This game had an all-too-familiar early 2000s-era feel to it.
You know the one. A young Nuggets team competing hard on the strengths of its youth and athleticism grabs a decent lead against the more talented, veteran Spurs, only to fall apart when the game starts to tighten up and the calls don't go their way.
For 36 minutes tonight, this game looked like Shaw's first win as an NBA head coach. The Nuggets were playing with energy, somehow hitting all of their outside jumpers, and we even saw glimpses of a triangle offense. Timofey Mozgov seemed to discover stickum and was actually catching and finishing around the rim. Even Jordan Hamilton was hitting his outside jumpers.
Yet the Nuggets couldn't stay out of their own way. 22 turnovers against the San Antonio Spurs will doom you. Every time the Nuggets had a chance to stretch their lead to 12 or 14, they would somehow fumble the ball off their own hands or feet and give the ball right back to San Antonio. Then, in typical fashion, the officiating started to succumb to Tim Duncan's bug eyed look of incredulity and Manu Ginobili's plasticine limbs, and every call seemingly went against the Nuggets. A hard foul on a drive by Mozgov not called. Ty clobbered across the top of the head, play on. The Nuggets sneeze on a Spurs player and a shooting foul is called. This is nothing new for games against the Spurs. The frustrating bullshit officiating is simply a part of all their games against the Nuggets, and it is as much due to the Spurs superstars' reputation as it is to the Nuggets own naviete and awful ball control.
The Nuggets lead 78-72 entering the 4th quarter, were promptly outscored 30-16 and tightened up as the icy wind of the Spurs veteran experience blew across their downy cheeks. They simply had no answers for a Spurs team that capitalized off of every mis-step of the Nuggets team, and there were many.
Timofey Mozgov was surprisingly effective tonight off the bench as JaVale McGee was once again plagued by foul trouble. He actually dunked (!) multiple times and was somehow...someway... finishing around the rim! He also had a silky stroke from the line. In 21 minutes Mozgov finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds, but fouled out of the game. If he can somehow find a way - like JaVale - to keep himself out of bad foul trouble, he could be a big factor for the Nuggets in the paint this season.
Kenneth Faried should be the unquestioned starter after tonight. His boundless energy infused the starting lineup, he played average defense, and contributed 15 points 8 rebounds and no turnovers in 28 minutes of play. He will continue to improve, and should see increased minutes going forward as Shaw recognizes how much better he makes the team while he's on the floor.
J.J. Hickson was the worst player on the floor tonight. Just awful. A colander could play defense against the Spurs more tightly than J.J. could tonight. His ego seemed to be bruised by his demotion to the bench, and he turned in an awful 4 points and 7 rebounds with 4 turnovers and a foul in 17 minutes of play. He gave zero effort on the defensive end and didn't even seem to understand what the concept of boxing out meant.
Evan Fournier continues to lay eggs on the floor. I'm not sure what's going through the young Frenchman's head at the moment, but it isn't NBA basketball. His focus has wavered, his shot is off, and he has yet to make an impact on any Nuggets game after long being lauded by Nuggets fans last season. Ultimately he's showing why he needs more seasoning before he sees significant playing time in the NBA.
The Nuggets will next play against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, November 7th, where they will again attempt to earn their first win of of the 2013-2014 season.
Opposition's take: Pounding The Rock