The Nuggets played their first game at Pepsi Center where the new leather seats and video-screen were on display. Brian Shaw changed up the starting lineup for the first time, to begin games, as he went with Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Anthony Randolph, J.J. Hickson, and JaVale McGee. For the first time, Quincy Miller and Kenneth Faried came off the bench for the team.
The game started with more jump shots and some awkward post play. Randolph hit the Nuggets first shot of the game with a three-pointer out above the break. Randolph has been working hard to expand his shooting range, with mixed results. That would be his only three of the game as he finished 2-6 shooting (1-4 from deep) for 5 points in just 12 minutes of action.
Randy Foye showed off his shooting touch in this one as he nailed four shots in a row in the opening quarter, including two threes. It was good to see him get off to a fast start and he finished with 15 points on 6-10 shooting (3-5 from deep) in 21 minutes.
Shaw went to Faried at the 6:21 mark of the first quarter for a burst of energy to replace Hickson (who was being a pest around the glass). He came in and grabbed a board, drew a charge, and made a tough shot inside off a pretty pass from McGee (for an And-1 finish with a made free throw). Manimal finished with 22 points on 10-12 shooting (2-3 free throws) to go along with 9 rebounds (4 offensive) in 20 minutes. Kenneth has fast starts when he starts and he looked awesome as an energy guy off the bench tonight. I don't think it should be a knock if Faried comes off the bench - he's an asset in whatever role Shaw chooses to use him in.
It's fun watching Nate Robinson shoot jumpers. His vertical is on full display as he jumps approximately 20 feet in the air before releasing the ball the apex of his motion. He's also extremely accurate. He nailed his first three of the game, but went cold from there hitting just 2-10 from the field (1-5 from deep) for 5 points in 21 minutes. He's going to have shooting nights like that as a scorer off the bench. You just have to live with a little of that, like we've seen with Corey Brewer or pretty much any bench scorer.
Hickson didn't show too much during his first stint of action, but he played well after he returned to the game going 6-10 from the floor on the night with 15 points (3-5 free throws) and 5 rebounds (1 offensive). The power forward question remain unanswered as the guys are almost interchangeable. One would think the battle will be won with defense and perhaps the guy who can stretch the floor on offense, but setting screens and making plays will be a part of it too. I guess we'll find out soon who Shaw is going to go with. Both guys will get a ton of minutes this season and Darrell Arthur will be in the mix too, but he seems like the third option at PF and perhaps the backup small forward.
McGee, Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, and Jordan Hamilton all left much to be desired tonight. This was McGee's first non-factor game. Was he excited to play against Pau Gasol and not as motivated tonight? It just didn't appear he was getting the things to work that he had going against the Lakers. Fournier had an off shooting night, but got to the free throw line, where he was 5-6 on the night.
The Nuggets are giving pretty good minutes to 26 year-old Damion James, a former 2010 first round pick of the Atlanta Hawks (24th overall) who has appeared in 34 games for the Nets. He has seen consistent action throughout the three games and might have a legit shot to make the team, barring the Nuggets make a roster spot for him. They are giving him a serious look, at least. He played 12 minutes tonight and scored 4 points on 2-3 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds (4 offensive). James has tremendous size for a small forward, listed at 6'11" (closer to 6'9") and 230 pounds. Keep an eye on him.
We saw more inside-out play and a whole lot more jump shots. It's strange to see the Nuggets playing a different style of ball. Even though the Nuggets won the game, they shot just 40.9% from the floor, 20.8% from three-point land, and 63% from the foul line. It's hard to tell where the team will hang its hat this season. Last year it was a transition specialized team that wore teams out.
The team has the rebounders to be a hard-working team that can clean up a lot of its own errors (missed shots) and they'll have to do that with the increased shot zones. When the team gets out on the run, they are still very very good and quite exciting. We saw some alley-oops and some highlight reel dunks, always good to see.
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