This was a hard loss to swallow. The Nuggets blow an 11-point lead with 6:56 to play, get forced into overtime (91-91), and cough up the game in overtime. Even after getting outscored 63-48 from the third quarter on, the Nuggets had plenty of opportunities to put this game away, but choked in key situations and lost 100-97 in OT. In today's preview we covered the keys to tonight's game, let's take a look at see how the Nuggets did in those areas ...
1. Hit the 100 point mark ... the Nuggets didn't get there. Memphis, no doubt, has a tough defense and their team doesn't give up a lot of easy buckets, but the Nuggets scored 23 points in the first quarter and 26 in the second, despite Danilo Gallinari's 0-7 first half field goal performance (he was 6-6 from the foul line).
In the second half, the Nuggets only mustered 18 third quarter points, but got back on track a bit offensively in the fourth with 24 points. That's three quarters near the 25 point mark and one stink bomb. Al Harrington, 23 points on 8-16 shooting, and Andre Miller, 20 points on 8-13 shooting, tried to put the Nuggets on their back, but a few key missed free throws here and a turnover there and the Nuggets just didn't get it done.
Scoring only 91 points in regulation, the Nuggets didn't play at the uptempo pace that George Karl prefers and when Denver did play fast (or in the half court set) it led to too many turnovers. To close the game Karl used Miller, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Harrington, and Nene Hilario. Those same five were used for overtime as well (said for Rudy Fernandez being in on the final play to shoot a three) and only Miller and Harrington scored for the Nuggets. Denver's final points came off Harrington's free throw makes with 2:27 still to play in the extra period.
Even with Denver's stagnant offense (where was Gallo?), they had a chance in overtime to take a commanding lead. With the Nuggets up 97-93, Lawson found himself on a breakaway and his layup attempt was blocked at the last possible moment by Rudy Gay (tremendous effort) and that led to an O.J. Mayo layup. So, instead of Denver possibly being up 99-93, the Nuggets were up only two, 97-95, at the 1:32 mark. That play was a huge momentum swing for the Grizzlies, but Denver still had chances from there.
Denver's final three possessions resulted in two blocked shots (on Harrington and Miller) and a Fernandez missed 25 footer to try to send the game into a second overtime. Ouch.
2. Push the pace ... Lawson and Company were pushing the pace early as Denver racked up 5 assists on eight made buckets in the first quarter and the Nuggets had 10 fast-break points. At the 6:28 mark of the second quarter, the Nuggets had 9 assists on 13 made shots. From there, Denver turned in 11 assists for the rest of the game. The ball was moving a lot, but Denver's shooting at 43.8% wasn't a strong point and again, turnovers played a huge role. Typically you want to see less than 15 turnovers per game, ideally the closer to 10 the better. Against the Miami Heat, one of Denver's finer wins, the Nuggets managed to turn it over 18 times, but still scored 117 points. Tonight, the turnovers totaled 24 and seemed to have a much bigger impact on the Nuggets offense and led to 21 Memphis points.
The Grizzlies did a great job trapping and picking up the Nuggets at half-court and not allowing the Denver offense to beat them up-and-down the floor. Memphis was coming off a loss, the night before, and the Nuggets should have been able to run them out of the gym. Credit the Memphis defense.
3. Don't give up easy points ... Denver got beat on the boards 48-42 and Denver gave up 17 offensive rebounds to a team that played much of the second half with a small-ball lineup of their own. Of the 50 possible defensive rebounds, the Grizzlies got to an impressive 34% of them and second-chance points were easily found. As the game wore on, it was also Memphis making the extra passes to find guys for easy buckets and it was the Nuggets having to work hard on the offensive end to even good a clean look at a shot. The Nuggets didn't get it done here as they gave up 91 regulation points to a team averaging 83 points over their last four games and scoring a season low 73 points the night before against the San Antonio Spurs. Yes, the Nuggets gave up 100 points, but it took Memphis an additional five minutes to get there.
4. Defend the perimeter ... This is becoming a glaring issue for the Nuggets. Sunday night the Clippers made 14-30 three-point shots and tonight the Grizzlies the Nuggets allowed a 6-12 shooting night from downtown. Memphis' biggest mistake, not taking more threes.
