Wow. That was a beat down. The Nuggets came out flat, and they were even worse than the score indicated. The final score was Rockets 128, Nuggets 110, but all Nuggets fans took a beating from this one.
The Nuggets started the game with reinforcements in the starting lineup, as Will Barton returned to provide a boost at the shooting guard position. The game started with a bad omen though, as Danilo Gallinari turned over the first possession on an entry pass to Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic made his presence felt on multiple defensive possessions though, generating a block and a steal which turned into four Faried fast break points. The Rockets came out firing and hit their first three shots from beyond the arc, zooming out to an 11-6 lead before Michael Malone used his first timeout.
Nurkic came out of the timeout with a nice finish off the dish from Gallinari, but Anderson answered with another three. It looks pretty clear that Faried guarding Ryan Anderson is the worst idea of all time, and Malone yanks him for Wilson Chandler...who gives up a corner three to Trevor Ariza. Nurkic began struggling to box out Clint Capela, who made him pay by getting extra possessions and an And-1. It was clear that the Rockets had more energy after coming in at five in the morning, grabbing 50-50 balls and outworking the Nuggets for good looks. It was a really depressing start.
Turnovers and poor shot attempts continued to plague the team, but the Rockets finally started to cool down from the perimeter, allowing the Nuggets to creep back into the game a little. The Nuggets would trail the Rockets 42-33 after one quarter. 75 total points!
Meanwhile here at Pepsi Center.... pic.twitter.com/dZCq39z66l— Aniello Piro (@aniello_piro) December 3, 2016
Both teams started out sloppy to start the second quarter, and there were many turnovers, but more on the Nuggets side. It makes it so difficult to root for this team when they turn it over as much as they do.
Believe me, this was only a microcosm of the problem.
Of course, Kenneth Faried makes the play of the year with incredible rebounding, hops, and hustle to get the hardest fought two points of his life. Nurkic picked up where Faried left off and generated some offense inside with rebounds, while the defense continued generating turnovers. Mudiay made a big layup to cut the lead to five, and Mike D’Antoni was forced to call a timeout.
Nurkic continued some great defensive activity by forcing multiple stops. He came back down and got some post touches because of it, missing the first but generating free throws on the second, though he failed to convert either shot. Malone sensed that this was going to affect him and brought back in Faried at center. The Rockets began pulling away with better execution though, as Mudiay was blocked by Patrick Beverley and Harden capitalized.
Both teams went to heavy small ball, as the tallest players on the floor were Gallinari and Anderson before Harrell reentered the game. Both teams went back and forth with some misses before Mudiay had a nice finish against Harden. Next possession down? Offensive foul. Ugh. He did have a three pointer though. The Nuggets cut the lead to 10 points though, as the Rockets led 73-63 after a half.
The third quarter opened up with a wide open dunk due to poor weak side help, and the only Nugget who came to play on both ends was Nurkic. He played solid defense, screened well, and had a great roll to the rim for a basket. He kept the Nuggets in the game, even though he had a three second violation.
Nelson just made the sloppiest pass of all-time after coming into the game, leading to a Harden dunk and a pissed off Malone.
This game just began very difficult to watch, but the team kept sticking around with great play from Nurkic. He created many points for the team with his presence, but the Rockets just continued to score threes while Denver settled for twos. The team finished won the wrong end of a 99-84 score at the end of the third quarter.
To start the fourth, the Nuggets took two contested perimeter jumpers and couldn’t get any good offense going, and it would be nice if someone took charge. The problem? Gallo went to the high post to run offense for himself, and Mudiay took two three pointers. Chandler dribbled the ball of his foot and Gordon was the one to dive on the floor.
Hey, I’ve got an idea, let’s sag off Eric Gordon on the pick and roll. He’s only shooting 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. Unbelievable.
In all honesty, nothing notable happened the rest of the quarter. Mike Miller, Malik Beasley, and Juancho Hernangomez got in the game, so that was fun. I like the garbage time lineup, but if that’s all there is to like about the team, why watch? The final score was Houston 128, Denver 110, but it wasn’t that close.
The Nuggets turnovers ruined offensive flow. The Rockets only scored 11 points off of the 16 turnovers the Nuggets accumulated, but the real difficulty was generating open looks. Whenever the Nuggets started getting into a groove, they threw the ball out of bounds, committed an offensive foul, or threw up a bad shot. The Nuggets didn’t have a player who could generate the open looks necessary to score efficiently. Mudiay was supposed to be that guy, but the design of the Nuggets offense puts the ball in Barton, Gallinari, or Chandler’s hands just as often. Mudiay is the only one of those players that can consistently generate separation, but coach Malone simply doesn’t trust him enough to give him full playmaking responsibility. This is most evident in that EVERY NUGGET committed a turnover tonight except the garbage time unit.
Be thankful for Wilson Chandler while he’s here. Chandler is playing amazing right now. He finished with 24 hard fought points, but the Nuggets don’t deserve him at this point. Other NBA teams are going to offer a lot of value for Chandler at the trade deadline, and he’s basically the best player that could be available on the market. His skills would allow him to play a legitimate role on any team in the NBA, and unless the Nuggets decide they want to cash in on some of their young talent for a star piece, they would be wise to explore selling.
The Nuggets had a great opportunity and ruined it. How many opportunities do the Nuggets get to make an impression on the national stage? VERY few. This was the first one, and I was expecting the team to come out with some fire, looking to prove to people that they are on the rise. All that anybody saw tonight was Wilson Chandler, some good offensive rebounding, and scrubs in the backcourt. They clearly aren’t ready for anything more than selling at the trade deadline at this point. The progress that was evident at the end of last season and the beginning of this season is gone. Mudiay looked timid, Nurkic looked injured emotionally, and none of the veterans outside of Chandler and Faried did anything positive tonight.
What are ESPN's ratings like for this unwatcheable game? Denver might not make it back on national TV for awhile.— Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) December 3, 2016
The Denver Nuggets are not just alienating home crowd fans tonight but every NBA fan witnessing this flat and uninspired play on ESPN.— T.J. McBride (@BSN_McBride) December 3, 2016
Nuggets follow their worst performance of the season against Miami with their new worst performance of the season against Houston.— Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan) December 3, 2016
How often are NBA fans going to tune into Denver Nuggets games anymore? Why would they? Jamal Murray? He played 17 minutes tonight. Is that the only reason to watch the Nuggets anymore?
Disappointing, gut-wrenching loss for the boys in gold tonight. I hope they can start to figure things out.