Don’t get it twisted, Brian Shaw and the Nuggets weren’t hoping for a defensive slugfest, but they want to be able to win those type of games. Tim Connelly and Company have built the deepest team in the league. There’s a nice mix of veterans and prospects. There shouldn’t be too many nights where the team shoots a combined 35% from the field and 25% from downtown.

Danilo Gallinari (1-5), Wilson Chandler (1-4), and Arron Afflalo (2-5) combined to go just 4-14 from three point land. Ty Lawson went 0-3 from deep and struggled to find his offense all night, as he finished with 3 points on 1-7 shooting. Again, there shouldn’t be too many nights where the outside shooting betrays the team.

Getting to rely on a whole group of different players paid dividends for the team tonight. Familiar faces went to great places tonight. Afflalo did have that 10 point burst in the third quarter that saved the team’s bacon, AAA finished with 15 points. And Timofey Mozgov and Kenneth Faried were steady forces inside and even Faried on the outside.

Check out Faried’s shot chart from the Pistons game:

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Faried was his deadly self around the rim, but he showed something very dangerous tonight: his jumper. Faried went 3-4 outside the paint (he should have been 4-5, but one shot was nullified due to a foul away from the ball) and he looked very comfortable taking jumpers. There have been folks questioning if Faried would be effective this season with the new contract being inked. Well, Faried plays with a chip on his shoulder and told us as much after the game.

Kenneth's 6-8 performance from the foul line was also a pleasant surprise. We've been wondering if Faried's momentum from the end of last season, plus his Team USA experience, would show up this season and so far, so good with 22 points, 17 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Mozgov was another guy that carried strong momentum from last season into tonight's game. His shot chart:

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Take away the two three pointers and Timo had an excellent night. Normally a reliable shooter, Timo's jumper wasn't falling, but his play around the basket was stellar. Mozgov got a key tip-in with 1:25 to play that pushed Denver's lead to 84-77. Mozzy also had a nice block a few seconds later (1:20 mark) that Faried corralled.

Rotation and minute distribution:

Here is what Shaw told me on Oct. 22nd:

"There's going to be 10 guys at the start of the season, will be two at each position, that'll be in the main rotation," said Shaw after practice at Pepsi Center today. "Barring foul trouble or blowouts, one way or another, that will determine if it gets deeper than that. That's a problem for myself and our staff with the depth that we do have, and guys are just going to have to accept that."

Well, that lasted all of zero games as the Nuggets played 12 guys tonight. Jusuf Nurkic and JaVale McGee split the backup duties, and Alonzo Gee came in as a “closer” of sorts. Gallo played 18 minutes through the third quarter, and Gee was basically his replacement.

Here's a breakdown of the minutes:

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It's impossible to play just 10 guys with this team. There's a debate to be had about the center position. Can Timo log 30 minutes a night? Should he? I liked the 25 minutes he provided and the rest Shaw gave him may have proved perfect tonight. Can Nurkic solidify the backup center spot? Do the Nuggets need to get McGee minutes? It's an interesting debate, and we have time to see how it plays out.

It felt like Shaw was subbing guys in and out of the game at a Fast and Furious pace in the first half, but overall I liked what Shaw did with his rotation. He said after the game he wanted his centers to play in about six minute stints. Gallo and Chandler split the small forward minutes, but Gee usurped them in the final quarter and proved Shaw a genius.

For the surgery crew: Gallo played nearly his maximum 20 minutes, while Nate Robinson only saw six minutes (something to monitor), and McGee just nine minutes. Afflalo logged the most minutes with nearly 40, Lawson right behind him with 33 minutes, but other than that the team didn’t have another 30+ guy.

The most surprising numbers come from Randy Foye. I wasn’t expecting Foye to only play 15:29 minutes, I thought he’d log closer to 20-25 minutes on the night. Let’s examine Gee’s night a little more. He said after the game that the altitude could be felt after sitting for three quarters and then coming in and getting after it for the fourth.

Gee was huge. He came in and knocked down a three to give Denver a little breathing room at 73-68, and then got a key steal to set up Wilson Chandler (who was fouled on a dunk attempt and nailed both free throws). Gee's fresh legs and hounding defense were praised by many after the game.

“I thought Alonzo Gee changed the game when he came in,” said Darrell Arthur. “He put some pressure on D.J. Augustin, he couldn’t do anything, took him right out of it. Guys were rotating, guys were talking on defense, it’s a lot better than it was last year. I think we’re trying to feed into playing defense. We only gave up 79 points, that’s a big step from last year – giving up 100-something points a game. So, I think if we stay defensive minded, we get open shots and knock those down, we’ll be great.”

Nurkic was eased into his first game, sort of. Nurkic and Wilson Chandler were the first subs off the bench. Nurkic got into the game first, as Chandler had to wait to check in as Gallo was shooting free throws when he was at the scorer's table. Nurkic put up 5 points on 2-4 shooting, and grabbed 7 rebounds in nearly 13 minutes of action. It's really crazy to see how ahead of schedule the rookie has been.

Post game with Darrell Arthur:

Arthur is a jack of all trades. He played just under 17 minutes and scored just 2 points on 1-7 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Here's how he assessed his performance after the game.

"I shot the ball terribly," said Arthur. "I had open looks, but shots sometimes go in or they don't go in. I definitely thought I played great defense. If you don't make shots, you just have to find other ways to try to stay in the game, that was definitely my niche [defense]: getting back on defense, rotating, showing on pick and rolls, and talking on defense and I thought we did a great job of that."

That's what you want guys to do, get more heavily involved in other areas of the game when shots aren't falling. But I want to focus more on Arthur's three assists. He's an impressive passer and he found Nurkic and McGee for easy buckets tonight. Here's how he developed as a passing big man.

“Playing in Memphis, our two primary scorers were Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, our offense went through them,” Arthur said. “They were great big passers, and then when I rotated in with them, I kind of got into passing the ball. I just transferred that over to [Denver]. Playing with Timo last year, we ran the horns action, where we set the two pick and rolls, and they come off my side, Timo would roll, and I would find him down low. I did that with Juka, and I did that with JaVale tonight. It’s easy points for them, they seal their man right under the basket, it’s an easy four to six points a game. It’s opens me up to get my jumpers, as well. You find them a couple of times, [your] defensive guys sneaks in, and you’ll be wide open for your jumper.”

Here are his assists to Juka and McGee.

After the play gets reset, notice how Arthur screens for Foye, as does Nurkic. Arthur "pops" after the screen and Nurkic "rolls". Foye finds Arthur, who then immediately bullets a pass to Juka down low for his first NBA bucket. Nice find by Arthur and nice deep post position from the Bosnian Beast.

On this play we see the "horns" action very clearly. JaVale and Arthur are the "horns" as they are set up at each elbow just above the free throw line. The initial action ran by Nate Robinson doesn't lead anywhere, but the second set with Foye does. We see the same action as the Juka play. Arthur pops while McGee rolls and once Arthur gets the ball, he waits for the guard to clear the lane, and then fires a pass to where McGee has position on his left shoulder, and JaVale gets the easy bucket.

I love watching those interior passes and the centers set up nicely, and Arthur found them for the easy looks. This was a different kind of game for the Nuggets, and one that I enjoyed from a grind it out perspective.

Box Score