There weren’t too many smart decisions by the Denver Nuggets during the offseason. One of the bad ones was signing J.J. Hickson, a player with the exact same attributes as Kenneth Faried, and putting the two together in the lineup. After a slow start to the season, Brian Shaw is coming around, giving Timofey Mozgov big minutes off the bench, in return getting 23 points from the center and a 111-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mozgov, averaging 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, isn’t going to give that kind of contribution each night. Playing against the Lakers’ terrible defense is one of the unique experiences the NBA has to offer for big men who need some sort of confidence boost, but in general, the Nuggets will greatly improve on both ends of the floor if either Faried or Hickson hit the bench in favor of a true center, instead of having two power forwards with the same strengths and weaknesses playing out of position, each in his own turn.
Denver, more importantly, are returning to the style that worked so well for them (in the regular season at least) during the George Karl days. Ty Lawson wasn’t made to play half court offense, especially when he doesn’t have a reliable shooting guard to play off of. The Nuggets had one of the worst offenses in the league heading into the game, but recently have been looking like a team steering in the right direction.
Lawson finished scoring 19 points and adding 7 assists. Forcing a quick style on the very slow Lakers meant turnovers (14 for the Lakers) and the kind of game their opponents had no chance of competing in, although the Nuggets did need to pull away in the fourth quarter thanks to three pointers from Wilson Chandler, who probably deserves more minutes while Danilo Gallinari is out, recovering from his knee surgery.
The Lakers had the chance to force a game of big men, but Pau Gasol’s 25 points are lying, needing 27 shots to get them, not to mention going 1-of-5 from the line. He and Jordan Hill make a good pair in the paint grabbing a combined 27 rebounds and adding 4 blocks, but any time hustle and speed are needed the Lakers are on the losing side, and not just against the Nuggets but almost every team in the league.
The Nuggets are coming around, still waiting for JaVale McGee and Gallinari to come back. They might not be the team they were last season in terms of efficiency and quality, missing pieces like Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer who left to greener pastures, but there’s no doubt that once Brian Shaw wraps his head around what works and what doesn’t while injured players comeback, there’s no reason for the Nuggets to look this good against teams that are also tougher to beat than the Los Angeles Lakers.
We played big and pretty much just dominated inside and kept the pressure on them by running the floor. Mozgov was like a good, old Russian boxer, didn’t give in. I just love the way he plays, he competes. He doesn’t complain, just plays hard.