The headline says it all right? Wrong. This game was so much more complicated, as the starting center reverted back to "the bad old days" of his previous team. The coach decides to put his least efficient lineup out there in crunch time ... and they were a swinging door on defense at times.
And that was just the winning team. Nuggets win 104-101
It's hard to complain about a big win on the road. It doesn't happen that often, and the Nuggets have an over .500 road record at 14-12. Nice eh? Yet, this game was so odd (from the beginning with Dwight Howard not playing) that you come away feeling a big confused and conflicted. What happened out there. Why was this victory so trying? We will tackle these issues, bullet point style.
What went right:
Ty Lawson: Nice aggressive game for Ty. He wasn't looking to pass and defer, he was looking to dominate on the offensive end. As I've said, Ty is much better when he doesn't feel like he has to run an offense. So in that spirit he acted more like a two guard today than a point guard. He finished the game with 25 points and 9 assists. When Ty looks to score first he is a much better player. Today he was the "good" Ty that everyone likes to see.
Arron Afflalo: The Nuggets two guard is starting to come in to his own. 22 big points. AAA does better when he gets open shots and plays within the flow of the offense. Tonight Afflalo did that. He is becoming the player the Nugget paid for.
Kenneth Faried: While Manimal's stats won't overwhelm you (4 points 9 rebounds 2 blocks) it was his two big blocks at the end that led to the Nuggets victory. One a tremendous block on Jameer Nelson, and another weak side help block on Ryan Anderson. Those were two HUGE plays that helped the Nuggets get the three point win over the Orlando Magic.
Kosta Koufos: K2 remains the most fundamentally sound big man on the Nuggets. While he is not athletically gifted, he knows where to be, closes out, and gives effort on every single play. This is a great thing. Once again, while his stats aren't going to jump out at you (6 points 4 rebounds) he shored up a Nuggets interior defense that was leaking like a rusty drainpipe.
What went wrong
JaVale McGee: Even the most ardent McGee fans knew that there would be a game similar to what we saw today from JaVale. he was a complete non-factor. Made questionable goaltends. Scored 2 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, in 11 minutes and committed 5 turnovers. He was a defensive black hole and a complete non factor on offense. Overall, you can't say he did anything good today.
George Karl's end of game lineup: This is becoming a refrain, and quite frankly I'm tired of constantly bringing it up. The lineup of AAA, Ty, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington and Andre Miller was one of the worse defensive lineups I've ever seen. Moreover, four perimeter players and one penetrater against a team that was pounding you on the offensive boards made NO sense. Also, up until three minutes to go, Kenneth Faried was blocking shots and rebounding. What happened in Karl's mind that told him "hey, lets go even smaller and less efficient". The team got away with it, but just barely. This is becoming a very sad mantra, but Karl's end of game lineups are killing this team.
Nuggets rebounding: Allowing the likes of Glen Davis to get 16 rebounds is one thing, but allowing a team that is severely undersized to outrebound you (41 to 38) AND outrebound you on the offensive end (18-7) was downright disgraceful. Some of it had to do with lineups (see above) but most of it had to do with downright laziness. If the Nuggets continue to let these things happen then they wont make the playoffs, let alone get knocked out in the first round.
Tony Brothers: Brothers is the official that draws the most complaints about from the Nuggets. He has been on hand for some controversial Nuggets games, and has been known to get into it on a routine basis with George Karl. There was a 8 minutes stretch in the third quarter where I swear Brothers and his crew were flat making things up as they went along. It didn't end up hurting the Nuggets in the win column, but it contributed to making this game a hell of alot more interesting than it needed to be.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Despite my complaints this was a good win. The Nuggets need to shore some things up (ie: play better) and they will face a weak opponent on Wednesday in New Orleans. Lets hope the team can learn from their mistakes tonight and step on someone's throat. Nuggets were missing Wilson Chandler tonight, but strangely the offense seemed to flow better without him out there. There's little correlation, but Chandler needs to play better when he comes back and work within the flow of the offense.
Go team! If the Nuggets keep winning they won't leave things to chance!