The Nuggets ran pick and roll with rookie center Jusuf Nurkic two times tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers and was successful both times. This revelation comes after, two weeks ago, Melvin Hunt loudly (and humorously) proclaimed to us reporter stiffs that not only can the Bosnian big man play fast, he craves it. Featuring prominently in that is the pick and roll. Nurkic ended up going 5-5 and finished with 10 points, he helped the Nuggets team stay close with the Blazers in the second half.
Jameer Nelson came in and took absolute command of the second half. While the Nuggets never got down by more than 12 points, it was Nelson's vice like grip on the offensive flow that helped the Nuggets out tremendously. Hitting threes and keeping the Nuggets in it, particularly when they needed someone to hit some big shots. He finished with 22 points and 5 assists
As ever, the Nuggets had issues with guarding LaMarcus Aldridge. Kenneth Faried (who played well) struggles mightily in guarding any competent power forward. So does J.J. Hickson. It wasn't pretty as LA finished the game with 32 points and 11 rebounds. It was a struggle. Nurkic bothered LA a bit, but in the end it was futile for him. On the other end both Hickson and Faried (who both started) did actually produce in their time on the court. Faried had 11 points 9 rebounds, Hickson had points and 8 rebounds. It was never a competition.
While this wasn't quite as nail biting as the Memphis Grizzlies game of a couple weeks ago, this game was ultra competitive and quite frankly closer than it should have been against a good team on the second night of a back to back, on the road, short handed. It was another moral victory for their coach Melvin Hunt who has seemed to right some of his rotations coming of the disaster against the Philadelphia 76ers last Wednesday. The team fights for Melvin, and that has to give you some encouragement.
One sour note was the weird play of Randy Foye. While he had 9 points in the third quarter, he made some gigantic mental gaffes that, in a 6 final score ... went a long way toward not giving the Nuggets a victory. With 2 seconds left in the first half, Aldridge threw a baseball pass down the length of the court (ala Duke vs. Kentucky in 1992) and Foye, pulling his best Rahim Moore, decided to jump for a pass he never had a prayer of getting. Thus leaving Nic Batum wide open in the corner for a three to end the half. That three isn't hit, who knows how the second half goes. Foye finished with 17 points but made several mental errors that left one wondering what he was thinking.
Outside of that, you can't complain too much about this game. Wins and losses really don't matter now as the team likely can't fall any farther than 9th in the Lottery standings and can rise no higher than 6th. Will Barton played well and created off the dribble. Ty Lawson was ... ok. After his last game this was more typical of the games that proceeded it. 13 points and 7 assists. However, it looked like he wasn't coasting like he was earlier so all in all you just can't complain. Nuggets have lost 8 in a row to the Blazers since 1995-1997.
On to the rematch with Utah on Wednesday next week.