Thanks, Kirk Hinrich. I must have rewritten this post three or four different times. The Nuggets led by as many as 12, lost the lead, got Kirk Hinrich to miss a game-winning free throw, forced overtime, went down by 5 in OT, and somehow managed to squeak one out on the back of Gallinari's heroics. Nuggets win, 118-117.
Quote of the Night:
This year's Nuggets squad just loves to make things hard on itself, doesn't it? Given a gift in the form of a nine-game home stand, the Nuggets have opened it in a mediocre fashion by going 3-2. They've had their opportunities to prove themselves against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies, and have finally been able to win a close game over the Atlanta Hawks. Despite Gallinari's 4th quarter pugnale to force overtime and his equally deadly defense on the last shot, questions of whether or not the Nuggets can succeed in the playoffs will continue to haunt this team until they can start winning decisively at home.
- Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, how happy are we to watch Kenneth Faried continue his development? After years of being one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, Denver has suddenly shot to fourth in rebounding overall. Much of this rapid rise in rebounding prowess can be contributed to Manimal's voracious hunger for the rock, and it's always amazing to see his energy on court. His coast-to-coast dunk early in the game set the tone and he had an incredible chasedown block, alley-oop dunk and steal in the fourth quarter. He may not have much of an offensive game yet, but that will come with time. This kid is special, folks.
- Timofey Mozgov returned tonight with an ineffective 0 points, a single rebound, a steal, 2 turnovers and a foul in 7 clumsy minutes. Get well soon, Kosta Koufos.
- Corey Brewer's freakishly long arms managed to force the ball off Jannero Pargo to set up Danilo's corner 3. What an effort on defense. More of this, Corey, less dumb fouls.
- Atlanta recorded a season high in three point makes (14-29). This marks the 13th game that the Nuggets have allowed ten or more three pointers. The Nuggets are now tied for fifth-worst three point defense in the league, allowing their opponents an average of 37% from beyond the arc.
- In case anyone was wondering, Denver is now 5-2 in overtime.
- After scoring 64 points in the first half, the Nuggets scored an anemic 41 in the second. Maybe someone should start checking the locker room for sleeping powder at halftime. Mostly, however, their offensive struggles came from their inability to penetrate the zone defense, as the Nuggets reverted to a perimeter iso far too frequently.
Maybe in the offseason some stats scientists can unearth the reason why every team seemed to drill Denver from the perimeter. I suspect much of the archeobasketball evidence will point to the poor rotations and I-just-don't-wanna effort fighting over screens. Joe Johnson, a career 36% 3 point shooter, went 6-10 from deep. Josh Smith (28%) and Kirk Hinrich (38%) combined to go 5-7 and bury the Nuggets. Ty Lawson had a heroic effort, hitting 4-5 of his own, determined to not let another team completely wreck them from outside.
Make no mistake about it, the Nuggets got lucky tonight. Their inability to close at home against teams they should beat and in games they should win continues to concern me. They need to show that they can really step on a team and put them away at home, or teams will begin to believe (as we have been seeing) that the Nuggets are not the nigh-invulnerable Juggernaut that they once were.
Nuggets of the Night:
Ty Lawson: 34 minutes, 8-11 (4-5 3p), 21 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 turnovers
Ty looked like his former Western Conference Player of the Week self. He was all over the place and nuclear from 3, forcing the Hawks to play at the Nuggets place all night long. I loved Ty's effort tonight and it was great to see his turnovers down after being very lackadaisical with the ball lately.
Nene: 38 minutes, 8-16, 22 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers
I know I'll probably take some flak for this selection, but frankly it was great to see Nene continuing to attack tonight. We can all moan and complain about his extraordinary deference in the paint, but that's who Nene is and he's not going to change. We should be thankful that our big man is as unselfish as he is, frustrating though it may be at times. It's not often you see your starting center collect 5 assists. Nene is slowly getting better, but he definitely needs to improve his defense. We know that Nene has some of the quickest hands in the league, his feet just need to start following their lead.
Danilo Gallinari: 36 minutes, 6-13 (1-4 3p), 19 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover
Recently, there have been some who have questioned Denver's ability to close. True, Denver is now just 3-5 in games decided by three points or less, but they've proven that they now have three different players who can close: Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson, and now Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari's miracle corner three was nothing short of amazing, made only more so by the fact that the Nuggets eventually won in overtime in large part due to his defense on the last possession. It's truly great to see both Nene and Gallinari slowly returning to form.
No time to relax, Denver. Great win, but you can't rest on your laurels after this one. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town on Thursday. Then the real test begins.
Homestand Watch: 3-2