USA TODAY Sports
Another poor outing by Andre Iguodala and the Nuggets' old nemesis - a 15 foot, uncontested, standing shot - doom them to a road loss in the frozen wasteland of Minnesota.
Tonight, it was clear that the Nuggets simply ran out of gas at the end of a long road trip, where they went a respectable 2-3. It does burn that the three losses (Hawks, Knicks, Timberwolves) came through a combined 13 points. Over the end of the third and through the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, the Minnesota Timberwolves went on a 10-0 run, mostly through free throws on very questionable calls by referee Mark Davis. While the T-Wolves made their free throws (30-37), the Nuggets continued to shoot everywhere but in the basket (14-24). Lots of shots were well short of the rim (or simply airballed, in Corey Brewer's case) and the Nuggets actually lost the fast-break battle (15 points to Minny's 21 points) to the Timberwolves. Jelly legs were in abundance.
Despite a late run by the Nuggets to keep things interesting, the tired Denver squad ultimately fell short and couldn't produce on critical late possessions, with another turnover and missed shot in the closing seconds by Ty Lawson. That sounds familiar. The Nuggets had their chance late and ultimately frittered it away with tentative possessions. At the end of the day, if the Nuggets can't fix their free throw issues and continue shying away from the big moments, they're going to continue to lose close games like this one. A total of 10 missed free throws in a three point game. Let that marinate a while.
Much like his backcourt companion (Lawson), Andre Iguodala is clearly struggling on offense right now. While his defense remains above average, his offense looks worse than the ranch dressing that's been sitting in my fridge for over eight months. It's been said that Iggy fills up a stat sheet, and tonight was no exception: to go along with 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 1 block, Iguodala shot 1-9 from the field with 5 turnovers, a foul and just 2 points. Not exactly the type of filling up the stat sheet the Nuggets need from their starting shooting guard.
What's bizarre to me is that the Nuggets' guards (excepting veteran Andre Miller and Jordan Hamilton) seem so intent on setting up their teammates that they freeze when they have open looks. You can see it in Lawson and Iguodala most noticeably, and somewhat less-so in Danilo Gallinari. I put my head in my hands every time I watch Iguodala and Lawson take it inside, jump, and then stop like a deer in headlights. Lawson seems to defer to Iguodala on the basis of his reputation, and Iguodala defers to Lawson because he thinks Lawson should be directing the team's offense.
The result is frequently turnovers when neither player looks for their shot, which also explains Lawson's career high in turnovers per game (3.0) and Iguodala's near career high (3.0). When your starting backcourt is turning the ball over an average of six times per game, how do you hope to establish any sort of offensive rhythm? The Nuggets turned the ball over 19 times tonight (only 9 total turnovers in Detroit), and it was a big factor in their loss.
Despite the continued funk emanating from the trash can where that eight month old ranch now resides (mental note: take out trash), the funk surrounding Lawson and Iguodala should wash right off with some nights back in the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets love to run at home, and both Ty and Andre are at their best in the transition game. With some strong drives on Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies, we'll start to see the guards right the ship.
Extra credit to Kenneth Faried tonight, who was once again a special player and tried to put the Nuggets on his back late with a series of offensive rebounds and putbacks. He thoroughly outplayed a doughy looking Kevin Love, scoring 26 points on 10-16 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds. He's still getting beat up in the post, but was everywhere tonight and continues to score incredibly efficiently.
Danilo Gallinari had a great night as well, with 24 solid points on 9-13 shooting. Gallinari's shot looks on the verge of returning, but he needs to string together a few of these nights and not fade away.
It's hard to swallow another close loss, but let's remember: the Timberwolves were rested, at home, and were playing a Nuggets team on the tail end of a road trip on the second night of a back to back. Call it excuse making if you like, but fatigue is a factor on road trips, and the Nuggets were still in the game at the end. I'm going to choose to look at that as a positive sign.
The Nuggets are finally home as the 17 of 23 on the road to start the season is now over. They will be taking on the third seeded Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Let's hope that they have enough time to practice their free throws, and Lawson and Iggy figure out how to be more selfish this holiday season.
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