judo at the same time and growing up I had to make a choice. So, [I chose] basketball.
So, your teammates don't mess with you then because they know you could beat them up?
Fournier: Exactly, they know I have some skills. (laughs)
A look at Jimmy Pedro, Judo champion, from the 2004 Olympics.
Do you have any siblings?
Fournier: No, I'm an only child.
How about some close friends growing up?
Fournier: I have two or three very close friends. And I have a lot of cousins, I'm half Arabic I was almost born in Algeria, so my cousins from South of France are like brothers to me.
What's something about Colorado that you've enjoyed during your time here?
Fournier: The people. People are very friendly. In my neighborhood, everybody knows me and everybody talks to me. Like for my birthday, they gave me hats, T-shirts, and other things. I really like it. Where I'm from in Paris - you don't see those kind of people; it's busy, it's busy people, and they have the time to stop and talk to you. So, I really enjoy it here.
It's Friday night and you don't have a game. What could we find you doing?
Fournier: You could find me at my place watching a movie. I don't like to go out a lot, I don't drink alcohol ... maybe now that I'm 21 [years-old] I could go downtown and have a beer or a glass of wine.
So, you like movies. What's a good one you've seen recently?
Fournier: The last one I saw ... Flight with Denzel Washington, it was on Netflix and that was cool. My favorite movies are the Lord of the Rings [series]. I'm a geek though, I'm a big fan of The Matrix, Star Wars, and all of that.
You shall not pass!
The movie Flight also probably encourages you not to drink alcohol? That movie is depressing.
Fournier: It makes me kind of nervous when I fly now. (laughs)
Who is your favorite actor?
Fournier: Denzel Washington, number one no question. He had so many big time movies: Training Day, Man on Fire.
Do you have a favorite Denzel movie?
Fournier: My favorite growing up was Remember the Titans. Training Day, right now, might be the best Denzel movie I've ever watched.
How about a favorite actress?
Fournier: The one in Homeland, Carrie Mathison.
Fournier: Yes, she's amazing.
What's on your iPod?
Fournier: Like every player on the team: Drake, Rick Ross, hip-hop, and R&B.; Some French rap obviously, and right now: Kendrick Lamar.
Do you cook?
Fournier: I used to cook. I used to because I had to live by myself when I was 16 [years old]. So, I had to live by myself, cook, do laundry, and all of that. At first, it was only rice and pasta ... I got better, I bought some [cook] books. I had a chef last year, obviously I'm not cooking anymore! I used to be good though.
What's your favorite food?
Fournier: My favorite food is from Senegal. It's called Thiéboudienne: a mix between fish and rice, that's a typical plate over there. And my girlfriend is from Senegal, so as soon as I go to her crib in France - her dad makes me [Thiéboudienne] and I'm happy.
Does she live in France?
Fournier: No, she's here. I met her at INSEP, the same institute that I went to for basketball. She used to play basketball too, on the French national team.
Do you have a hidden talent? What's something you're good at that people may not know?
Fournier: Imitating people. My best ones are usually my friends because I have to watch them and hear what they say.
If you weren't playing basketball, did you ever think about what you might be doing?
Fournier: Growing up I was a big fan of dinosaurs. So, a Paleontologist.
Are you afraid of anything? Like I'm afraid of sharks and snakes.
Fournier: My biggest fear, I can't stand them, is wasps. Bees are okay, but wasps ... no. When there is a wasp in the room, my girlfriend is trying to kill it; I don't touch them.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
If you want to know why the Nuggets are in their current predicament, look no further than Friday's opponent when an all-too-familiar face comes to Denver.
During a recent appearance on my friend Sandy Clough's morning radio show, the topic of small market teams paying the NBA's onerous luxury tax came up. Sandy and I were discussing how the Oklahoma City Thunder had basically closed their championship-contending window by trading away James Harden in 2012 simply to avoid paying luxury tax (the NBA's dollar-for-dollar penalty for team's whose payroll far exceeds the salary cap). Sandy then asked me if the Nuggets owners - Josh and Stan Kroenke - would ever pony up for a championship, even if it meant paying well into the luxury tax.
To answer Sandy's question, I basically said "if given the opportunity to pay the tax - i.e. the Nuggets have players worth paying the tax for - I hope they would" and I referenced the 2007-08 season when the Nuggets boasted the NBA's second-highest payroll at $84 million which came with a $20 million-something tax penalty. That season, the Nuggets' roster featured two first overall picks (Allen Iverson and Kenyon Martin), a second overall pick (Marcus Camby), a seventh overall pick (Nene Hilario) and, of course, a third overall pick (Carmelo Anthony). But despite the plethora of high draft picks and the extremely high payroll (by comparison, the Nuggets pay about $67 million in payroll today), all the 2007-08 Nuggets could produce was a first round playoff sweep by the Los Angeles Lakers as an eighth seed.
In the wake of that colossal disappointment, the Nuggets moved towards a more fiscally prudent approach and actually got better. Just months removed from that 2008 playoff exit, gone were Iverson and Camby (and their giant salaries) and in their place were Chauncey Billups and a collection of solid role players on minimum one-year contracts, like Dahntay Jones and Chris Andersen. With Billups leading the way and head coach George Karl leaning on his players to focus more on defense than ever before, the Nuggets came within two games of their first NBA Finals appearance at the conclusion of the 2008-09 campaign.
