The Nuggets completed a four-game East Coast road-trip with a 4-0 record. Tonight they headed West to face the Kings at Power Balance Pavillion and annihilated DeMarcus Cousins and Company 122-93. Denver completed their five games away from home with a 5-0 record. Quite impressive ... and George Karl played all three rookies!
This game got out of hand in a hurry. The reasons? The Nuggets just lived in the paint. The stat being repeated all over Nuggets Nation ... 92 points in the paint for Denver. Danilo Gallinari made eight shots on the night and only two of them came outside of the paint.
Gallo, who signed a $42 million extension earlier in the day, followed up that exciting news with another spectacular performance tonight. John Salmons was no match for the Italian Stallion and Gallo knew it. Instead of taking the easy way out and shooting jumpers over the shorter Salmons, Gallo took the ball time-and-again to the rim and utilized his size and speed. Gallinari finished the night with 23 points on 8-12 shooting (6-6 from the foul line), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks in 35 minutes. Gallo's defense has been good this season and tonight he was showing off his ability to swat shots. Fantastic game from the Nuggets rising star.
Ty Lawson started things off well for Denver and had 9 points early to lead the team in the first quarter. In the second, at the 7:04 mark, Lawson suffered a left ankle sprain while taking the ball inside and would not return. He finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Hopefully his ankle is okay, he walked to the locker room under his own power.
Nene turned in a powerful performance in just 26 minutes. The Brazilian finished with 16 points (6-9 shooting, 4-4 from the free throw line), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block. Nene was around the rim all night and just had his way with Cousins and whoever else tried to stay in front of him.
Staying with the big men, Timofey Mozgov missed tonight's game to be with his wife after the birth of his son Aleksey Mozgov who weighed in at 9+ pounds! Kosta Koufos started in Moz's place and was again looking to shoot when he had the ball and turned in a nice game with 10 points on 3-7 shooting (4-4 free throws) and 7 rebounds (1 offensive). I liked Koufos' energy tonight and how he was staying in the paint. K2 still has issues going strong to the rim, but he did have one nice dunk after a sweet Nene wrap-around feed.
After the first quarter the Nuggets were up just six points at 32-26. Everything changed in the second quarter. While the Denver defense started off hot and were really bringing the hustle against the Kings, the second unit sort of let up a bit. But the relentless attacking style mixed with an aggressive defense led to a 34-17 quarter and a 66-43 halftime lead for the Nuggets.
With Lawson out, Julyan Stone saw some second quarter action and Kenneth Faried even checked in with just under a minute to go in the first half. Stone would return late in the third quarter and with 2:28 to go Stone was fed by Andre Miller (10 assists on the night) on a two-on-one fastbreak and laid in his first NBA bucket on a dunk attempt where the ball was partially blocked, but Stone dropped it in anyway. Stone's defense looked great as he stuck with his man and created a few turnovers along the way.
Even with a big lead heading into the locker room, teams can have big third quarters and get back into games. The Nuggets stepped on the Kings' collective throats with a 28-22 advantage in the third and were up 94-65 heading into the final period.
The rest of this game was a laugher, but Karl did insert Stone, Faried, and Jordan Hamilton! The rookies fell into the trap of trying to make highlight plays a couple of times, but they also kept the intensity level high and Stone and Faried showed that they can be contributors any time Karl calls their numbers. Hamilton had some nice rebounds (3 total, 2 offensive) and put his first bucket in at the 1:37 mark with a little runner in the lane. All 11 Nuggets who got on the floor scored at least 2 points. It was a bench clearing effort and the Nuggets were missing two starters (Arron Afflalo and Mozgov) and a key bench player (Rudy Fernandez).
This was a fantastic win and a total team effort. The Nuggets had a nice rest after the grueling Knicks game and came out tonight and did what good teams do. They destroyed the Kings in Sacramento.
Views you can use:
- Denver recorded 16 assists on 25 made buckets in the first half and 13 assists on 25 made buckets in the second half ... a total of 29 assists on 50 made buckets.
- Denver finished 20-25 from the foul line (80%) and don't look now, but Nene is started to find his stroke at the charity stripe again.
- Corey Brewer led the team with 19 shot attempts and only made seven of them. At the 1:58 mark Brewer made a nice steal and was all alone for an uncontested dunk ... which he mis-timed and missed! Look out SportsCenter's Not Top 10.
As I'm writing this recap I'm watching Altitude's post-game show and Karl is being interviewed and was asked about the defensive prowess of rookie Julyan Stone. Stone, finished the night with 6 points (3-6 shooting), 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 4 turnovers in 20 minutes. Not to mention Stone's suffocating defense. Karl took the question, that was searching for a compliment, and started this way:
Karl on Julyan Stone, "You know Julyan, other than his mistakes ... from the standpoint of turnovers, you know ... "
I'm not sure if it's just Karl's philosophy to not praise a kid to the media or what, but to take the game Stone turned in and point out the negatives right away ... pretty disappointing. The game was out of hand and players take chances late in games. You always want to play like a professional, and Stone did that. Tough to pull a compliment from Karl, gotta keep working.
Karl probably also thinks he threw Nuggets Nation a bone by playing Kenneth Faried for 11 minutes (and for the last minute of the second quarter), but what he really did was open a can of worms. Faried was playing on a different level than anyone else on the floor. Faried finished with 5 points (2-4 shooting), 6 rebounds (3 offensive), and 1 block. His athleticism and knack for knowing where the ball is going off the rim is quite impressive. Manimal is going to be a factor in the NBA and he looks ready to contribute right now ... I'm even more excited about him than I was before the game!
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons