J.J. Barea proves that little guys are tough. - Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The blame game is a funny thing and one that could lead to a lot of finger pointing. The problem with Denver's loss tonight to Minnesota, everyone shares some of the blame tonight in the 101-97 loss.
I'm listening to Bill Hanzlik talk about a lack of focus by the team and Scott Hastings make reference to Denver's "laissez faire" approach to tonight's game.
I agree with them both.
Look no further than Denver's 26 team fouls; they had 17 fouls in the first half and sent the Wolves to the free throw line where they went 21-30 on the night - compared to Denver's 11-20 effort. And effort is the key word there. The refs took a lot of heat for bad calls on social media boards, but the above points to a bad effort.
The reason I bring up killer instinct is because Denver held various leads on the night, but failed to hold off the Wolves runs. In the first quarter Denver held a 24-15 lead that disintegrated in two minutes (25-23 after the first quarter). In the third quarter Denver came out on fire and went up 54-49 and 58-52. It looked like it was time for the Nuggets to do their usual pull-away to a team on the second game of a back-to-back.
But Minnesota wouldn't quit. With Denver up 66-56 and ready to put things away with 4:15 left in the third, the Wolves went on a 13-4 run to end the quarter (70-69 Denver). Ty Lawson, who didn't start the game due to injury, came out in the fouth quarter and nailed a jumper, hit a three on the next possession, got an And-1 play on the next possession, and capped things off with an alley-oop to JaVale McGee. But even with that 10 point barrage from Lawson and McGee the Nuggets were up just 80-77.
The Wolves hung around and hung around as their offense got more and more aggressive with J.J. Barea leading the way. Barea and Luke Ridnour scored 21 of the Timberwolves final 24 points. Barea had 12 of those points and Ridnour with 9 points down the final stretch.
I'm watching the post-game with George Karl now and he's obviously upset with his team's effort and the effort the team showed in practice recently. It seems like Karl saw the writing on the wall and he attempted to find some different looks by using a lot of different rotations. Some of that was due to foul issues with his big men and some of it due to a lack of effort.
Karl typically uses eight or nine man rotations and has opened it up to 10 or 11 on rare occasions. Karl used that rare 11 man rotation tonight with Timofey Mozgov getting extended minutes with 13 (-1 in +/- tonight), McGee with only 13 minutes (-15), Evan Fournier with 8 minutes (-3), and Anthony Randolph with 4 minutes (-3).
In fact - no bench player finished with a + in the plus/minus department. Ty Lawson came off the bench and led the team with -25 in 23 minutes despite going 6-9 from the field for 16 points and only 1 turnover. Bizarre night for Lawson in that sense.
A bizarre night and hopefully a forgettable one for the Nuggets. Not a good way to keep this January home-stand rolling!
Views you can use:
-Kosta Koufos tied his career high with 16 points on 8-10 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks, 1 assist and a team high +19 in 26 minutes. Yet, K2 didn't see a single minute of action during the fourth quarter. How can this be explained? Injury? Karl forgot he was on the bench?
-Danilo Gallinari with a quiet 12 points tonight on 4-11 shooting. It would have been nice to see Gallo step up tonight and take over, but it didn't happen.
-Andre Miller got his 15,000 point tonight - he now has 15,009 in his career. Miller finished with 10 assists and got five of those in the first quarter. His passing ability really gets the guys going that he's on the court with.
-But on the flip side with Miller: he allowed Kenneth Faried to switch onto Ridnour as Miller went with Dante Cunningham to the post - Ridnour took the open three as Faried was worried about him driving and Minny took the 94-91 lead. There was no reason for the switch there as it was a lazy screen by Cunningham in the first place and there was time to get back to your original man. I do not like the defensive switching that is allowed with the Nuggets.
-Also Miller also took a three-pointer late in the game when the team really a bucket (down 99-95) - yes he was open, but he's just 4-22 on the season from deep heading into the game ... an 18% shooter should not take that shot.
Really tough loss for the Nuggets. Up Saturday ... the Jazz come to the Pepsi Center!
For the opposition's take visit: Canis Hoopus
Nate_Timmons on Twitter