It's always nice to see the Nuggets take out a top Western Conference team. This game had playoff atmosphere and the Pepsi Center crowd was rocking. Denver didn't win this one in typical home court fashion though.
While the Nuggets ability to make shots tonight won them the game; it was their defense that really set the tone and allowed the team to walk away with a big win - their second over the 14-6 Grizzlies this season.
Iguodala led the way with 20 points on 8-11 shooting (3-5 at the foul line) and got back to being the efficient player we've seen in flashes this season. Asked after the game if he's getting more comfortable in Denver's offense Iguodala had the following to say.
"Tonight it wasn't too much thinking. Before the season he [George Karl] said it will take you until about January until you get it. I was like, "No, I'll get it in November.", but I understand what he's saying now. I'm just trying to get consistent. I'm trying not have too many highs or too many lows." said Iguodala.
Speaking of lows, the not often high-flying Andre Miller stepped up offensively and scored 18 points on 6-10 shooting and hit some free throws late to secure a win.
"Andre Miller he just makes big shots," said Lawson. "I admired the way he was playing the game."
Miller didn't get much rest and he played most of the third quarter and all of the fourth quarter. The 36 year-old veteran is able to conserve energy on the court and pick his spots, but he cannot be counted on to carry heavy minutes all season. Miller played 28 minutes tonight and in addition to scoring he added 4 assists and was perfect from the free throw line going 6-6 on the night.
Iguodala was a bit kinder in the way he described the slow it down play of Miller.
"Our pace is so fast that teams are always trying to limit that, limit us from getting out on the break. They want to make us play a slow pace. When we are playing fast they are trying to play defense fast to slow us down and then when he [Miller] comes out there he's kind of that balance for us. They are not used to that pace and it's throwing them off a little bit." Iguodala said.
Throwing off Nuggets fans was the defense tonight. Karl has been preaching defense since before training camp began and we've seen some good nights defensively from this team. Tonight was a good defensive effort as Denver held a team that averages 97.1 points per game to just 94 total points.
Karl starting Kosta Koufos on Zach Randolph (Mr. Low Post) and Kenneth Faried on Marc Gasol (who plays primarily in the high post) paid off. The high scoring big men for Memphis shot a combined 7-22 from the field and they combined for just 20 points and 14 rebounds. That was huge since Z-Bo averages 17 points and 12 rebounds and Gasol averages 15 points and 7 rebounds on the season.
But it wasn't just Koufos and Faried on those big guys, Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee each some time defending them tonight. McGee had a special defensive game where he tallied 4 blocks and 5 defensive boards (6 total rebounds) in just under 24 minutes of action.
McGee's efforts tonight didn't go unnoticed by Karl. In fact, Karl went away from his usual closing lineup that features Faried at center in favor of McGee.
"I thought he had a good feel for the game. His length was bothering a lot of shots," Karl said. "It is a step forward for him. Right now, who finishes the game, is determined by who I think is probably mentally in the game."
The highlight of McGee's night, for me, was his catch of Randolph's shot. Instead of going for a bit block, McGee did something that the great Bill Russell would do - he controlled the block so his team could gain possession of the ball.
"He has done it four times [this season] and they've called goaltending," Lawson said. "JaVale's just long and athletic, good play."
But with 1:33 left in the game and the Nuggets up 6 points (95-89), the Grizzlies would come roaring back. Randolph hit an easy layup, Iguodala fouled Gasol for an And-1, and suddenly it was 95-94 with 0:53 seconds to play.
The Nuggets would close out the game in a way that may become known to Nuggets fans this season ... with defensive stops. The Grizzlies were going for a shot to take the lead (95-94 Nuggets) and Rudy Gay was stripped of the ball by a combination of Lawson and Iguodala. Gay was fuming that there was no foul call and Miller would seal the win for Denver by going to the foul line twice and connecting all four times.
Iguodala summed up the evening quite well, "Our offense isn't really there yet, so we know defensively we have to continue to turn it up a notch."
Views you can use:
-Gallinari was huge for the Nuggets tonight in the clutch department. He once again was hitting big shots and even had a playground play with the off the glass to himself alley-oop (of sorts). Gallo said it was the first time he has done that in five years. Lawson had other thoughts:
"He's been practicing that, no he hasn't, but that was a good play," Lawson said. "He saw Andre Iguodala do it a couple times this year so he decided to try it."
-Faried had a tough offensive night going just 3-10 from the field, but he played nice D on Gasol and still grabbed 10 rebounds (3 offensive).
-The Nuggets were 23-26 from the foul line tonight ... a break from the expensive throws.
For the opposition's take please visit: Straight Outta Vancouver