My account of Memphis' threes:
1-1 Conley wide open make
1-2 missed open three
1-3 slightly contested three, missed
2-4 made open three
2-5 contested three, missed
3-6 wide open three, made
4-7 wide open three, made
5-8 slightly contested, made
5-9 open three, missed
5-10 contested, missed
5-11 contested, missed
6-12 open three, made and a dagger by Mayo
By my count: 7 were uncontested threes, 2 slightly contested threes, and 3 contested threes.
Memphis was getting desperate and started looking for the three-point shot, and more times than not ... the Nuggets allowed good looks.
5. Get Nene going early ... Denver went to Nene early, the results varied. The Brazilian finished the first quarter 2-4 shooting for 5 points and 2 rebounds. For the rest of the game, Nene went 4-5 shooting for 9 points (2-3 free throws on the night) and grabbed just 3 rebounds.
The Nuggets big man from Brazil played 33 minutes and was in foul trouble all night. Not Nene's finest performance, but he also was on an island without another big with him. Timofey Mozgov racked up 5 fouls in just 10 minutes and wasn't a factor. Chris Andersen was used in the first half for 7 minutes, never to be seen again. Kosta Koufos was used with Moz and Nene out for 12 minutes and he contributed 1 point and 1 rebound. The Nuggets either need to get a consistent big man rotation going, make a trade for a big Karl will play, or we better get used to Harrington being the power forward in Denver.
Nene reverted back to letting the officials get into his head tonight. He was more concerned with calls that were not being made, rather than just swallowing his unjust feelings and getting to work and going into "beast mode" like we've seen him do a number of times this season. Nene's 8.8 rebound per game are a career-high thus far and we shouldn't take a couple off efforts to completely discredit the Nuggets power forward / center.
6. Fight the urge to go small ... Karl dished out 29 minutes among Mozgov, Andersen, and Koufos. Like we've seen all season though, during crunch time Karl is going to use Nene at center and Harrington at power forward or Gallo. The final seven minutes were hotly contested, so we shouldn't be surprised with Karl's rotation late in this one in regards to the big men.
7. Gallo take over ... Shit. I take full responsibility here. I've been seeing Gallo breaking out more-and-more and tonight he just wasn't the usual Gallo. After starting 0-7 from the field and only finding success when driving the ball, per his 6-6 performance at the foul line, Gallo didn't take much of a hint of his poor shooting performance and continued to take long and off-balance jumpers. Gallo finished the night 1-10 from the field, 0-4 from downtown, with just 8 points off those free throws and one made bunny.
What Gallo did do well was rebound the ball. In just 25 minutes he recorded 7 rebounds (2 offensive) and got his first and only bucket of the game off an offensive board and put back. I'm not sure I agree with benching Gallo for the final quarter plus overtime, but ... well, no but ... questionable move with Arron Afflalo's shaky 3-7 shooting night.
8. Return to dominance ... Well, the healthy roster was finally intact and the team played pretty good in the first half, fought through some bad play in the second half, and fumbled away the game over the last six minutes. It's all a learning process for a young team, and with bad games we'll probably see a few unexpected good ones too. This loss is tough to swallow and could come back to haunt the Nuggets, but it also could help motivate the team.
Views you can use:
- Miller played 39 minutes on his 35 year old legs. Sometimes a spotty free throw shooter, the 78.7% on the season Miller shot just 3-6 from the foul line tonight. And you can say his misses likely cost the Nuggets a victory, as much as anything else. At some point the Nuggets young guns must step up and make the old veteran not take on such a big role with the team. Until the younger guys start proving they can win games, the Nuggets must lean on Miller and Harrington.
- Lawson (5-11 shooting on the night after returning from injury) and Miller combined for 32 points and 10 assists. That's usually a good sign, but it wasn't enough tonight. Lawson needs to return to his All-Star hype status ASAP. He'll get a chance to help the Nuggets get some redemption in Los Angeles against the Clippers on Thursday.
- The Nuggets shot 7-23 from downtown in the game, just 30.4% ...
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