Marlowe Blog: Taking stock of Nuggets' playoff exit
Some questions tougher than others as Denver enters offseason
It’s been a very difficult week in Nuggets Nation.
Difficult for the coaches, players, staff, fans – and yes the announcers!
I’ve been tired, depressed and surly.
I haven’t shaved since the Mile High Crew lost Game 6 in Oakland and surrendered their first-round playoff series 4-2.
As an aside, I shaved a few hours before Game 6 and cut my chin badly – perhaps foreshadowing what was to come.
So, what have I been doing since the season ended? Answering questions about your Denver Nuggets.
At the gym, gas station, supermarket, walking the dog, and out to dinner.
I try my best to answer all the questions – some are actually easy to respond to.
First of all, what happened?
The Nuggets ran into to a young, hot shooting Warriors squad that was peaking at just the right time. Meanwhile, the Nuggets played their best basketball of the season in March and were dealing with the loss of Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Kenneth Faried’s sprained ankle. When your two starting forwards are out, or not 100 percent, I don’t care how much depth you have, it's tough to overcome.
Would a healthy Danilo Gallinari have made a difference?
Yes, of course. Big difference. Gallo was the Nuggets’ second-leading scorer, their top 3-point shooter and their best free-throw shooter. He was also versatile on defense, and an outstanding “Big Game Hunter.”
Why did Denver have so much trouble shooting 3-pointers?
Easy. The Nuggets were a below-average 3-point shooting team. However, I didn’t expect Wilson Chandler (41.3 percent) and Ty Lawson (36.6 percent) during the regular season, to struggle as much as they did in postseason. That being said, it was refreshing to watch Andre Iguodala shoot nearly 50 percent from long range during the playoffs.
Why did Warriors center Andrew Bogut dominate the Nuggets big men during the series?
Because he’s good! Bogut, when healthy, is a top-five center in the NBA. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2005 and a third-team All-NBA selection in 2010. During his career, he has had an assortment of difficult injuries. Unfortunately for the Nuggets he got healthy at just the wrong time.
What happened to the Denver’s defense during the playoffs?
The Warriors exposed the Nuggets major weakness: defending the 3-point shot. The Warriors were the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA this season making 40 percent of their attempts. Meanwhile, the Nuggets gave up the second-most 3-point field goals in the league. Whenever Denver chose to double team, or gambled on a steal and did not get it, the Warriors made them pay.
Two questions that come my way are much more difficult to answer.
Did Warriors coach Mark Jackson outcoach Nuggets coach George Karl?
Some football guy once said, “It’s not the X’s and the O’s that win games – it’s the Jimmys and the Joes!
That being said, Warriors coach Mark Jackson did some good work by using the three-guard (and sometimes four-guard) offense, mixing in some zone defense, and believing in rookie Draymond Green.
George Karl also showed some coaching savvy by putting the ball in the hands of Andre Miller to win Game 1, shifting to a small lineup with Wilson Chandler at center that nearly won Game 3, and starting the “big” JaVale McGee lineup, which was the catalyst for the Game 5 victory.
What do the Nuggets do now?
Re-sign Andre Iguodala and then trade for or sign a legitimate shooter.
With the 27th pick overall, draft another perimeter shooter or a post-up player who can make free throws.
Work with centers JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos on their strength, inside games and free-throw shooting.
Develop Ty Lawson’s left hand and 3-point shooting, and continue the evolution of the Manimal.
Promote Evan Fournier into the everyday playing rotation.
Finally, one more thing.
The Denver Nuggets are young and talented.
They won 57 games during the regular season and advanced to the playoffs for the 10th straight year.
Yes, they failed to advance out of the first round again this season.
But every year they keep knocking on the proverbial door.
They got through that door and all the way to the Western Conference Finals in 2009.
And it will happen again – soon.
Chris Marlowe is in his ninth year as the play-by-play voice for the Nuggets on Altitude. He is a longtime broadcaster who also served as the captain of the gold media-winning U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1984.