A gift the Nuggets must cherish: closing out quarters

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Leads in the NBA can disappear at a moment's notice. Leads can also balloon in a matter of minutes, as well.

After taking notes during the game and talking to George Karl after the Lakers win Wednesday (Dec. 26th) night I decided to compare the Clippers and Lakers games. I took the end of each quarter and broke down what occurred.

It seems that the Nuggets often come out of timeouts and allow the opposition to go on a little 4-0 or 5-0 run. It also feels like teams tend to catch up on the Nuggets in a hurry at the end of quarters. Do the Nuggets focus on their play at the end of quarters? Do they want to get better in those situations?

"We're starting to get better at that," said George Karl. "[The] Clippers kicked [our butts] last night [Dec. 25th at the end of quarters]. You know the way we play, I don't like to change the flow of the quarter; just because it's the end of the quarter. But I think we have got to be smarter there. Play the end of the quarters like the end of games a little bit more, maybe [that] can help us. Valuing the possession and understanding the clock and the scoreboard [is key]. The way we play, I don't think it's a high priority on my list, but we have talked about it."

So let's see what happened against the Clippers on Dec. 25th and against the Lakers on Dec. 26th:

1st Quarter:

vs. Clippers

At the 3:51 mark Ty Lawson hits two free throws to push Denver's lead to 18-15. The quarter ends with Denver up 26-25 as the Clips use a 10-8 run to end the first.

vs. Lakers

At the 3:36 mark Andre Iguodala goes 1-2 from the foul line to extend Denver's lead to 23-18. The quarter ends with Denver up 29-26 as the Lakers use a 8-6 run to end the first.

2nd Quarter:

vs. Clippers

At the 3:50 mark Danilo Gallinari hits two free throws to cut the Clippers lead from 49-40 to 49-42. The quarter ends with t he Clips up 67-48 as the Clippers use a 18-8 run to end the second.

vs. Lakers

At the 4:08 mark Paul Gasol connects on his second three pointer of the game to cut Denver's lead to 49-48. The quarter ends with the Nuggets up 57-54 as Denver uses a 8-6 run to end the second.

Thus far the Clippers are winning the end of the quarter battle with the Nuggets: 28-16.

Thus far the Nuggets and Lakers are even in the end of quarter battle: 14-14.

3rd Quarter:

vs. Clippers

At the 4:05 mark Iguodala connects on a jumper to cut the Clippers lead to a manageable 14 points at 81-67. The quarter ends with the Clippers up 93-76 as LAC uses a 12-9 run to end the third.

vs. Lakers

At the 3:53 mark JaVale McGee puts home an alley-oop from Iguodala, but does a pull-up on the rim and earns a technical foul with Denver up 84-72. Steve Nash connects on the free throw and then hits a three-pointer with the Lakers possession to cut the lead to 84-76 in the blink of an eye. The quarter ends with Denver up 96-87 as the Lakers use a 15-12 run to end the quarter.

The Clippers are now winning the end of the quarter battle with the Nuggets: 40-25.

The Lakers are now winning the end of the quarter battle with the Nuggets: 29-26.

4th Quarter:

vs. Clippers

At the 3:49 mark Jordan Hamilton goes 0-2 from the foul line. The Clippers are up 106-88 and the game ends with the Clippers winning 112-100. Denver closes the game with an inconsequential 12-6 run.

vs. Lakers

At the 3:47 mark Gallo nails his last shot of the game; a back-breaking three pointer to extend Denver's 113-106 lead to 116-106. The Nuggets win 126-114 and close the quarter on a 13-8 run to seal the game.

The Clippers win the end of quarter battle with the Nuggets: 46-37. Had Denver not made that late run with the bench squad - it would have been much worse.

The Nuggets win the end of quarter battle with the Lakers 39-37 with a strong fourth quarter close.

Games are not won or lost only in the final few minutes. Karl often talks about how games can be won or lost in the first half, the first quarter, or at various other times during the game.

You can see from the breakdown above that Denver played a more focused game against the Lakers as they played the end of each quarter strong. The Clippers used a strong second quarter run (18-8) to make things very difficult on the Nuggets for the rest of the game. For whatever reason, the Nuggets did a much better job against the Lakers at the end of quarters than they did against the Clips.

Pay attention to how Denver is able to close quarters. Scott Hastings points it out on the Altitude broadcasts quite often and it's worth watching to see if the Nuggets progress.

It's good to know that Karl and his coaching staff are paying attention to it. It's even more encouraging to see the Nuggets play a game, like last night's win over the Lakers, where they remained focused throughout the contest.

Closing quarters - a gift the Nuggets gave the fans last night and one the team should cherish.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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