But rather than ride that wave of success for years to come, Karl's second bout with cancer cost the Nuggets a solid 2009-10 playoff run and by the beginning of the 2010-11 season, the rumors of Anthony's impending departure to New York were in full throttle. The "Melodrama" proved to be a giant distraction for the Nuggets up to and until the day Anthony was finally traded to New York in February of 2011, and the team the Nuggets built in his wake have continued the Nuggets run of playoff appearances despite being "star-less."
Nuggets fans and devout readers of this site know this story all too well, but I think it captures everything that the Nuggets - and their small market NBA peers - are up against in the modern NBA. The Melo Tale brings up issues of tanking, luxury tax, free agency and colluding to win titles that every NBA team must deal with.
Before the Nuggets were even in a position to assemble that 2007-08 roster with all those juicy lottery picks (and bloated contracts), they had to tank the 2002-03 season. In what was known back then as "The LeBron James Sweepstakes", the Nuggets threw away the 2002-03 campaign hoping to land The King, but instead settled for Anthony as the consolation prize when - despite winning just 17 games - the Nuggets picked third overall in the 2003 NBA Draft.
For Nuggets fans, this was eerily similar to previous tanking jobs that never once netted a first overall pick. The Nuggets threw away the 2001-02 season but instead of drafting Yao Ming at one they ended up with Nikoloz Tskitishvili at five. The garbage 1997-98 Nuggets also missed on the first pick and instead were given the third pick, which became Raef LaFrentz (the first pick that year was Michael Olowokandi, who regrettably the Nuggets might also have drafted, so maybe it was good the Nuggets didn't get the first pick in 1998). And before those tank jobs, the Nuggets tanking attempts in 1996-97 (Nuggets took Tony Battie at five instead of Tim Duncan at one), 1992-93 (Nuggets took LaPhonso Ellis at five instead of Shaquille O'Neal at one) and 1991-92 (Nuggets took Dikembe Mutombo at four instead of Larry Johnson at one) all failed to produce the desired result.
Point being, the tanking-and-drafting of Carmelo Anthony was yet another example of why tanking sort of works but is no guarantee of anything other than marginal playoff success.
Which brings us to the luxury tax issue. In order to build a winner around the Carmelo Anthonys of the NBA world, NBA owners must be willing to do whatever it takes - and pay whatever it costs - to get there. While the Nuggets were loading a roster around Anthony that featured high lottery picks and expensive free agents (like Martin and Andre Miller a season before him), the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat were doing the same for James and Dwyane Wade, respectively. Even the Toronto Raptors did their best - at the time - to build a winner around Chris Bosh, once netting 47 wins.
And yet between Denver, Cleveland, Miami and Toronto it was only Miami that was able to persuade Wade to stay beyond his first two contract extensions, as the Heat (and Wade himself) cajoled James and Bosh to join Wade in Miami. Which, of course, led to Anthony to want a "sexy market" team of his own - hence the "Melodrama" that ultimately sent Anthony to New York during the first season of the James, Wade and Bosh Era in Miami.
Left in the midst of all this has been our Denver Nuggets, who - to their credit - have produced a team almost as competitive as that 2008-09 squad despite having no All-Stars and not needing to tank again, like Cleveland did almost immediately after James' departure and still can't win a game to this day as a result. But history seems to be repeating itself in Denver, with yet another "star" player - Andre Iguodala - deciding to depart Denver for Golden State this past off-season (but karma's a bitch, right Andre?), a move that might turn Denver from a 57-win team to a playoff bottom-feeder, leaving Nuggets fans to debate daily about what direction the Nuggets should be taking going forward. Again.
Meanwhile, unable to collude for a title with friends of his own in New York, Anthony has instead been saddled with a roster of aging, expensive players which lost in the playoffs' second round last season and currently stands at a pathetic 3-10 so far this season in a weakened Eastern Conference, no less. All of this is leading to "Melodrama 2.0" with Anthony's pending free agency at season's end. The rumor, of course, is that Anthony might join forces with Kobe Bryant as a Laker in 2014-15, but that possibility just became a lot more remote with Bryant signing a two-year, $48.5 million extension on Monday.
So when Carmelo Anthony takes to the Pepsi Center floor on Friday night to face the franchise that drafted him, developed him, coddled him and spared no expense to win with him for nearly eight years, one has to wonder if Anthony feels just a twinge of regret. Because in his haste to collude for a championship elsewhere, Anthony has only further playoff disappointments and a current 3-10 record to show for it while the scrappy Nuggets appear to be weathering another star free agent departure and are hanging in a brutally tough Western Conference at a respectable 7-6.
The Carmelo Anthony saga is one of countless examples that small market teams like the Nuggets must endure in the modern NBA. And while I will forever hope that the Nuggets can break the vicious cycle of tanking-for-a-star-only-to-see-the-star-sign-with-a-big-market-team-elsewhere, when seeing Anthony in that Knicks jersey on Friday night it's hard to be optimistic.
After a tough 1st quarter where the Nuggets were down by as many as 11 points, they turned on the afterburners and sent the Mavericks to their first home loss of the season.
