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Denver Nuggets stick to losing script, fall apart in second half to Orlando Magic

Harrison Wind Avatar
December 9, 2015

If one second-half collapse is a topic of conversation and two third quarter no-shows is a legitimate concern, what’s happening to the Denver Nuggets after halftime is now a glaring conundrum. Denver scored just 27 points in the second half and just 11 points in the fourth quarter on their way to a 85-74 loss at the hands of the visiting Orlando Magic.

“Basketball is a game of mistakes,” backup point guard Jameer Nelson said after closing another game over rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, “You’re going to make mistakes and so is the other team. So you make a mistake, you can’t drop your head. When they make a mistake you have to capitalize.”

Those mistakes, which may be better characterized as simply poor offensive execution came in the third and fourth quarters where the Nuggets shot just 24.4 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 32-23 in that second half. After tonight’s game Denver is averaging just 46.2 points in the second half, good for 29th in the league and just one point ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for dead last. The poor shooting coupled with defensive breakdowns led to frustration tonight and that trickled down from the coaching staff to the locker room after the final buzzer.

“We didn’t play great defense. We played okay defense, but our offense?” head coach Michael Malone pondered. “It’s on a milk carton. It’s missing. I don’t know where it is. I’m embarrassed by some of the turnovers that we have and we have two days to try and clean it up and get it right.”

Some of that cleanup and maintenance will come by the way of getting Danilo Gallinari off his feet and rested before Friday night’s matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Gallo, who was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise in his left knee, the same knee which he tore his ACL two years ago, played 37 minutes including the entire first and third quarters.

Gallinari was hampered by that knee all night, visibly limping and getting little lift on his jump shot. The Rooster finished with 13 points on 5-14 shooting and six rebounds.

“Is it ideal playing him that heavy of minutes? Obviously not,” Malone said. “Good thing is this week we don’t play again until Friday. We sat him out of practice yesterday to give him rest. [With] so many bodies banged up, [it] forced [us] to play him more minutes than I’d like. So yes, there is a concern, but right now we have limited bodies and were probably playing him a little bit too much. But that’s what I feel I have to do right now.”

Denver is down bodies. They were without Gary Harris for the sixth consecutive game after the concussion he suffered back on Nov. 27 in San Antonio. No Joffrey Lauvergne, who came down with the stomach flu and they lost Darrell Arthur to knee soreness mid-way through the game. Pair those two starters and Arthur with Jusuf Nurkic, who is still without a timetable to return and Wilson Chandler, who is out for the year and you can easily talk yourself into injuries being a formidable fallback for this season.

Simply put, the talent left on this roster isn’t enough to manufacture an efficient offense and maybe even defense. Emerging sixth-man-of-the-year candidate Will Barton scored 23 points on a 9-23 shooting in 37 minutes off the bench. J.J. Hickson chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds and his front court mate Kenneth Faried had seven points and 11 rebounds on just 2-12 shooting, but there still feels like there’s something missing – a full 48-minute effort.

“Our one-on-one defense lacks discipline. We give our guys personnel reports, we show personnel edits, and the guys still go out there and make the same mistakes,” Malone said. “Getting beat middle, leaving our feet on shot fakes, whatever it may be. So our attention to detail, our ability to lock in or focus and have discipline is piss poor right now, and that has a lot to do to us being a team that plays 36-40 minutes a night and not 48 minutes.”


Pepsi Center – Denver, CO / Dec. 8 2015 / Game No. 22


I’m sticking to my theory that Will Barton has been the Nuggets most important player this season and it didn’t change tonight. Barton had 23 points, but did so on 9-23 shooting. He was erratic in transition at times, but simply did things when no one else was willing to do. That theory may have its downside, but tonight Denver needed his spontaneous behavior.






Tonight, like many other nights, the third quarter was Denver’s downfall. After the Magic closed to within three at 51-48 on the heels of a mini 8-4 run to open the second half Malone pulled Randy Foye for Barton in an attempt to save the sliver of hope for a win. However, the writing was on the wall, the collapse ensued and the Denver lost another winnable home contest.


Michael Malone on Denver’s 17 turnovers:

“We look like the bad new bears. It’s embarrassing some of our turnovers. Its just embarrassing, that’s all I can say.”


After a brutal late November slate, Denver’s calendar lightens up a bit in December. The Nuggets host Minnesota and Houston, who Denver is already 2-0 against this year, then travel to Minnesota and Utah before returning home and hosting New Orleans and the L.A. Lakers.


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