"The points off turnovers gave us the confidence to win the game," said George Karl. "Ty, Gallo, and Iguodala were on the whole game."
UFC 156 will be in Las Vegas, NV this weekend. Just like featherweight title contender Frankie Edgar, the Nuggets were moving forward all night against the Hornets - keeping action in their face and forcing them to counter-punch time-after-time. New Orleans, like many of Edgar's opponents, threw plenty of successful counters, but in the end - the relentlessness of the Nuggets paid off.
"Tonight the game broke in the fourth quarter," said Karl. "There is no question. They've [Hornets] been getting down in fourth quarters and making good runs. Tonight we didn't give them that."
Playing at Denver's pace has proved to be grueling for many opponents this season. And it's especially difficult to stay with the Nuggets for four quarters - as it is for people to hang with Edgar for five rounds in the Octagon.
"The game-plan was to go after their handle," said Karl. "Try to get Gordon and Vasquez - try to take their influence out of the game. The turnovers got us playing up-and-down the court."
The Nuggets do indeed bait teams into a run-and-gun style. The temptation to play loose and fast is about as appealing to Denver's opposition as a donut would be to kid at fat camp. You know it's not good for you and it can be detrimental to what you want to do, but the temptation is too strong.
The Hornets did better than most as they hung with Denver all the way to the end. It wasn't New Orleans outside shooting that kept them in the game though as they were just 4-13 from long range on the night (Eric Gordon, who averages 4.4 threes per game couldn't get one off against Iguodala), it was their ability to attack the Nuggets inside. That's also where the Rockets found some success against - testing the Nuggets ability to rotate on Denver.
"I wasn't very happy with our defense tonight in the paint," said Karl. "But we were extended, so that gives them some opportunities. They scored a lot of layups - that's not our game. Houston was pushing the ball and penetrating the ball to the paint. Vasquez is very aggressive in that area too. Our pick-and-roll defense hasn't been that good, it hasn't been bad, but it hasn't been good."
You know what has been good? Gallo's offense.
Once again it was Danilo Gallinari's scoring that helped carry the team during much of the game. Karl credited Gallo picking up a couple charges and his defensive effort and he also grabbed 2 steals. Gallo finished with 18 points on 8-18 shooting, but failed to get to the foul line (even though he did get inside). I don't know if Jeff Morton did some special rain-dance to give Gallo super-scoring-powers or if the Italian is just in one of those grooves ... hopefully it's here to stay as he has scored 72 points in the past three games.
Ty Lawson was putting forth energy on both ends of the floor tonight. He battled Greivis Vasquez inside as the bigger guard wanted to post Ty up, but didn't have a lot of success inside. Lawson finished with 2 steals of his own on defense and was Denver's second leading scorer with 21 points on 6-14 shooting to go along with a perfect 8-8 from the foul line and 13 assists.
Karl remarked after the game that Lawson is getting better at finding guys out in front of the play in transition. And in transition is where Andre Iguodala was making a lot of plays tonight.
Mr. All-Around aka Iguodala was getting it done on the defensive end, but his attacking style and play-making tonight were special. ‘Dre$ finished with a team high 24 points on 10-14 shooting (2-5 from deep and 2-3 on free throws), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. I can't wait for you all to read rxmart2's piece on Iggy tomorrow - we have a special player on our hands in Denver.
Karl's wildcard off the bench, Corey Brewer, once again proved how energy can change the face of a game. Brewer found his usual transition buckets in bunches and was hitting some nice mid-range jumpers tonight too. An incredibly efficient night for C-Brew, as he went 8-12 from the floor for 17 points, who led the Nuggets in scoring off the bench.
I was looking forward to Kenneth Faried versus Anthony Davis and I believe that Davis got the better of the match-up tonight with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but Faried was good too (13 points and 9 rebounds). The rookie was quite impressive and relentless chasing after loose balls tonight. The future is bright for the Hornets/Pelicans and their core is solid. Being able to bring Ryan Anderson off the bench is a luxury few teams can afford and if they can find an adequate change of pace guard off the bench, the Bugs will be in serious business over the next few seasons.
Saturday night I will be enjoying the UFC fights, but I'm glad I got to see this Nuggets team lean on another opponent until they broke.
The Nuggets know how to fight.
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