Sometime, midway through the third quarter I think, I realized why the Nuggets starting unit was so dreadfully bad in tonight's loss to the Utah Jazz, 101-93. It dawned on me that, even though Ty Lawson had seemed to be playing for much of the game ... he wasn't actually there. Like a mirage of Ty had appeared in his place like from Star Wars or some crap like that.
I've seen Ty Lawson play many, many disinterested/passive games since he first came to the Nuggets in 2009. THIS particular game takes the cake. Even though Ty is coming off a hamstring injury ... it felt like he just didn't want to be out there. No aggression. Heck, he didn't even SHOOT the ball that often (finishing with 0 points on 0-6 shooting). Add to that Randy Foye didn't score a point, and there you have the Nuggets losing to the Jazz, one of the worst teams in basketball ... AT HOME.
What makes Lawson's issues even worse was the fact that he was outplayed (in fact the entire starting unit was) by the second Unit. Players like Timofey Mozgov (13 points 7 rebounds), Andre Miller (11 points 7 assists), Jordan Hamilton (17 points), Darrell Arthur (9 points 4 rebounds) all contributed positively. The bench played with energy and motion. They posted up, and they ran. Everything that you want the Nuggets to do ... they did. The starters, aside from Wilson Chandler (17 points) seemed to to be just...not there.
Out of everyone on the Nuggets, I have to stop myself from being too hard on Kenneth Faried. I have found myself getting angry at his defensive lapses and his deceiving stat lines which make people think he's had better games than he did. Tonight, despite registering 7 points and 9 rebounds, you could see Manimal's energy not making up for his mental lapses on both defense and offense. It is frustrating because you can see, when he is attentive, he can be a beast on the boards ... but when he's not he leaks points like a sieve. I WANT Faried to do better in those areas. The highlight dunks and rebounds will come, needs the fundamentals desperately now.
This was a step back kind of loss. The one that causes you to question where the Nuggets really are in their development. This was a Danilo Gallinari type of game. Last year, Gallo would step in when Ty was being passive and try to lift the team with both scoring and playmaking. Unfortunately the Nuggets starting unit doesn't have that second playmaker right now and it can't overcome those nights when Ty decides to shoot 6 times and be a -30! in his time on the floor. It's sad.
On an interesting note, here is a tweet from Matt Moore that may signal some changes are on the horizon. The starters seem to have no chemistry ...
Shaw suggests he may have to "shake up" the starting lineup— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 14, 2013
Will be interesting to see what comes with that implication. Meanwhile Gordon Hayward had a big night, so did Derrick Favors. The Nuggets took some steps back tonight, it will be interesting to see how they respond and with what changes on Sunday night.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Playing point guard in the NBA requires both talent and, to succeed, you need a certain mentality. It is a combination of toughness and skill that is hard to find and it's what separates the superstars from your average player. A player like Goran Dragic may have ok talent, but he possesses this borderline asshole personality on the court that really pushes him. Same with most every "floor general". People who say that they will CONTROL the situation and not let it control them. Guys that have the will and the way to push you.
Do the Nuggets have that point guard?