It was at the moment when Danilo Gallinari's second big time three point shot swished through the net (as the Nuggets held off the San Antonio Spurs last night 112-106) that it dawned on me that I saw a player taking complete control of his team and "feeling it". We haven't seen that sort of thing in Denver, in fourth quarters, in a couple years. Whether it was hitting big shots or just encouraging the horrible horrible crowd at Pepsi Center to get loud, it was clear Gallo was in control.
On the flip side, once again, Ty Lawson had the ball in his hands and produced yet another turnover in crunch time. Luckily this didn't come back to bite the Nuggets. It's becoming quite concerning, these turnovers. They are very different from Andre Iguodala's turnovers, which generally come from either trying to hard or just being careless. Ty's turnovers in crunch time seem to come from a complete lack of confidence, over-thinking and what golfers call "the yips" (think Tom Watson at the last hole of the Open Championship in 2009). Maybe it's time to rethink the approach to end of game situations.
Before continuing lets take a look at this quote from Gallo after last night's game
"With the team that we have, we could have a different protagonist every game and that has to be our strength. Tonight it was me, maybe next night it will be somebody else and that has to be our strength. I was really happy to knock those shots down tonight and win the game."
You see, this is the problem. What's concerning is he seemed to be channeling George Karl with that statement. Karl has spent the last couple years telling everyone in kingdom come that the Nuggets don't need a closer or a "star". Well, sorry coach, but it has become abundantly clear that the Nuggets indeed do need a closer or at the very least, a leader. We have seen three or four times in this young season Gallo or Iguodala step up and show they can knock down high pressure shots. Yet there's this prevailing air (in my mind) that George doesn't want any "hero ball" a la Carmelo Anthony on this team, and it may be stifling the actual hero's on the roster.
Look at this quote from Nate Timmons' great recap of last night's game.
"We came up short," said Gregg Popovich. "Gallinari just ripped our hearts out with those two threes. The one, Boris [Diaw] contested him better than anybody could contest him and he just drilled that sucker. So, give him credit. Making shots at the end of the games often win games and Gallinari did it."
If Gregg Popovich recognizes it, why don't the Nuggets? Several times this season either Gallo or Iguodala have stepped up and hit some big time shots (Gallo's airball against the Miami Heat on November 15th not withstanding) in the fourth quarter, only to be oddly absent from the shot taking role on offense in the closing seconds. Even last night, after hitting those crucial three point shots ... Gallo had only one more shot (a blocked layup attempt) in the last four minutes.
Is Gallo the answer to the end of game riddle? Who knows. At this point the evidence is starting to tip toward actively giving Gallo the ball in the fourth quarter. At least allowing him to make plays will give you a slightly better chance to function in crunch time. Particularly at a time when it looks like Ty's crunch time confidence is waning a bit. You can see Gallinari's confidence growing with each game and, in my mind, this needs to be exploited to its fullest extent. Put the ball in the hands of your playmakers and let them make ... well ... plays.
I was speaking with previously mentioned Nate Timmons via text shortly after the Nuggets' victory last night. We were discussing Ty's end of game problems and who to go to. Nate suggested the Nuggets run pick and roll with Gallo (with either Ty or Andre Miller). I suggested the old fashioned iso/create scenario. Kinda like what Melo did, only you would allow Gallo to pass or shoot off the dribble. Either way, both scenarios involve getting the ball to Gallinari. Shouldn't this be a viable option? I would be fine with Iguodala getting the ball in pick and roll as well ... but it seems as if he functions better in the isolation scenario. Regardless, these things need to be exploited and the Nuggets have spent far too long being clever.
This is partially on Gallo as well. While recently he has done a better job of being a bit more "selfish" and looking to get his shot ... he still needs to stop thinking so much and just act. Part and parcel to that is demanding the ball from both Karl and Lawson and taking complete control. You don't have to be a jerkwad like say Kobe Bryant in order to demand the ball. The team will follow the leader, and it's time for Gallo to step up and be the leader.
Time to not think. Just do.
Here is Gallo's alley oop dunk from 'Dre
Andre Miller Serves It Up to Danilo Gallinari (via NBA)
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78