The Nuggets tonight showed the first killer instinct I've really seen from them all season. Instead of letting the Mavericks back into it when things tightened up in the 4th quarter and their lead reduced to just 4 with 9:30 to play, the Nuggets utilized a trio of huge three pointers from Nate Robinson to drain the life out of the Mavericks and seal up their second road win.
Against a (formerly) undefeated at home Mavericks team, the Nuggets struggled early. At one point in the 1st quarter, the Mavericks were shooting 90% from the floor and led by as many as 11 points over the Nuggets. Instead of shrinking from the hit to the mouth, the Nuggets caught fire and started locking up the Mavericks on defense. While the Mavericks did shoot 46% from the floor, they shot just 26% (5-19) from 3 and were unable to find good looks against a Nuggets team that looked shockingly competent defending the perimeter.
While Brian Shaw's mind-bottling rotations still don't make a whole lot of sense to me - at one point, we saw a Miller-Robinson-Foye-Arthur-Hickson lineup so small it would make Papa Smurf blush - perhaps that's becoming a boon to a team that is finally starting to gel. The Nuggets simply have so many weapons, and the frequent hockey-shift-like substitutions make it very difficult and frankly disoriented for opponents to truly impede the wrecking ball this Nuggets offense is becoming. Hell, even Anthony Randolph saw the floor tonight, and contributed by stumbling into Foye, which shoved Foye into Dirk, leading to Dirk free throws. I like to think that the touch of the unicorn derailed Dirk tonight, who was a mediocre 7-15 from the floor and "only" put up 18 points.
The Nuggets again tallied 23 assists after dishing 24 against the Mavericks on Saturday, as Ty Lawson once again posted an absurdly good double double: 19 points on 7-11 shooting, 11 assists, 3 rebounds and just one turnover. As much as I know Ty Lawson will likely again be overlooked by Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, or Russell Westbrook for an All-Star selection, he is showing that he deserves more than just a passing glance. Even with increasingly rarer bouts of passivity, Ty is taking the reins of this team like never before and stepping up as the leader we've all known he could be.
There's so many superlatives to hand out tonight, I'm just going to start listing what I loved:
- JJ Hickson posted a season high 22 points to go along with 8 boards and did admirably on the defensive end. He was making nearly everything he had a look at tonight, especially inside, and helped cover Dirk at times. Alongside his fellow frontcourt partner, Kenneth Faried notched another double double with 10 and 10 in just 25 minutes. 32 and 18 from your starting frontcourt is nothing to sneeze at.
- Tonight marked the first time in forever that I can remember the Nuggets successfully attacking a zone defense. In Karl's offense, the Nuggets frequently stagnated as they were simply awful from outside and could not open up teams that packed the paint. Shaw's Nuggets don't have that problem this season, and another 40% night from beyond the arc helped carry the Nuggets. They were extremely aggressive in pushing the ball off misses, helping keep the Mavericks from getting back into the zone on defense. A trio of threes from Nate Robinson - again in the fourth quarter - helped open a yawning 13 point chasm of separation between the Nuggets and Mavericks, and the Mavericks zone simply collapsed.
- Evan Fournier's first NBA alley oop lob pass for a dunk!
- Jordan Hamilton continued to show improvement, crashing the glass for 7 boards to go along with 11 points on an efficient 4-8 from the floor. He continues to make some head-scratching mental errors, but his effort level has increased dramatically and he's becoming a big contributor off the bench.
- In the waning minutes of the game, Andre Miller again contributed not one but three critical offensive rebounds to seal up the win. Even as Andre remains mired in a mini-slump, he still finds ways to meaningfully contribute to a Nuggets team which needs his veteran leadership.
- The Nuggets bench destroyed the Mavericks', outscoring them 41-21. 6 players scored in double figures for the second straight game.
- After stumbling out of the gate, the Nuggets are finally over .500 at 7-6 - after a road win, no less! - and currently hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
- The Nuggets held another team to less than 100 points. They have done so in 6 of their 13 games so far this season.
The Nuggets will next play at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, where they will face Kevin Love and old friend Corey Brewer on their home floor and attempt to draw closer to a .500 road record.
Opposition's Take: Mavs Moneyball
Place your second half thoughts here.
Let's go Nuggets!!
Place your first half thoughts here.
The Nuggets eked out a 102-100 victory against the Mavs on Saturday night. Can they do so again to hand the Mavericks their first home loss of the season?
|Game 13: 2013-14 NBA Season|
|November 25th, 2013|
|American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX|
|6:30 p.m. MT|
|Altitude / 950 AM / 93.7 FM|
|Ty Lawson||PG||Jose Calderon|
|Randy Foye||SG||Monta Ellis|
|Wilson Chandler||SF||Shawn Marion|
|Kenneth Faried||PF||Dirk Nowitzki|
|J.J. Hickson||C||Samuel Dalembert|
|You're here!||Blogs||Mavs Moneyball|
|Danilo Gallinari (ACL), JaVale McGee (leg fracture) are both out||Injuries||Devin Harris, Brandan Wright are both out|
|Nuggets on second 2+ game win streak of the year||Stat||
Mavericks 4 game win streak ended Saturday @ Denver
Tonight, the Nuggets will get their second chance to move north of .500 on the season.
