I am less than pleased with last night's game.
The Nuggets are, flatly, a more talented team than the Sacramento Kings. They have a deeper bench, the better floor generals, and an array of young shooters who are better than their performance last night would suggest. There were no less than two opportunities for the Nuggets to score the go-ahead bucket or take the lead in the waning seconds, but they simply couldn't execute down the stretch.
Digging for Gold
- Ty Lawson started off the game with a swished three and was, once again, the best Nuggets player on the floor. He lead the team with 20 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in 36 minutes, despite a nagging groin pull. Lawson continues to be the motor that drives this Nuggets squad, and without him this team is simply dead in the water.
- Andre Miller similarly provided a huge boost to the Nuggets when they needed it most. Down 13 points in the second quarter, "hero ball" Andre emerged and helped to cut the Nuggets deficit to just 3 by halftime with an array of nifty jumpers and the classic YMCA moves we've come to know and love from Ol' Man 'Dre.
- Timofey Mozgov played much better than I would have expected him to. He was a force inside against the small-ish backcourt of Sacramento, and hit a nice running reverse and a couple of silky jumpers. He influenced a number of shots and was solid all-around, though the Nuggets still need him to contribute more on the glass.
Struggling for Silver
- Despite a very slow start, Randy Foye managed to chip in 12 points (2-5 3P) and 5 rebounds in 5 minutes. While it was nice to finally see Foye's shot start to fall, he has to be more consistent if he wants to start for this team in the future. He had a number of bad defensive lapses, including an embarrassing moment where he completely ignored Marcus Thornton running down the floor after a bricked three, not even bothering to cross half court to contest a fast break alley oop to DeMarcus Cousins.
- Evan Fournier is, as I predicted, still too raw to see significant minutes. He seemed tentative and unwilling to step up in the face of a roaring crowd, and had a number of opportunities to impact the game but simply couldn't finish. While I'm confident that Fournier will eventually grow into the smooth shooter and heady player that he's shown flashes of becoming, he needs more seasoning before he can truly be trusted with significant time at the shooting guard spot. He had a shot to take the lead with time running out in the fourth quarter and couldn't connect. Fournier must realize that his future in the NBA will be determined by whether or not he can make those sort of shots.
- Nate Robinson was virtually invisible. He had almost no impact on the game. In 18 minutes, he went 0-5 from the floor, had 4 assists and just 2 rebounds. He seemed disinterested and lethargic, almost lost, much like a certain turnover-prone awful free-throw shooting mole that formerly burrowed through this franchise. Far from the dynamic player which led the injury-plagued 2012-2013 Bulls to an upset over the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs last year, Nate looked like he wasn't even sure what state he was in.
- The absolute worst player on the floor last night, however, was none other than JaVale McGee. He was even worse than John Salmons, and that's saying something. Despite some early looks where he had some sweeping buckets, McGee looked absolutely atrocious and was utterly dominated, nay, destroyed by DeMarcus Cousins. So awful was McGee's play that he only saw 10 minutes (10 minutes!) of playing time against the Kings. He turned in 4 points, 1 rebound, 2 blocks, 1 turnover and 4 fouls. Meanwhile, Cousins put up 30 and 14 and didn't even look that challenged.
JaVale signed a four year, $44 million dollar contract with the Nuggets last season, in large part due to the immense promise he still represents with his physical tools. Yet after another performance in which he was ludicrously ineffective against a player similarly prone to mental lapses, I feel lower on McGee than perhaps I ever have before. He looks like he's learned nothing, like he's actually regressed. The Nuggets have placed a ton of trust in JaVale to be the franchise's starting center, and he continues to show the same stupid immaturity to his game that he always has: dumb fouls, poor shot selection, lethargic hustle. Cousins made McGee look like Tskitishvili. There, I said it. He was simply awful, and if he turns in another performance like this one, we may end up seeing Mozgov as the starter before long with an $11 million paperweight coming off the bench.