The first quarter was a microcosm of how the last three minutes of tonight's loss played out for the Nuggets. Poor shooting (Nuggets shot 40% for the game), too many and poor long distance shooting (4-20 on three point field goals), and an inability to make open shots spelled the Nuggets doom in this game. It was one of those situations where, other than Portland's very good day of blocking shots, I didn't see a single shot the Nuggets couldn't and shouldn't have made. Most of the team's shots were wide open looks.
Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews ended up being the Blazers stars for the night, but at the end of the day it's what the Nuggets didn't do that was their undoing. During the final minute of the game, Danilo Gallinari took two three point shots when he should have driven the ball to the hoop. Gallo can ball, big time - he has undeniable talent, but those two shots were a window into his rough night shooting. More importantly Gallo should have made better decisions when it came to scoring. Gerald Wallace was having a hard time staying in front of Gallo all night, and when Wallace was blown-by inevitably Marcus Camby or LaMarcus Aldridge would foul the Italian. Gallo needed to be relentless this game. If he is, Nuggets win - no questions asked (Camby and Nicolas Batum ended up having a field day with blocks tonight ... a big factor in Portland's victory).
Arron Afflalo continues to struggle with his shooting percentages. He is not in game shape whatsoever, and it's very clear that his lack of success shooting the ball has got to him. He performed much better tonight than the last two games so he will be fine, but the Nuggets needed his accuracy. Nene struggled again, and reverted back to the frustrating Nene we all scream at the TV about. You know - DUNK IT....DUNK THAT BALL - and we should probably accept that this is who Nene is and will always be. Timofey Mozgov was again basically a non-factor in this game. Foul trouble early took him out.
The entire team struggled shooting the ball, whether it be Rudy Fernandez or Al Harrington, Gallo or AAA. They all seemed to heave up shots rather than just take them. And like I said, all were make-able fairly open shots. Yet, from the second quarter till the last three minutes, the Nuggets players drove the ball. Got to the line and generally were pests to the increasingly irritated Nate McMillan.
I'm not going to point any finger at officiating tonight. That's not "why" the Nuggets lost. However, I will say that the lack of clear path foul call when Ty Lawson stole the ball from Raymond Felton at 8:40 of the fourth quarter was a pivotal moment. What looked to be a clear path foul was ruled a regular back court foul when the officials changed the call from Aldridge to Felton. This, coupled with the time out, killed the Nuggets momentum at the time and stopped what could be a game changing rally in the final quarter. (Nuggets were also inexplicably out rebounded by 20! How in the hell does that happen with all the Nuggets size?)
Ty Lawson once again stood out. His aggressiveness was consistent and lethal throughout the game. Andre Miller also did well, although you could tell he didn't have his legs under him in the final quarter. These two were the Nuggets most consistent players by a large margin in this game.
Nene - 10pts 9rebs
Gallinari - 16pts 2rebs
Mozgov - 0pts 1reb
Lawson - 25pts 8steals
Afflalo - 19pts
Fernandez - 7pts
Miller - 13pts 8asts
Andersen - 4 pts
Harrington - 8 pts 5rebs
Nuggets of Wisdom
It's early in the season, and all you can do is shake this one off and get ready for the Lakers on Saturday. It's imperative that the Nuggets realize they must always slash to the hoop. It's what got them back in the game after such dreadful shooting in the first quarter. The Nuggets always struggle in Portland, but the Blazers always struggle in Denver. The Nuggets will have their chance to atone for this down the line. Right now, on to their first back-to-back-to-back (you read that right, three games in three nights) starting on Saturday.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78