Just a day removed from defending their home court in a tightly contested 102-100 victory, the Nuggets now fly to the American Airlines Center to battle the Mavericks on their home floor, where they are a perfect 7-0. So far, the Mavericks have downed the Hawks, Grizzlies, Lakers, Wizards, 76ers, Rockets and Jazz in Dallas. The Mavs have scored at least 105 points in 5 of those 7 contests.
Many of the salient points from my colleague Nate Timmons' preview of Saturday's game will be true of tonight's: the Nuggets need to continue to press their athleticism advantage and run, opening up the fast break looks and transition points which have buoyed them in recent games, where they have averaged 105 points per game over their last three. While the Nuggets will lose their altitude advantage, I still like them running against the relatively more traveled legs of Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki combined for 52 of the Mavericks 100 points on Saturday, and will again present tough covers for Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye.
Poor free throw shooting continues to remain a thorn in this team's side. After missing 18 free throws in a loss at Oklahoma City and 10 more at home in a win versus the Bulls, the Nuggets nearly blew a 17 point lead against the Mavericks in the Pepsi Center in part due to 9 more missed freebies. If you're counting, that's 37 points left at the line in their last three games, where the Nuggets margin of victory in their two wins has been just 4 1/2 points per game. Tell you what, Nuggets, I'll stop harping on free throws when you start making them with regularity.
It was great to watch Randy Foye hit some huge threes against the Mavericks on Saturday, and as Nate Robinson slowly finds his stride the sharpshooting duo will be again be relied upon to provide offense when the Nuggets stall against the zone. The Nuggets outside shooting must again be a factor to exert pressure on the Mavericks defense, which will help open up better looks for Faried, Hickson and Mozgov in the paint.
The Nuggets got big games out of Kenneth Faried (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Ty Lawson (20 points, 9 assists) in their last victory over the Mavericks on Saturday. The Nuggets should again gameplan to limit Dirk (27 points, 9 rebounds) and Monta (25 points,6 rebounds) as much as possible, while relying on their own superior bench to help push through to victory against a Dallas squad hungry for revenge.
It shouldn't have been this close, but the Nuggets managed to squeak out a big win at home over the Dallas Mavericks 102-100
At the end of the first quarter of the Nuggets nail-biting 102-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, Adam Kinney from Denver Sports Nation on Mile High Sports nudged me and pointed at the score board. On that scoreboard there was what we thought was a funny mistake. Nuggets was spelled with a "c" at the end and really thoughts someone just had a bad spelling day
Naturally we considered this to be a little innocuous thing and I of course took a picture of it. However, later in the game the scoreboard problems continued, and we began to think that maybe this issue was a bit more serious.
At several points during the second half there was no scoreboard indications at all, and the Nuggets PA announcer had to keep score for the arena. I bring this up for one reason. The multiple stops and starts that occurred in the second half, primarily due to the scoreboard issues at the Can likely affected the Nuggets already waning attention on the game. It seemed that the Nuggets, who played a pretty awesome first half were awkward and stilted in the second. Throwing up bad three point shots and turning the ball over at an incredible rate (particularly Ty Lawson). It was a bizarre game.
Nuggets high points
Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried stood out stats wise in the game. Ty finished the game with 20 points and 9 assists while Faried put in a high-flying 18 points and 14 rebounds. Without the contributions from these two, it's likely that the Nuggets don't come out of Pepsi Center with a win.
Nuggets three point shooting in the first half was quite good until the Mavericks, let by Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis started charging back into the game. However, up until that point Randy Foye (5 three pointers, finished with 17 points total) and the gang were 8-16 on three point shots, which is good for any team in the NBA. The team was on a roll, and quite frankly was playing some pretty crisp offense.
Nuggets low points
Nuggets inability to break the zone. Yeah, what's with that? The Mavericks (as they do) fell into a zone defense and forced the Nuggets to take outside shots. This, in turn, caused the team to jack up some ill-advised three point shots. Well, more than ill advised. Keep in mind the Nuggets were 8-16 on threes in the first half. By the time the game was over they finished with an 11-32 tally on three point shots. So do the math. After the game, coach Brian Shaw said the team went "3 point crazy", and that's about the most apt description I could find.
Nuggets of wisdom
Weird, weird game. After the Nuggets went up by 17 in the second quarter, they just kind of started jacking up three point shots and stopped doing the things that got them to that lead in the first place. Yes, the Mavericks went into a zone defense, but it's not like the Nuggets haven't faced that kind of defense from the Mavs before. It's what they do against the Nuggets. So the team went into jack up shots mode and it nearly cost them the game.
The Nuggets won, and they did it by coming up with some huge defensive stops at the end of the game. However, this really was a game the Nuggets should have been coasting to victory in ... considering the Mavs were on the second night of a back to back. This team is young and still learning, hopefully this game was a bit of a wake up call and will teach the Nuggets to be prepared for anything.
Despite the weirdness of the scoreboard issues, the team has now fought all the way back to 6-6 on the year and have won 5 in a row at home. Back out on the road they go, and will be seeing this very same Mavericks team in Dallas on Monday. Hopefully the Nuggets learned a thing or two from this game.
