The Denver Nuggets come out flat tonight against the Sacramento Kings, and save a few bright spots with bench players in the second and fourth quarters, it was tough sledding throughout. What happened? I'm so glad you asked.
The Nuggets offense has proven to be offensive thus far, though tonight was (shockingly) their best shooting performance of the season (45% on the night). Wilson Chandler had a solid first half (and 13 points tonight in total), and Nate Robinson got us back in the game on a hot streak, at one point getting Denver within eight points. Aside from Ill Will (who wasn't a starter two games ago), the starters struggled. Ty Lawson also contributed 13 from the floor, most of them in the second half after things had gotten out of hand. Timofey Mozgov had seven points, and was manhandled all night by DeMarcus Cousins. It got worse from there, as Arron Afflalo finished with two points (on one of four shooting), and Kenneth Faried was dangerously close to two points of his own, sinking both of his free throws. Faried had his only basket of the game with 30 seconds to go, that only due to coming in for Jusuf Nurkic when he fouled out. Shots were not falling, and you wonder when (hopefully not if) the Nuggets scoring will trend back to their career norms.
Denver's defense wasn't embarrassingly bad through most of the game, and still shows occasional signs of cohesion. Even so, the Kings came out on fire, shooting 66% from the floor in the first quarter, sinking contested shot after contested shot. Though they didn't stay that hot through the game, the Kings dominated both ends of the floor whenever it counted. Though I missed it via League Pass, several Stiffs commented on Coach Melvin Hunt's interview in which he labelled us more a defensive squad than a running squad. Here's hoping we might be both. When we were hustling on D, we often were still slightly behind the play, which caused more fouls... and so...
From the Stripe
Simple math here. The Nuggets let Sacramento tie this NBA season's early mark for most free throws attempted, matching Houston's 50 from a few nights back. The Kings took further advantage, making 39 of those. That's 79 points the Nuggets have given up to the Kings from the free throw line in the past two games. Going to be tough to win many with that sort of outcome. Possibly before addressing woes on either end of the floor, the Nuggets simply must learn to play the defense they're attempting to without the abundant fouls.
So... some disheartening patterns here, especially amongst the starters. Though it sounds a broken record, it's too early to tell if this is just a rough start, or simply the beginning of a long, tough season. Though I'm still leaning towards the former, every outing that looks like this will only add gasoline to a growing fire.
Step it out for me, Stiffs. What's the first thing we need to fix?