The effort was there for the Nuggets tonight, it was the execution that let them down late in their 115-111 loss to the Rockets in overtime at Pepsi Center. If it weren't for Arron Afflalo's game tying three-pointer as time expired, the Nuggets would have lost in regulation.
Before the game Brian Shaw said he wanted to experiment with Danilo Gallinari at shooting guard, and Gallo played long stretches as the two. The bigger lineup featuring Gallo saw success as the team built a 60-55 first half lead, with Gallo providing 10 points (3-3 from deep with an And-1) in 12 minutes. Like the rest of the team, Gallo saw his shooting dry up in the second half, and finished the game 1-5 to go 4-8 on the night. Brian Shaw drew up a key play for Gallo in overtime with the Nuggets down three.
The Nuggets ran action to get Gallo the ball in the corner and he missed a wide-open two. After the miss, Gallo could be seen upset with himself and said after the game that he needed to make that shot. I saw Adam Mares Tweet that it's a make or miss league, and that couldn't be a truer statement. Still, it was nice to see Shaw find Gallo 26 minutes, and have the trust to draw up a play for him late.
Again, the effort was there for the Nuggets. It's the execution that failed them. On three key possessions, the Nuggets failed to put the ball in the hole. Two of those plays happened in regulation, on the same play. With the Nuggets up 96-95, and coming out of a timeout, Denver ran a play to free up Arron Afflalo with some screens near the paint. The play failed to get the ball to Afflalo, and ultimately failed to get the team a quality shot as Darrell Arthur missed a moving jumper on the baseline.
Wilson Chandler gobbled up the offensive rebound and reset the play. This time, Denver went to their bread and butter high pick and roll, the one Mares has shown us on Denver Stiffs, with Darrell Arthur in one corner, and Wilson Chandler out on the elbow beyond the three point line. The play again fell apart and Lawson wound up taking a 17-footer that missed badly. James Harden came down and buried a three in Arthur's face, and eventually Arron Afflalo nailed a game extending three.
"Well, we didn't win the game, but I commend our guys; they fought until the end. If we had to do it all over again, I would take the same looks that we got," said Shaw. "Gallo got a good look that would have tied the game (his foot was on the line) and we missed a free throw down the stretch. That's all you can ask for; we defended, we scraped, we couldn't keep them off the free throw line. I am proud of the guys and the way they played so these kinds of losses, I can stomach a little bit better."
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-Jusuf Nurkic finished with a team high of +17 for the night. Juka played just over 16 minutes, scored 6 points on 3-6 shooting, and grabbed 8 rebounds. He also had five fouls on the night, and Shaw said after the game that he wanted to get him back in, but was hesitant to put him in with the Rockets in the penalty.
Really liked Shaw sticking with Nurkic as the backup center and playing him some extended minutes. Thought there were moments late, and in overtime, when he could have played, but a nice night for the rookie against Dwight Howard.
-Darrell Arthur is a man possessed. Loved his passion tonight and his overall play. He's Denver's best power forward and should be starting. He turned in the second highest +/- with a +10 in 28 minutes. The Nuggets found a lot of defensive success with Arthur and Mozgov last season, and it might not be a bad move to test that with the starting unit this season.
-Ty Lawson played 46 minutes tonight, and the team is starting out with a four games in five nights stretch. The Nuggets have to find a way to get Lawson some rest. Nate Robinson has been really struggling, and Erick Green has not earned his coach's trust. The Nuggets go as Lawson goes, but if he's ground into dust ...
-The Nuggets shot 23 free throws on the night, James Harden went 18-21 from the foul line by himself.