The 10th game of the season was a stink bomb for the Nuggets, as they lost on their home floor to the now 3-6 Hornets, 94-81. And that's a New Orleans team that was missing Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza ... while the Nuggets had everyone in uniform (but not everyone really played).
So I wrote up some keys to the game tonight in my preview. Let's take a look at what I wrote versus what actually happened ...
-Nate said, "Step on the Bugs early! "
The Nuggets did ... not step on the Bugs early. The Hornets trailed after the first quarter 27-26 and then used a 28-19 second quarter to take a 54-46 lead into the locker room. Allowing a weakened team to gain confidence and think they are in the game, especially on the road, is never the recipe for success. Things only got worse in the third quarter as the Bugs outscored Denver 24-18 ... the game was decided in the second and third quarters where the Nuggets were beaten 52-37 - ouch!
-Nate said, "Don't be a doofus, play Kosta Koufos!"
The Nuggets did ... play Koufos to the tune of ... ... ... 10 minutes. The funny thing to me, George Karl might say his team needs to go small to get back into games, but it's also the small lineups that are giving up big leads to teams that are suddenly over-sized. Koufos (10 min), Chris Andersen (5 min), and Timofey Mozgov (11 min) combined for just 26 minutes on the evening. That's ridiculous as the Nuggets were out-rebounded 40-35 in this one and the team was in desperate need of some offensive boards, hard to get when only guards and forwards are on the court. And there were plenty of chances as the Nuggets shot just 40.8% on the night.
Also TAKE THIS INTO CONSIDERATION: With Mozgov on the floor, Kaman was 2-5 from the field (4 points) and had a grand total of 0 rebounds. Against the rest of the Nuggets, Kaman finished 8-11 for 16 points with 7 rebounds (1 offensive). Does it make sense to anyone else that playing size-vs-size creates issues for other big men? A seven-footer taking shots over 6'9'' players and under is just like playing against your elementary school child at home, easy money. Rotating Mozgov and Koufos as NOLA rotated Emeka Okafor and Kaman would have been a nice idea.
-Nate said, "Be careful from downtown."
The Nuggets did ... a miserable job from deep in this one. After going 3-5 from downtown in the first quarter, the Nuggets went 5-18 from deep or 27% to finish 8-23 from deep or 34.8%. A memo for Andre Miller, after starting 2-2 from deep, you have gone 2-12 from downtown ... let's put away the long range shot, okay?
-Nate said, "Mr. ABA is ready. "
The Nuggets did ... play Corey Brewer for 8 total minutes. Meanwhile, Arron Afflalo (34 min) and Andre Miller (22 min) combined to shoot 2-13 from the field and Rudy Fernandez chalked up 27 minutes. Rudy had a pretty good night shooting the ball late, but with the energy so low in the second and third quarters, some different player combinations were being begged for by the poor play.
-Nate said, "We want Tacos!"
The Nuggets did ... not even sniff 90 points tonight. Rarely do the Nuggets look that inept at home. The least amount of points the Nuggets scored at The Can during the regular season last year? Interestingly enough, it was 87 points in a 96-87 loss to ... you guessed it, the New Orleans Hornets back on 1-9-11!!!!! Freaky, I bet 81 is the least amount Denver scores at home this season, too.
-Nate said, "Monitor Nene's minutes if he plays."
The Nuggets did ... not need to monitor Nene's minutes. The Big Brazilian looked pretty good moving around on the court in his new Dwight Howard Adidas kicks. Someone mentioned he was going to be wearing D12 shoes tonight, good catch! Nene was only 3-8 from the field, but he played with a lot of energy, especially early as he played 8 minutes in the first quarter and racked up 3 points, 6 rebounds (1 offensive), and a monster block. Hopefully that bruised heel is okay.
-Nate said, "Work the ball inside to Mozgov."
The Nuggets did ... get Mozgov involved a little early. Mozgov hit his first shot tonight as he was fed a nice ball inside from Nene for an easy dunk. He drew a foul a few possessions later and went 2-2 from the foul line. Moz had a turnover, dropped a tough bounce pass from Lawson (throw it up high to the big man!), and picked up 3 fouls in just 11 minutes. But as I pointed out, Kaman was just 2-5 against him and grabbed 0 rebounds ... Kaman vs. the rest of the Nuggets: 8-11 for 16 points and 7 rebounds. While Moz doesn't look like a great post player yet, he does affect other areas of the game.
-Nate said, "Defense will turn into offense."
Defense ... what defense? The Nuggets gave up 78 points through three quarters to a team that averages just 86.5 points per game before this contest. The Nuggets allowed the Bugs to shoot 52% from the field and that didn't translate into Denver being able to run and get quick transition buckets.
Overall thoughts: Denver does not look good when they get into half court games with a small lineup. We saw too many lineups that didn't feature a traditional power forward and center. It's very hard to work the ball inside when you have nothing but guys who are more comfortable on the perimeter. This was Al Harrington's first ineffective game and he played just 18 minutes going 1-4 from the field with 0 rebounds.
I do see that Karl is trying to get Danilo Gallinari, who had another nice shooting night going 6-12 from the field and scored a team high 15 points, comfortable with playing power forward. The ideal crunch time lineup for the Nuggets features Lawson, Miller, Afflalo, Gallo, and Nene ... can that unit get comfortable in their roles? Can that lineup rebound and defend enough to win close games? Karl is trying to figure that out. I just wish with all the tinkering that Karl would put some trust in Kenneth Faried and see if he can become a better player during games than perhaps he has shown in practice. Some guys just shine more under the bright lights.
The Nuggets sure didn't shine tonight and this is one of those losses that comes back to bite you when your team is jockeying for playoff positioning. Bit by the Bugs in Denver ...
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons