In a perplexing series of events, George Karl channels his inner 2007 and uses the most perplexing crunch-time lineups that we haven't seen in ages. Also, an old friend comes back to haunt the Nuggets in a very big way. Wish he was still here...
Nuggets fall 109-105 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Things seemed to be going so well.
With 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter the Nuggets held a 10 point lead. However, as we were soon to find out, the Nuggets lead and lineup on the floor was fools gold. For the next three minutes, a lineup of Julyan Stone, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington, Rudy Fernandez and Nene Hilario (the most mismatched lineup ever, with Fernandez primarily running point) proceeded to lose that lead in one fell swoop. It was like watching a slow motion train wreck. Granted, you make due when your starting point guard, Ty Lawson, is out of the game. Yet this lineup had an extra special amount of drainage on the flow of this game.
Big Al, who had another poor outing (two in a row) couldn't seem to hit a shot. His layups were off, his three point shot was extremely off, and his decision making was sub par. Rudy (who should NEVER be running the point) erased a very good first half with sloppy turnovers on the drive (two on passes intended for Nene, who finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds). Stone was a complete non factor in this stretch after putting forth a good effort in limited minutes in the first half. Corey Brewer was a complete non factor tonight and a bit out of place.
Compounding this was the reemergence of "Stubborn George". You know, the one who sticks with a lineup even though it's clearly not working. This played itself out in spades the entire fourth quarter. A fatal couple key coaching and lineup blunders compounded the issue very late in the game. It went as follows.
Danilo Gallinari, who finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds, was doing what he does best. Driving the lane and trying to draw fouls. After getting pasted in the face six times through the course of the game, two non-calls on drives took the ball out of his hands for the rest of the game from the three minute mark on. This was unfortunate. Even more unfortunate was the lack of Arron Afflalo (who played a grand total of 20 minutes) in the game down the stretch, leaving poor Gallo to guard Chris Paul on four defensive sets down the stretch. While Gallo guarded Paul well a couple times, it was only a matter of time before Paul's speed would prevail.
Second blunder was, bless his heart, leaving a stone cold Al Harrington out there to take the important shots. Al just didn't have it tonight, and couldn't even get his shot to the rim on a couple drives. On both possessions Gallinari was getting open for a three point shot, and the Nuggets went away from him. Granted, this loss isn't completely on Karl's shoulders as a well-timed flop by Chauncey Billups (who was on fire the whole game and finished with 32 points) on Nene was probably the crushing blow. As well as the Clippers hitting an unbelievable 14-30 from behind the three-point arc.
Another head-scratcher was leaving a very, dare I say, surprising Timofey Mozgov (9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and taking up space in the lane) on the bench for the entire fourth quarter - even when both Blake Griffin (17 points, 13 rebounds) and DeAndre Jordan (8 points, 13 rebounds) came back into the game. Sometimes George Karl will out think himself, and tonight was one of those occasions (plus, the last sequence of plays for Al Harrington were odd to say the least).
I'm not putting this all on Karl by any means. He had a poor night coaching and I think every coach in the NBA will have a couple of those. CB came in and made mince meat out of the Nuggets perimeter defense and obviously baited the refs in to making some ... questionable calls down the stretch. These things will happen during an NBA season. Still, no excuse for Gallinari to not see the ball down the stretch. No excuse for putting a cold Al Harrington in the position to hit the shot. No excuse for getting outcoached by Vinny Del Negro. Seriously
The Nuggets need to win in Memphis on Tuesday to preserve a 13 win month. Hopefully the Nuggets can shake off the disappointment of this loss and concentrate on beating the Grizzlies. Having Ty Lawson back will be essential, and we hope to have him back in time for that game.
One note, Chris Andersen didn't make it on to the floor again. That's his third CD-DNP (Coaches Decision - Did Not Play) of the season. It makes me wonder what's going on between Karl and Birdman. Is Bird being saved for something, or do the Nuggets have that little faith in him right now? Your guess is as good as mine.
Onward and upward.
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