2012 NBA Playoff Postmortem: Denver Nuggets

Javale McGee reacts in pain in their Game 7
loss to the LA Lakers.
(image by Harry How/Getty Images)
After the Nuggets traded for Javale McGee, I sincerely thought they were off their medication.

It turns out, maybe I was off my medication instead.

What, on paper, looked like a boneheaded transaction, turned out to be quite golden for the Nuggets. McGee has helped the team with his athleticism, and there hasn’t really been any of his trademark knucklehead moments since he moved up to the Rockies.

The irony, however, is that Denver might just part with him in the offseason. Heck, he might already be in another franchise’s roster not even 6 months removed from the end of their playoff run.

Not because McGee is a bad player. On the contrary, he has shown that, given the right kind of players around him, he can actually be very effective. Of course, that’s so long as all you expect is for him to get rebounds and block shots. McGee won’t score in the 20s on most
nights, but, at his worst, he’s a much younger, better version of Chris Andersen. Last I heard, McGee also isn’t suspected of involvement in child pornography.

But the former Washington Wizard isn’t really the biggest reason the Nuggets finished 6th out West and pushed the heavily-favored Lakers to the brink.

The biggest reason is the smallest guy on Denver’s starting unit – Ty Lawson.

Ty Lawson could be an All-Star next season.
(image by Kevork Djasenzian/Getty Images)
In 34 minutes per game, Lawson averaged about 19 points and 6 assists against LA. He was a bona fide whirling dervish who hounded and pounded Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions repeatedly. It would’ve been awesome to see him square off with Russell Westbrook had the Nuggets pushed through to the second round. He’ll be awesome next season, and Denver would do well to offer him a contract extension. 

If that does happen, the Nuggets will probably have locked in their core for the foreseeable future. Picture this as Denver’s strong five: Lawson at the point with Arron Afflalo at the 2, Danilo Gallinari as the swingman, Kanneth Faried as the PF, and McGee manning the slot. That can be a top 4 team in the West as early as next season – a top 4 team in the same breath as Memphis or the Clippers, not necessarily like San Antonio, Oklahoma City, or even the Lakers.

Truth be told, it would be wise for Denver to stick with this promising group of young ‘uns and bet their fortunes that as these kids continue to grow, so will the strength and projection for the team. If there’s anything they should tweak, though, it’s this: unload veterans Andre Miller and Al Harrington for maybe two or three more young guys who can contribute more athleticism off the bench. Get some more guys who can play at the starting five’s pace, and the Nuggets might just get over the hump.

Game Recaps:

PHI over BOS, 82-81
Evan Turner scored the go-ahead layup with his back to the basket Monday night and the 76ers survived a frantic finish to beat the Celtics, 82-81, and even their semifinal series at a game apiece. Jrue Holiday scored 18 points, Andre Iguodala had 13 and the Sixers nearly let another double-digit lead go to waste before pulling away in the final minute. Kevin Garnett hit a 3 at the buzzer for the one-point margin. He was called for an offensive foul on a key Boston possession in the final seconds. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference series is Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

OKC over LAL, 119-90
The Oklahoma City Thunder made an emphatic statement Monday, annihilating the title-tested Los Angeles Lakers, 119-90, in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series. The Thunder, well-rested following an opening-round sweep of the defending champion Mavericks, led by as many as 35 in the rout thanks to 53 percent shooting and productive games by their All-Star duo and Sixth Man of the Year. Russell Westbrook totaled 27 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, while Kevin Durant added 25 points and eight boards for Oklahoma City, which got 17 points off the bench from James Harden. Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant also netted 20 points, but Los Angeles was already looking forward to Wednesday's Game 2 by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Two days after winning a deciding Game 7 against the Nuggets, Los Angeles trailed by 15 at halftime and was outscored 39-24 in third.

IND over MIA, 78-75
With the game on the line, All-Stars LeBron James or Dwyane Wade didn't take the final shot for Miami, and Indiana held on to even their Eastern Conference semifinal series after two games. David West scored 16 points and George Hill added 15, including a big free throw with 14.1 seconds left, as the Pacers earned a 78-75 victory Tuesday night. The Heat had a chance to tie at the buzzer, but a three-point try from Mario Chalmers hit off the rim. James had 28 points and Wade scored 24 for the shorthanded Heat, who shot just 34.6 percent and were outscored 28-14 in the third quarter. The Heat captured the opener on Sunday with a 95-86 triumph, but lost forward Chris Bosh to a lower abdominal strain. Miami will likely not have Bosh back for the remainder of this series. Game 3 of the best-of- seven series will be in Indianapolis on Thursday.

Leandro Barbosa reacts after a scuffle between the
Pacers and the Heat in Game 2.
(image by Wilfredo Lee/AP)
SAS over LAC, 108-92
The San Antonio Spurs tied a franchise playoff record with 13 three-pointers and never trailed in the second half of their series-opening 108-92 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. There were 12 lead changes in a tight first half of this Western Conference semifinal, but the well-rested Spurs opened up a 19-point lead in the third quarter and never looked back. Tim Duncan led the way with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Manu Ginobili chipped in 22 points in San Antonio's 15th straight win dating back to the regular season, which included an opening-round sweep of the Utah Jazz. The Clippers, two days removed from a Game 7 win in Memphis, were led by Eric Bledsoe's 23 points. Caron Butler and Blake Griffin each chipped in 15, while Chris Paul netted just six on 3-of-13 shooting. Game 2 of the series will be in San Antonio on Thursday.

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from Reuters, the Associated Press and the Sports Network.

Next Post »
0 Comment