Explaining the Nuggets Losing Woes Firsthand

As a birthday present I got my brother and I tickets to see the Denver Nuggets play the Miami Heat. Our seats were actually better than I was lead to realize.

My brother and I got some more grainy photos of the game that I’ll save you the pain of looking at. Sadly, no celebrities were met this go around as the Nuggets got off the court quite quickly after the loss.

Seriously, how cool is this?

Why is he taking McGee out?

The Nuggets entered the fourth quarter down twelve points. Things looked grim. However, some good play and things turned around. JaVale McGee in particular played amazing. In the first four minutes of the final qurter he went three for four, pulled down two rebounds (one offensive) and got a block. And with 7:39 left to go and the Nuggets down by three, Karl pulled McGee. It was at this point my brother turned to me and asked “Wait, he’s taking McGee out of the game?”

What??

And McGee stayed out the rest of the game. In a mere 21 minutes McGee racked up 18 points (shooting 75%!!), 6 boards and 4 blocks and yet, he was nowhere to be found in a game that went down to the wire.

Gallinari is bad

How the Nuggets numbers looked going in to the Heat game. Via the NBA Geek

NAME POS GP MIN WP48 WINS
Kenneth Faried PF 8 237 .344 1.70
Andre Iguodala SG 8 298 .174 1.08
JaVale McGee C 8 154 .180 0.58
Kosta Koufos C 8 188 .148 0.58
Andre Miller PG 8 212 .129 0.57
Ty Lawson PG 8 305 .046 0.29
Corey Brewer SF 8 179 .050 0.19
Jordan Hamilton SF 3 19 .372 0.15
Timofey Mozgov C 2 22 .098 0.04
Anthony Randolph PF 1 5 .227 0.02
Evan Fournier SG 3 29 -.240 -0.15
Danilo Gallinari SF 7 252 -.029 -0.15
Wilson Chandler GF 4 69 -.228 -0.33

Here’s what makes taking out McGee even more painful. He was replaced by Danilo Gallinari, who has been playing absolutely terribly. In fact, Karl decided to end the 4th quarter, which we were down by as few as one point, with no center.  Josh Weil pointed out that Karl did this exact same thing in another recent loss! Here’s a quick breakdown from Popcorn Machine with a slight bit of editing.

Karl decided to replace one of his top bigs with his second worst player. In fact, Karl chose to sit two players, both of whom have been playing well this season, to let Gallo air ball away the win!

 Three point shooting

My proximity let me see this strategy up close and personal and it was terrifying. Basically, the Heat would get a player to the corner. LeBron James would then drive to the rim. If he couldn’t get a good shot, he passed to the corner and that player made a three pointer. (Shown here via ESPN shot charts)

My fear this season is the Nuggets wouldn’t take enough threes. As Arturo recently showed, this can be bad for business. The Nuggets are actually shooting a good amount of threes. Before tonights game they were 8th in the league with 21.3 a game. The Nuggets problem is they aren’t very good at converting threes. Gallinari is taking the most threes on the team and converting at an abysmal 22% Ty Lawson, who was taking over three three-pointers a game last season, has reverted to taking around two and worse, converting at less than 30%. This brings me to last point.

Is it time for panic mode?

The numbers help me relax a bit. It seems unlikely that Lawson and Gallinari will continue to shoot this poorly (although that airball is going to sting for a long long time) And despite claims to the contrary, it seems the Nuggets have no problem getting the shots up. While there is blame to pass around (Lawson and Gallinari are playing very poorly) we get to return to blaming King George. The Nuggets are 4-5 this season. However, on a team with two talented bigs in Koufos and McGee, we are seeing neither get significant minutes. This is exactly contrary to the strategies that have won titles for teams out West very recently.

He benched McGee when?

Or how about this:

Two talented big men means we win!

There are problems with this Nuggets squad, no doubt. However, until George Karl gets it through his head that he has to play his best players to win, we won’t be succesful. And there’s only so long he’ll be able to hide behind the poor play of Lawson and Gallinari, because I’m willing to bet it won’t last. At least I hope it won’t because the Nuggets might be able to win in spite of Karl but they can’t win with him at the helm of a bad roster.

-Dre

p.s. Let’s add at least one positive highlight. Daniel finally managed to “win” something at a basketball game. In response to the Nuggets scoring, commemorative plastic basketball were thrown into the stands. Daniel was able to snag this one right out of the hands of another fan. He was quite pleased, as this is the first time this has happened for him. Aside, at the Warriors game I managed to fumble away a free t-shirt.

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