Tonight's matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies was billed as the rematch between the fiery rookie, Jusuf Nurkic, and the talented All-Star, Mark Gasol. Both players talked to the media about being anxious for the matchup. Gasol seemed set on getting revenge for Nurkic's taunting in their first meeting and Nurkic looked to prove once again that he could hang with the league's best. Unfortunately, their matchup played out as a footnote in a disappointingly unremarkable and unwatchable game.
The Nuggets fell out of the game early, missing 21 of 26 shots in the first quarter. It was sadly reminiscent of their 2nd quarter against the New York Knicks in November, when the Nuggets made just one FG. To make matters worse, the Grizzlies started out fairly hot, shooting 11-21 and took a 26-11 lead. Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic got good looks inside but couldn't get anything to fall. Faried in particular struggled, starting 1-6 from the field on offense and giving up easy baskets inside to Zach Randolph.
In the 2nd quarter, Darrell Arthur entered the game and played with energy, knocking down two mid-range jumpers in the process. But the team continued to give up easy baskets inside while struggling to score on the other side, especially from deep. JaVale McGee entered the game in the 3rd quarter, making his return to action for the first time in nearly two months. At one point in the 3rd quarter, the Nuggets played Jameer Nelson, Gary Harris, Alonzo Gee, Darrell Arthur and McGee at the same time.
The game was long out of hand by the start of the 4th quarter and in the end the Nuggets finished with their lowest point total of the season, their lowest FG% of the season, their lowest 3-point FG% of the season and tied their 2nd largest margin of defeat of the season. At one point in the game, the Nuggets missed 25 straight 3-point attempts.
While there is never an excuse for losing like that, the loss wasn't too surprising since the Nuggets were playing on the road for their 4th game in 5 nights against what is clearly a better opponent. While the Nuggets were playing at full strength for the first time in a long while, playing on the road on the 2nd night of a back-to-back is never easy and the Nuggets looked very sluggish throughout the game. The Nuggets are back in Denver on Saturday night to take on the Charlotte Hornets.
The worst of the worst
Brian Shaw continues to experiment with strange lineups and combinations. It is a bit understandable in this one since the game was so out of hand early but even in the 2nd and 3rd quarter Shaw rolled out lineups that have never shared the court together. It will be very interesting to see who gets what minutes in the coming games as Shaw begins to operate with a full roster. Where will Danilo Gallinari fit in and what role will JaVale have? Will Shaw go with a big lineup at times, featuring both Nurkic and JaVale together in the front court? Will he continue to play Nelson and Ty Lawson side by side? Shaw will have a lot of choices going forward and it will be interesting to see how he allocates the minutes.
The Nuggets seemed to have moved Darell Arthur back inside the 3-point line and that is probably the right move. He is a pretty decent mid range jump shooter and an atrocious 3-point shooter. I'm not sure that the Nuggets were getting the floor spacing that they wanted by having him shoot 3's, and he is probably just as effective as a floor spacer when spotting up from the mid-range. Since January 10th, Arthur has dropped from 3.1 3FGA per game to 1.0 3FGA per game while not seeing a significant drop in his minutes or points per game.
The Nuggets ran a very nice looking elevator doors play late in the 4th quarter that got Gallo a look at the rim. I have said for awhile that Gallo will help improve this team's offense and this play demonstrates a good example of why. It isn't always skill or execution that helps a team score points but simply being able to make basketball plays. In this clip, Gallo is the screener, or the "door" on elevator doors. After he notices how the defense overplays the screen, Gallo slips the screen to the basket where he scores the easy basket and draws the foul. It's a small consolation since it came at the tail end of a 30-point blowout, but hopefully as Gallo gets back into form we will see more plays like this where Gallo can make reads and find easy buckets.