While Nate is recapping this bad boy ... leave all your post game comments right here.
The recap will be up as soon as Nate wakes up from his slumber or as soon as he gets home and cruises through this bad boy. Post your GIFs and all those shenanigans here.
Wow, what a first half ... right? Can't believe that guy made that shot and that other guy played that kind of defense on that guy.
It's time for the second half ... leave all your comments here. With that first half in the books, you gotta hope that things go better or stay the same this half. Whatever is best for the team. Let's go future! Let's go Nuggets!
It's about that time to talk it up with your fellow Nuggets fans!
What's up Stiffs!? Have fun in the game threads!!! Hopefully this game is a good one. Two offenses that are capable of big things in this one. Would love to see some Ty Lawson vs. Shane Larkin. Jose Calderon and Andre Miller would be a fun match up too, but we likely won't see much of that as Ty and Jose start.
Isaiah Thomas, from the Kings, gave Nate Robinson fits in the first game of the season. He was a quick guard that put Nate Rob on skates all night - will Larkin be able to bring that kind of game off the bench? Will Robinson show the rookie how to get it done in the NBA?
Really want to see the Denver bigs rebound the ball tonight. Dirk is an underrated rebounder that uses position, Sammy Dalembert is a similar guy and will be a challenge for Denver's athletic big men. J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried must realize that position is just as important as athleticism, Brian Shaw said as much this week and used Larry Bird as an example to his players of a good rebounder that relied on technique.
And I'd like to see Hamilton continue to play well on both ends.
What you think is not always what you get. That can be said about statistics, but it also can be said about the Nuggets' Manager of Basketball Analytics.
When you hear the title: Manager of Basketball Analytics, what's the first image that pops into your head? Is it the actor Jonah Hill playing the role of Peter Brand, aka Paul DePodesta, in the 2011 film Moneyball?
You know the stat-nerd type. The guy that spends all day in front of a computer, eating Cheetos, and doesn't have the time or the desire to keep up appearances. The guy that could use a haircut, but won't spend over ten bucks to get one. The guy that has never had a pair of pants tailored or worn a dress shirt described as "form fitting". Well, that guy was Peter Brand in Moneyball, but that sure isn't Tommy Balcetis.
The Nuggets 6-foot-5-inch and 195 pound Manager of Basketball Analytics stole a lyric out of ZZ Top's songbook: he's a sharp dressed man. From his close cropped and neatly styled hair, to his tailor-fit dress shirt (with the sleeves neatly rolled), his shiny silver watch, black belt, charcoal pressed pants, even his dress boots (with a little designer pattern) all let you know that he puts thought into everything, especially his job.
"There are so many things that you can do [with analytics]," said Balcetis. "It purely depends on resources, time, and people. That's what my job is: figuring out the main projects that we want to do."
With Tommy as our guide, we are about to plunge into his mind. But don't think for a minute, that while he's granting us tremendous insight into his world, that he's going to be giving away any secrets.
"If somebody reads [this], we don't want to give away our strategies and things like that," said Balcetis. "But at the same time we'd like our fans to be informed. We are a very progressive front office, which I'm really happy about. We understand that analytics are just a piece of the puzzle. It's going to inform a bigger decision tree, it's just a branch. We have scouting perspective, we have ex-player perspective, we have Tim's [Connelly] perspective - who has been with the NBA for a while. So, we have so many different perspectives and I'm just giving them the numbers perspective."
"When I got that call from Tim, there was no doubt in my mind ... I did say, "Give me a day to think about it." said Balcetis. "But I knew right then that I wanted to be here [in Denver]." Tommy was born and raised in Lithuania. He began playing basketball when he was around seven-years-old; everyone did. "I don't think there is anything bigger than basketball in Lithuania," said Tommy. "There's a movie called 'The Other Dream Team'. Our assistant GM [Arturas Karnisovas] was in the movie; he was on the team. Basketball in Lithuania was already pretty big; we didn't really need the [USA] Dream Team to show us the way." Basketball took root in Lithuania back in the 1930s and hoops took root in Tommy too.
Even though Balcetis has one job title for the Nuggets, he wears many hats in his role with the organization and he keeps very busy.
"One thing that I do is I put together the pre-game and post-game reports for the coaches," said Balcetis. "That's something that analytically minded teams do on a consistent basis, and they do it well."
The Pre-Game and Post-Game Reports
"I started doing the pre-game reports for the coaches, which is essentially profiling the team that we're going to be playing and not just in terms of basic stats," added Tommy. "I actually don't think I include basic stats anymore: it's all about where they like to shoot from, which positions are they not good at defending, whether they like the corner three, whether they like the above the break three, whether they defend well from mid-range. All of that stuff is available, so I put together a summary for them like that.
"And then I profile a few key players for them, as well. Watching film on players is very useful, but there are certain things, in terms of numbers, that coaches and people don't necessarily see and it's really evident in their numbers," said Balcetis. "So, I put together a report based on analytics. What to do with Derrick Rose? What to do with Kevin Durant? There is not much you can do sometimes, but at least you can sort of get an idea of what they're not great at, maybe they're good at, but maybe not great at. It's all about getting that extra inch of competitive edge. If you look at numbers ... that's what I try to do."
