Denver rested Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and Danilo Gallinari tonight and the reserves stepped up their game in their place. Jameer Nelson especially. Nelson was a scorching hot 11-18 from the field and led all scorers with 24 points. Randy Foye added 16 points of his own. Even Gary Harris hit a well timed three pointer late in the game. The game was tied at 79 before the Grizzlies pulled away with a 13-2 run to close out the contest winning 92-81.
This game was played at Memphis' pace. Denver had scored 100 or more points in all 8 contests during the Melvin Hunt era. Tonight they barely managed over 80. Not playing three of their leading scorers certainly contributed, but at this point in a lost season Denver needs to see what they have in their younger players. Can Gary Harris get out of his shooting funk? Can Erick Green show management enough to warrant signing on for next season? What can Joffrey Lauvergne contribute? Now that the Nuggets foundation has shown us they are capable of playing at a higher level than we saw earlier, the questions that need answering revolve around the youth on this team. One game won't provide all the answers, but the team will and must continue tinkering with things before the season comes to a close.
Denver was killed on the boards tonight. They were out rebounded by 20. Denver missed over 50 shots tonight, but only managed to bring down 10 offensive rebounds. Memphis missed just under 50 shots and brought down 20 offensive rebounds. Zach Randolph had 8 offensive rebounds alone, finishing with 16 rebounds and 21 points.
Denver continues to max out in every game so far under Melvin Hunt. Looking toward the future should mean more than just tanking. Allowing the rookies to cut their teeth, featuring new acquisitions like Will Barton, and resurrecting the internal attitude of the players going into next season are arguably more important than the difference between the 5th and 8th pick. Who knows, maybe building a little karma down the stretch will do more good than anything else when the commissioner and 14 team owners gather in Secaucus, NJ to let the ping pong balls decide our draft fate?