After picking up a much-needed win to snap an 8-game losing streak against the Grizzlies on Friday, the Denver Nuggets followed with a good old-fashioned trouncing of the Lakers on Sunday night. There’s a lot to take away from this upswing in momentum, but the most important is the consistent rotation head coach Brian Shaw has been playing these two games. It’s taken over 30 games, but Brian Shaw has finally found his rotation.
The starting lineup has been pretty steady since center Javale McGee bowed out with a broken leg, but as a unit, is really coming together. Ty Lawson is on the fringe of making it to his first All-Star Game and his backcourt mate Randy Foye finally seems comfortable with the team and is playing lights-out in his last five. The frontcourt is also contributing at a high level. At times this season, Wilson Chandler has been the Nuggets’ best player and only source of offense. Kenneth Faried is doing his usual, cleaning the glass and throwing down spectacular power dunks much to the enjoyment of the Pepsi Center faithful. While I still think Timofey Mozgov should start over J.J. Hickson so there is some size in the starting five, J.J. has been putting up solid numbers and leads the team in double-doubles.
The Nuggets are third in the league in bench scoring, but the bench has been erratic on the whole. After the Andre Miller situation and after individual meetings, Brian Shaw has settled on a 4-man bench. And he’s been rewarded. Mozzie is averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds the past two games, while providing enough solid post defense to cause Zach Randolph and Pau Gasol trouble. Nate Robinson is starting to do what he always does, play microwave ball. He also averaged 18 these past two, shooting 57 percent from the floor, 60 percent from three. The other two guys of the four are Darrell Arthur, consistent as always, and Evan Fournier, who is finally getting some minutes to show the potential he flashed at the end of last season.
So what have been the results? Putting up 111 on defensive minded Memphis and blowing away the Lakers by 22, scoring 137 along the way. It may have taken Shaw a while, but the most difficult part of being a first year head coach is out-of-the-way.
For now, anyway.
Andre Miller is set to return Tuesday against Boston, so we’ll see how both men handle that. Then there is the eventual return of incumbent starters McGee and Danilo Gallinari to the lineup. The return of all make the team better, but only if Brian Shaw can rise to the occasion and shuffle the right players in the right proportions. If that happens, the Nuggets will once again be playoff bound.