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What We Learned After Game One: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets were favored to win their season opener against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena, home of the Kings. But the Nuggets, under first-year head coach Brian Shaw, got off to a slow start. Carelessness with the ball and shot-selection spoiled their season opener, falling to Sacramento 90-88.

Standout Players:
There were two players that stood out for the Nuggets tonight; point guard Ty Lawson and power forward J.J. Hickson. Lawson finished the game with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists. Despite shooting (5/15) from the field, he was strong at the charity stripe, going a perfect 8-for-8. Hickson on the other hand was strong on the glass, hauling down 9 rebounds, and provided the Nuggets with a solid scoring option in the post. Hickson is the type of player the Nuggets have been missing for quite some time; He provides more than just a rebounding presence and his post-play, he is a really active defender and fits in well with the offense that Brian Shaw is trying to run. Also, I’d like to throw Randy Foye in this category as well. He shot 4-of-8 from the field, 2-for-5 from deep. He ended up with 12 points and 5 rebounds. In my opinion, I really think he is an upgrade over Andre Iguodola, just not defensively.

Newly acquired point guard Nate Robinson was on my radar in last night’s game, but he failed to show up. He shot 0-for-5 from the field, with 0 points coming off of a season where he averaged 13.1 points per game. He is a competitor but seemed to lack that energy and focus. Next on my list, is power forward Kenneth Faried. The “Manimal” only played for 15 minutes, shooting 1-for-4 from the field, and pulling down 5 rebounds. His minutes were limited due to the stellar play of J.J. Hickson, and Timofey Mozgov. Last but not least, JaVale McGee. McGee still has a lot to improve with his game, but what’s frustrating as a fan is seeing him continually try to take 15-foot jump-shot’s, and brick them. He only played 10 minutes, accumulating 4 points and only one rebound.

The Positives:
There are still 81 games left to be played to determine this teams fate. Despite turning the ball over 18 times, the Nuggets only lost by two points the Sacramento Kings, and hung in for most of the game. They are still without small forwards Wilson Chandler, who is day-to-day, and Danilo Gallinari, who will likely return in late-November, early-December. Free-throw shooting was horrific for the Nuggets last season, but they managed to go 15-of-17 from the line (.882%). And finally, the Nuggets continued to show their speed and athleticism, scoring 23 fast-break points.

The Negatives:
As I mentioned earlier, they turned the ball over 18 times, that’s giving the opposing team more opportunies to cash in on points. Shot-selection needs to be better, at times there was terrible spacing and the physical play in the post needs to improve. Brian Shaw said he wants the Nuggets to play “Smashmouth Basketball”, we didn’t see that against the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins single-handedly punished the Nuggets, pulling down 14 boards and scoring 30 points, 13-of-26 shooting.

It will take time for this team to gel, due to the fact they have four new players. This loss should not impact the outcome of the season. Fun Fact: the Nuggets started off last season 0-3, losing to the 76ers, Magic, and Heat, and ended up finishing 57-25.



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