Denver Nuggets: Key to ending their losing streak against the Hawks

(Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

The Denver Nuggets are in the midst of a 4-game losing streak that seems to have come out of nowhere.

After the Nuggets tied their best start to a season in their history, winning 9 of their first 10 games, then promptly lost their next 4.

Several issues that have plagued them all season were present in the losses. They shot an average of 37.2% from 3-point range, which seems pretty good, however, they only shot above 28% from beyond the arc in two of the 4 games. They also shot worse than their opponents from 3-point range in all but one of the games. That game was the most recent loss against the Rockets, which also happened to be the Nuggets biggest loss of the season.

While it has been nice to see them improve their 3-point shooting in the past two games, that hasn’t been a huge problem throughout the season or even in this losing streak. The Nuggets were 9-1 with a bottom-5 3-point percentage in the league. The real problems over the past few games have been defense and scoring in general.

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Denver had a lower effective field goal percentage in 3/4 losses, usually by a fairly big majority. A big part of that issue is the starting back court of Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, who have shot just 27% from 3-point range in this string of losses. A lot of that blame can be put on Murray, generally a steady 3-point shooter, who has not made a 3-pointer in the past 3 games. That kind of shooting is unacceptable from a pair who combined for 321 made 3-pointers last season, especially because of how badly the Nuggets need players to step up on offense.

With all of these in mind, here is the key to the game for the Nuggets-Hawks matchup.

(Note: All stats are via Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.)

Key: Shut down Atlanta big men

The matchup at big man has been a huge factor in all of the Nuggets past 4 losses.

Against the Rockets, Clint Capela dominated Denver’s defense, making 11 of 15 shots for a game-high 24 points. He also led the Rockets in rebounds with 9, with 3 of those being offensive boards.

Against the Bucks, Brook Lopez knocked down 8 3-pointers on 61.5% shooting from deep for a game-high 28 points. He was solid on defense as well, registering 2 blocks and a steal with Nikola Jokic scoring just 20 points on 14 shots.

The Nets’ Jarrett Allen didn’t have an incredible game on offense, but he still scored 18 points on 50% shooting from the field. He really did his damage on defense, putting up 5 blocks and the 3rd lowest DRtg among both teams(106).

Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies also had a solid game against the Nuggets, putting up 20 points and 12 rebounds on 46.2% shooting from the field. He also made all 7 of his 7 free throw attempts, had a game-low DRtg of 87, and a game-high BPM of +15.

Notice a trend?

While Nikola Jokic has improved his defense greatly over the summer, the Nuggets are still struggling to defend big men. A lot of that isn’t just Jokic’s fault, as the Nuggets have had a lot of trouble switching among wing players and guards, and Jokic will often have to help on the perimeter.

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This must be remedied this game, otherwise, the team will be looking at a five game losing streak.