As the assembled throng of media was just about to let Brian Shaw go after the Nuggets 132-128 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a few late stragglers to the media scrum asked Brian Shaw about Ty Lawson and his adjustment to the game. This lead Shaw to comment on the Nuggets defensive approach that I believe goes to the core of what is the biggest issue with this team (outside of injuries) right now:
"...obviously when we come to practice (tomorrow) we have to work on all defense. We probably had too many different defensive schemes we were trying, and that's on me." Shaw continued. "We just end up having to simplify everything, and what we ended up doing is switching everything ... 1 to 5. For whatever reason that seems to get our team going more than anything else, and switching defense is kind of a bail out defense. It's what you can do eventually when what you are trying doesn't work. They always want to switch out everything and it does get us more aggressive ... but we do have to get better at just sitting down and guarding our man individually"
That quote right there sums up many of the issues this team has right now. Shaw is attempting a total schematic change from George Karl's switching defense (which he said he had to go to due to personnel) to a man scheme that Shaw ran in Indiana with the Pacers. Trouble is, as was made extremely evident tonight, the Nuggets (more than offense) do NOT have the personnel for man defense. When you aren't equipped or capable of man scheme, then switching is the best course of action.
The Nuggets committed tons of fouls. The Timberwolves ended up shooting 64 free throws ... in Pepsi Center. That has to be some sort of record for an opponent. Far too often the Nuggets (specifically Timofey Mozgov) were left trailing their defender and had to resort to "lack of positioning" fouls that involve reaching, grabbing and leaning out of position. This rendered the team's interior defense porous and without a rim protector.
Ty Lawson had a BIG second half in this game, with 29 of his team high 31 points coming in the second half. Ty also had 11 assists. He gallantly attempted to put the team on his back and bring them a victory. Problem is, Ty was playing a Wolves team that seemed semi-checked out once they got up by 20 in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets caught the Wolves sleeping and were able to sneak in 4 straight three point shots. It was to no avail, and the score in no way was indicative of the way the Wolves and Kevin Love dominated the game.
Additionally, with Ty back Wilson Chandler seemed more engaged. He had 25 points and was all around better on offense than he had been in 8 games. Randy Foye contributed some nice three point shots, he finished with 22 but had 4 turnovers and seemed like alot more than that. Then bench was virtually non-existent and contributed virtually nothing. Chief among those culprits was Evan Fournier who never seemed to get on track the whole game (outside of a three point shot with under 20 seconds remaining).
Nuggets of Wisdom
All in all, lets not focus on the offense. The Nuggets defense is what they have to get cleaned up. Brian Shaw has to decide if he wants to keep on with the man defense, teach as much as he can, or will he incorporate more switching defense which his team seems to want. It's a big decision that awaits Brian Shaw. What will he do?
As Shaw went back in to the, again, sombre locker room. We are left to wonder if the mismatched personnel with coach is the ultimate undoing of this Nuggets squad? Or are they just and injured team that needs time?