In what is beginning to be a broken record from me, a perplexing, confusing, confounding lineup the last five minutes of the fourth quarter doom the Nuggets to a loss. A loss in a game they had every right to win short-handed.
Nuggets lose to the Clippers 103-95
3-13 shooting, 0-6 on three-point shots, 5-10 at the free throw line and 11 points. Came in with five minutes left in the third quarter ... and never came out.
This, ladies and gentleman is the stat line of one Al Harrington. Sigh. I don't know what to say about this - wait - yes I do. I'm going to be a succinct and to the point as I can, so no one can mistake what I'm saying. Are you ready for this? It may come as a shock to you...
George Karl has ridden Al Harrington so much that he has NOTHING left in the tank. George Karl has ridden Al Harrington so much that he can't even shoot free throws anymore. George Karl has ridden Al Harrington so much that he can no longer get an important rebound or get enough lift to shoot a wide-open three-point shot. It's George Karl who insists on a clearly gassed Al Harrington to guard Blake Griffin. For these reasons I cannot in good conscience blame this loss entirely on Big Al. Not this time.
It's becoming a sad refrain that our coaching staff cannot stay appropriately with a hot hand. Or even RECOGNIZE when someone is having a good night. Jordan Hamilton was having a good night (18 points 7 rebounds). He was hitting open three's, posterizing Reggie Evans, and playing the best basketball of his rookie career. And yet, with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter, after hitting a nice go-ahead three ... Hamilton was pulled. He was not re-inserted until one minute left in the fourth quarter with the Nuggets down 7 points. Meanwhile Al was chucking up three point shots like he was a professional shot-put thrower. It was, in a word, infuriating.
The frustration is made even worse by the fact that the Nuggets, by and large, should have been blown out in this game. Three of the starting five were gone due to injury (Danilo Gallinari, Nene Hilario, Ty Lawson) plus a key bench player (Rudy Fernandez). Lets face it. The Clippers didn't exactly light the world on fire in the fourth quarter. It was almost like they were trying to hand the Nuggets the game with missed shot after missed shot. Chris Paul was dominant (36 points 9 assists) and Blake Griffin had his usual dunks and flops (27 points 12 rebounds). Meanwhile, because the Nuggets insisted on going small ... again ... DeAndre Jordan had himself a field day (10 points 16 rebounds and 3 blocks).
Yet - AND YET - the Nuggets could have and probably SHOULD have won this game. Another unforgivable sequence occurred when Kenneth Faried (who had 12 points and 9 rebounds) was quickly pulled while the Nuggets needed an important rebound on an attempted free throw by Blake Griffin with a minute left. Big Al and Corey Brewer knocked themselves off the ball and Jordan came in for the clean up slam. Putting the game essentially away.
What started out as a feel-good game ended up with the same frustration we've been having with the coaching staff, specifically George Karl, all year. No feel for the flow of the game. No ability to ride the hot hand. Most disturbing is the over-relying on aging veterans like Big Al and Andre Miller (who had a pedestrian 8 points and 8 assists) to the exclusion of younger players. It's becoming a very sad refrain in what may be shaping up to the worst stretch of coaching in George Karl's career.
Nuggets of Wisdom
If you are asking for a solution to this issue. I can honestly say I don't know. Coach Karl keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over again. What's funny is, if I wasn't so happy about the Nuggets putting forth a gutty and TREMENDOUS effort with so many injured players out, I probably could have seen the ending coming. That is the most disappointing aspect of this game. The players DESERVED to win this. After putting in a lineup that nine times out of ten will get outrebounded because of sheer size difference alone, Karl had the audacity in his post game press conference to say that "if we had rebounded better we could have run". That should insult the intelligence of every Nuggets fan out there.
Yes, Chris Paul ate them up, and Timofey Mozgov played one of his worst games in recent memory. Yes, these things are true ... BUT the game was there for the taking. The larger press corp in Denver can't see the frustration building because they often don't challenge Karl on his lineups. It's there folks. It's there and real. You feel bad for a team that worked it's butt off to win a game only to be let down by intransigence by the coaching staff. It is just frustrating.
I'm not in the "fire George Karl" crowd. I think, at heart he is a good coach. However, he has lost his way. It's time to start putting some real pressure on George to answer the question we have all been asking for the last month and a half...
"Why did you do that Coach?"
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78