"I went to the Marciulionis Basketball Academy the great Sarunas Marciulionis," said Balcetis. "I went to his basketball academy for 10 years. I played there, I had some success and played with some junior national teams." Tommy did so well at the Marciulionis Academy that high schools in the U.S. took notice, and when he was 18 years-old he left Lithuania and his family to pursue basketball in the States after being recruited. As his high school career went along Tommy realized he needed to make a decision. "I always wanted to make sure I had a backup plan just in case basketball didn't work out," said Balcetis. "I knew there was a good chance it wouldn't work out; I ran the numbers."
Once Tommy gives those pre-game reports to Brian Shaw, it's then up to the coach to decide what to do with that information and how to incorporate it, if he likes what he sees, into the game-plan for that night.
"[They] provide us with a daily report of where we're most effective, where our opponents are most effective, goals that we're trying to reach in terms of percentage of shots that we want to come from a certain area on the floor, whether it be: rim twos, corner threes or free throws, and if the style of play that we are playing is working in that regard," said Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw. "We work with them to shape [the reports] into a simpler form for us ‘not-so-smart-guys' to be able to understand it in layman's terms."
Is the trickle down effect of advanced stats entering into the players' minds?
"[Balcetis] has a job to do, breaking down stats and looking at stats; and I have a job to do, making shots and trying to help this team win," said Nuggets shooting guard Randy Foye. "Stats definitely don't lie, but I don't look into that stuff because [playing] has a lot to do with heart."
While Foye may not be looking at the stats, per se, he is, along the rest of his teammates, getting some of the information that Balcetis provides via the game-plan.
"I just try to go with instinct and go with the game-plan that coaches give us every day," said Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler. "They draw up a pretty good game-plan. Coaches give us strong and weak points of individual players, and it's good to get a visual on your own. Certain guys can do everything pretty well, so you try to make them do something they are not as good at; but it's still, for them, a good shot. You try to make them take the toughest shot possible; make them work for it. Like KD [Durant], he's a good player and he makes a lot of tough shots. So, sometimes you might play good defense and he might end up making the shot. You just gotta keep trying and trying."
Chandler hit on a key point when discussing trying to push a good player into perceived weakened position on the floor. Sometimes even the best information can't help you duplicate what you need to do out on the court.
"You can tell us you have a good chance to beat Miami if you can keep LeBron [James] and Dwyane Wade out of the paint ... okay, that's what the information says, but then going out and trying to do that is a totally different animal," said Shaw. "Trying to mesh the information with what you can really do with the personnel that you have is where the marriage is happening right now."
Going back after games and looking at the results of what just happened and seeing if the coaching staff used any of the information provided is key.
"I really try to do that - especially when it comes to actual players," Balcetis said, "When I say, "Kevin Durant doesn't do X," then I watch the game and I say, "You know what, that's actually true ... he doesn't do X." Or he's not great at a particular thing or maybe he's really good at something. So far, anecdotally, me just watching it ... it seems like analytics provide a version of the truth. I want to say it's never completely 100-percent accurate, but it's never completely wrong - that's for sure. More often than not, I see the numbers play out on the court."
Enter the post-game report.
"And the post-game [report] is how we did in terms of those things: in terms of the pre-game [report], in terms of our shooting," said Balcetis. "We have certain goals that we set in the front office with the coaching staff, and we want to make sure that we achieve those goals both offensively and defensively."
Balcetis attended and graduated from Harvard with degrees in Economics and Psychology. "At Harvard, it is kind of tough because there's a huge peer pressure, especially to go into more established industries like banking and consulting," said Balcetis. "The target industries after Harvard have never been sports, or at least I didn't see it that way." But he wanted to work in the sports world. So, he took an internship with the NBA his Junior summer in New York. Kanisovas, who Tommy grew up idolizing in Lithuania, helped him out with that role. But after graduation Balcetis accepted a job doing some consulting work, instead of pursuing the same NBA internship, to get some analytical and tangible skills under his belt. But his desire to work around basketball still burned within him.
Open minded coaches pave way for opportunities
"I've embraced it," said Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw of advanced stats. "For me, learning how to understand the information that you're getting was the critical part of it. Before that, myself included, a lot of the old school coaches were intimidated because they didn't grow up in a computer age with all these stats and things to deal with. Analytics have been a part of the game forever. We used analytics [during Shaw's playing days], we just didn't have the computer stats to really back it up or the numbers that we do now.
"You talk to any basketball purist," said Shaw. "Defensively if you keep a team out of the paint, you don't allow them to shoot wide-open corner threes, and you play defense without fouling, it's the same thing analytics tell us - with a stack of paper. "
One would think that it could be difficult to get NBA coaches to listen to a 27 year-old stats analyst on what strategies, strong-points, or weak-points their team may have.
"I think it's slightly easier for me because I played basketball," said Balcetis. "It's not like I came straight from a statistics school and just threw a barrage of numbers at them. I understand how the game is played, but not to the level that they do because they are the coaches and they get the big bucks. But at the same time, I understand numbers a little more than they do, so it's a complimentary synergy going on, if you will.
