Overshadowed by the Tim Tebow-mania and Denver Broncos playoffs talks, the Denver Nuggets quietly hosted the talented Miami Heat on Friday.
And it may actually be considered the biggest win of the young season, not because the Nuggets beat the Heat – but because they did as a team. There was no individual effort; no going one-on-one. Instead the Nuggets finished with 26 assists, shot .551 percent from the field and six players scored in double figures.
On the other side of the court, LeBron James led all scorers with a quiet 35 points, Dwyane Wade had 12 before leaving the game with a sprained ankle and the other member of the Big Three, Chris Bosh added 17.
George Karl also made a smart decision to shorten his bench. He switched back to a three-man rotation in the post, using Al Harrington as the only big man sub to go with Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller. Chris Andersen had his first DNP-Coach’s Decision and Kosta Koufos played a garbage minute at the end. This might be a sign of things to come.
- Ty Lawson was the spark, the captain and the engine that got the Nuggets going, much like he did last season. The Heat struggled to find a player that could stay in front of him as Lawson torched Miami for 24 points and nine assists. Lets just say his ankle is feeling better.
- Nene had his first double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but all-in-all the Brazilian big man is still battling rust.
He finally got things going in the second half, but his frustrating boiled over early in the third due to a no call, as well as frustration over his own play, and Karl quickly subbed him out in favor of Harrington. The issue that Nene is facing this year is opposing teams aren’t giving him the easy shots he saw in the past. Anytime he is in the point, teams will make it a point to foul him or throw an extra defender or even two in his direction, which is what the Heat did early. Oklahoma City Thunder did that in the playoffs and until Nene and the Nuggets find an answer teams will continue to play that type of defense.
- While the Heat were concentrating on stopping Nene, they overlooked what Timofey Mozgov could do on the floor and the 7-foot-1 big man made them pay. The Heat jumped out to a early 6-0 advantage, but Mozgov answered with his best Zydraunas Ilgauskas impression. He started the game by hitting an open 15-foot jumper. He then followed that with a 21-foot jumper and then scored on missed fast break basket. Before the Heat could find an answer, Mozgov had 10 first-half points. When the Heat finally got physical with Mozgov in the second half he dunked the ball on them. The Russian finished the contest with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for Mozgov and the Nuggets.
- Fernandez was once again the Nuggets spark off the bench. He had 15 points and it was his and Brewer’s defense that got to James and Wade (before he left the game) at the end.
- I have no answer for why Karl didn’t play Kenneth Faried at the end. This is the ideal game to give the rookie garbage minutes and gain some confidence. Understandable that Koufos is further up the rotation, but it wouldn’t hurt to put Faried and Koufos in at the end when the Nuggets are up by 13.
Topics: Al Harrington, Andre Miller, Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Corey Brewer, Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Dwayne Wade, George Karl, Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos, LeBron James, Miami, Oklahoma City Thunder, Rudy Fernandez, Tim Tebow, Timofey Mozgov, Ty Lawson, Zydraunas Ilgauskas