"They [the coaching staff] really have been excellent, I can't overemphasize that enough with how open they are," said Balcetis. "I hope that they use the stuff that I put together, I've been told that they do use it - which is great, but at the same time I understand that numbers are not everything. Sometimes the numbers can give them one thing and they have a different strategy, so I never take it personally. At the same time, if there is something in those reports that will help them ... then I did my job. It's all about getting that extra percent of probability that we're going to win the game."
One would think that in an 82 game season, running pre- and post-game reports would take up most of Balcetis' time. Think again. When he's not doing his day-to-day reports, he's focusing on front office projects.
After spending two years doing consulting work, Tommy decided he had had enough and wanted to pursue his passion: basketball. So, he left his cushy job and made the necessary sacrifices to move to London and work for the NBA - selling broadcasting rights to international markets. Just two weeks on the job (around August, 2012) would see him fly to Moscow for business, where a chance meeting would alter his career-plans. "That's when I met Tim [Connelly]," said Balcetis. "We ended up talking a lot about basketball and he said, "Why are you not more on the basketball side? Why are you doing the business side?" I was like, "Well, I have a business background so it seemed like the right thing for me to do." And he said, "You should consider going into the basketball side a little more." We kept in touch for a year, and then he got the job [with the Nuggets] and called me up to see if I wanted to join [him]."
Keeping tabs on the Nuggets and the rest of the league
"We try to track the development of our players," added Balcetis. "We want to see how well they did last year, how well they're doing this year, what's missing, what's lacking, and that's purely the analytical perspective. The coaches are obviously with those guys every day in the trenches. They understand how their minds work, and psychologically, they are there for them. What I do, I just look at the numbers and see, for example, whether somebody is not shooting as well as they did last year and why is that? Are they taking too many shots outside of their comfort zone? I look at those things, and those things, sometimes, are truthful. I share those things with coaches, and coaches do what they do with those numbers."
Like Tommy referenced earlier, his job is a branch that is a part of a decision making tree. He provides support to help make informed decisions. Part of that job is also looking around the league to see where the Nuggets fit in and at current and future NBA players that might some day be Nuggets.
"Analytics can be used in just so many ways because it's such a broad term," said Balcetis. "I do a bunch of projects - statistical and analytical projects on the percentage of making the playoffs [for example]. Some of that stuff is already available online, but we want to have our own view on it. Sometimes we put together our own models to see whether those models are true or not. We evaluate other players in the league, we also look at the draft. Whenever there is a performance analysis to be done, we do it. It doesn't have to be just our guys. We constantly try to make our team better, and we use analytics for that.
"Aside from performance analysis, there is team analysis: whether we are fast enough, whether our pace is on point," said Balcetis. "We are playing pretty fast-paced basketball right now: do we want to continue doing that or do we not want to continue doing that? Whether there are teams in the past 10 years, teams that won and teams that have been successful, have they played fast paced or not really?"
The newly hired Manager of Basketball Analytics for the Denver Nuggets was in for another surprise. "Growing up, since I was like 9 years-old, [Arturas Karnisovas] was my favorite player. I always wore no. 12 because he did," said Balcetis. "We actually played similar positions, some people actually compared us a little bit. My coach would be like, "Try to model your game after him." And I was like, "I always try to do that." Then I got to meet him my freshman year in college, it was awesome, and we stayed in touch and became really close. Funny story, I got this job before I knew Arturas was joining. Tim actually offered me the job, I accepted, and two days afterwards Tim called me and said, "I got the new assistant GM, it's Arturas." Unbelieveable! It's literally working with your idol, it's pretty cool. On the basketball court, we don't actually play, we shoot around every once in a while. He kicks my ass, unfortunately. I wish I could beat him at least once. He was always the guy who I looked up to."
SportVU - motion tracking cameras
With the advent of SportVU - motion tracking cameras - the amount of information that is going to be available to Balcetis, the Nuggets, and the rest of the league it staggering. Teams will be able to know what players are good in catch-and-shoot situations, what offensive players do when certain defenses are deployed (like double teams), how long players have the ball in their hands, and so much more.
The tricky part is going to be deciding how that information can be helpful to your team. Take this quote from a recent Dean Oliver piece.
"Every action on a basketball court is influenced by nine other players, not to mention a coach. For this reason, there is no 'holy grail' in basketball equivalent to baseball's on-base percentage." -- Chris Ballard, Oct. 21, 2005
How are the Nuggets going to be able to figure out which players will fit into their system? Are you sure that the data being provided is going to remain true once that player enters your program? Well, there won't be a shortage of information.
"It's good to have it available, absolutely," said Balcetis. "One thing that's happening right now, it's [SportVU] slightly overwhelming. Stats guys and fans can sort of get their heads around it and they can get drowned out by the data. There is so much information out there. I'm a fan of information. There is no such thing as too much information. You take what you need and draw conclusions from what you have. It's better than having no information. At the same time, there is so much of it that you can't possibly use every single thing that they give us. So, everybody is still on the early side of figuring out what they want to get from that data, and we're not an exception. We have used certain things [that are being tracked] and it has been really good. I would say we're still scratching the surface with what we can do with it."
Part of the problem, and part of the fun, is the competition that is sure to come with how teams are able to use all this tracked data. There definitely isn't a club for the advanced stats guys working for other teams where they can go and talk, but Balcetis conceded that it would be fun to have one.
"There is not club, but actually it would be kind of cool to put one together. I know a few guys who work on other teams and it's a funny dynamic right now. Everybody is trying to figure out the best way to contribute to their teams, so there's a lot of secrecy going on. We can't really share a lot of stuff that we do. We all try to be friendly with each other, obviously we're kind of colleagues in a way, competitors, but at the same time colleagues. There's not a lot of sharing of information."
Balcetis is excited about his role with the Nuggets, you can hear it in the way he describes his job and you can see it in the way he interacts with people around him. He's 27 years-old and working the job he grew to love through discovering his talent for numbers while at Harvard. "In college I started doing well in certain classes and I realized that stats, for some reason, came easy to me," said Barcetis. "Once something is a little easier for you, you actually start liking it. It wasn't the other way around, it's not like I liked it and then became good at it." And good at it he is. He does visit Lithuania a couple times a year to see family and friends, but Denver is his home now.
Where do we go from here ...
Could the NBA one day be headed for teams coached by guys like Balcetis? Well, some would argue that the closest we've come is when the Boston Celtics hired Brad Stevens this past off-season. He's a well known stat-head, but a proven success at Butler University. But there is so much more to coaching than Xs-and-Os. For now, guys like Balcetis are making a difference within front offices across the league. He is there to provide the franchise with a different perspective.
In a recent Tweet Balcetis sent out:
He expanded on those thoughts here.
"We would like to make informed mistakes. We always want to have enough information, and then make a certain decision. Analytical power is essentially: pretty much every team in the NBA right now has access to a lot of information, but the way you analyze that information and the conclusions that you draw are going to be very different."
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
Jordan Hamilton finally found his shooting stroke and provided an enormous contribution to the Nuggets tonight. The Nuggets bench simply dominated the Bulls all game, and Tom Thibodeau simply had no answer.
That sputtering sound you hear isn't your neighbor's car trying to turn over.
That would be the Bulls bench tonight, who were outscored by the Nuggets 48 to 19. They are now 1-13 in their last 14 trips to Denver, with their last win coming back on February 8th, 2006. Although the Bulls hung with the Nuggets early behind 19 flurrying points from Derrick Rose, the Nuggets played solid defense and limited good looks for the Bulls all night.
Even though he was colder than a late November night in Colorado to begin the game, Nate Robinson finally found his sea legs with a pair of huge threes to open the fourth quarter. They helped blow the Nuggets lead up to 14 and created some much needed separation for a Nuggets team that has struggled in the final frame of late. He still needs to be more consistent in his play to earn more minutes, but it was encouraging to see Nate finally knock down some big shots after some long barren stretches.
We got to witness a special night from Jordan Hamilton tonight. He poured in 17 big points off the bench on 6-12 shooting, including 3 huge three pointers. After a slow start to the season, Hamilton has gradually begun to improve his shooting, and it's really opening up looks for the rest of the team. The Nuggets now have credible three point threats from at least 6 players - Fournier, Foye, Hamilton, Lawson, Robinson and Chandler - without counting Gallo. As a team, the Nuggets shot 43% from beyond the arc and seem to be getting more confident with each game.
Even though the Nuggets again missed 10 free throws (12-22), they managed to overcome their ongoing issues with a barrage of outside shots. The Bulls made run late to put a little extra chill into Nuggets fans tonight, but ultimately a clearly gassed Bulls squad thinking of their date with Portland tomorrow night threw the towel in after Nate Robinson blew the game open to start the 4th quarter. This was a great win for the Nuggets to end their 2-game slide, and it gives them some much needed momentum heading into the next game against the Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki on Saturday.
- The Nuggets bench. Jordan Hamilton (17), Nate Robinson (10) and Evan Fournier (9) were all superb and outplayed the Bulls all night. Fournier had some great drives to the lane, Hamilton had a few nifty off balance looks, and Nate hit a window bank shot. The trio shot 6-15 from deep, good for 40% and 18 much needed points. Darrell Arthur hit some nice pick and pops as well.
- JJ Hickson put up 14 points and 9 rebounds, while Kenneth Faried again notched a double double tonight with 12 points and 11 rebounds. However, the Nuggets frontcourt struggled all night to control caroms off the glass and were outrebounded 58-48 - giving up 22 offensive rebounds. It was worrying to watch how easily the Bulls had second chance opportunities, but they simply couldn't make them. Still, it was nice to get a solid 26 and 20 from Mega Faried/Hyper Hickson tonight.
Lumps of Coal
- Where was Wilson Chandler tonight?! Although he saw 27 minutes on the court, he missed both his shots, scored zero points, committed a foul, turned the ball over twice, and would otherwise have been completely invisible if not for 3 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. There were stretches where the Nuggets could have used Chandler's offensive ability, and he simply didn't have it tonight.
- Similarly, Ty Lawson was far below his season averages tonight with 10 points and 7 assists. While certainly a good effort against one of the best point guards in the league, Ty's defense on Rose was generally bad and he wasn't making the shots he normally does. Without the bench stepping up, Lawson and Chandler's poor offensive showing could have made this a much tighter game than it was.
Opposition's Take: Blog a Bull
Place your second half thoughts here.