The Denver Nuggets are now winners of five straight, two full games over .500 for the first time since Dec. 21 and quickly recovering from an eight-game losing streak that was the franchise’s worst since before Carmelo Anthony was drafted in 2003.
The Nuggets turned a PAGE on the basketball court. During the winning streak, which started on Jan. 3,Denver is averaging a league-leading 119.6 points a game. That’s a remarkable 26-point increase over the Nuggets’ per game average in the eight-game losing streak. They’ve increased their 3-point field goal percentage to 43.3 percent from 27.8 percent and even the defense is playing better; teams are scoring eight fewer points per 100 possessions now compared to the losing streak (holding teams to 98.2 points per 100 possessions from 106.8).
The Nuggets set a team record when beating the Orlando Magic with four consecutive games with 12 or more made 3-point shots. The best part is that I actually enjoy watching Nuggets games again.
However by doing a quick Google search for the Denver Nuggets today, it’s easy to see the good play has been overshadowed by the Andre Miller fiasco that started during the Nuggets’ eighth straight loss to Memphis. In that game, Andre Miller scolded Brian Shaw both on the bench and in the locker room for not getting minutes.
Even though the Nuggets haven’t lost since, Andre Miller hasn’t returned to team activities since the fiasco. Even though he served the original two game suspension for ‘conduct detrimental to the team.
The situation has brought constant questions to the Nuggets, “when will Andre Miller return, how will he get along with Shaw (who still hasn’t spoken to Miller), who the Nuggets will trade Miller to, who will the Nuggets get in return.”
The Nuggets are a young team with an average age of 25 without 37-year-old Andre Miller. Basically it’s become a big old distraction. But since they haven’t lost without him, one has to wonder was Andre Miller the problem?
Andre Miller was averaging six points and 3.3 assists in 19 minutes a game this season. Sharply down from his career averages of 13 points and seven assists in 33 minutes. He was the best back to the basket post player, the only true vet on this team. In the Nuggets coaching transition, he quickly went from being George Karl’s “favorite player he’s ever coached” to Brian Shaw’s third-string point guard.
So, getting him out of the locker room was the Nuggets instant fix, right? Wrong. The two biggest factors in the Nuggets improved play is the improved shooting and Brian Shaw’s smaller rotation.
On top of a naturally breaking out of a shooting slump, the Nuggets are playing nine players a night in close games instead of 12. This has allowed for the Nuggets’ best players to be on the floor longer and they have responded in a great way. With an average margin of victory of 17 points in the five-game winning streak, the numbers are better despite many key players are sitting the fourth quarter.
By finally getting 40 minutes a game in non-blowouts, Ty Lawson is playing like an All-Star again. He is averaging three more assists per game during the winning streak as compared to the losing streak. Along with almost two more points a game, a higher field goal percentage and dropped his average turnovers by one a game. He capped this with a beautiful 16-point, 14-assist, seven-rebound game in the Nuggets’ best win this season over OKC on Jan. 9.
Kenneth Faried’s starting to look like the Manimal we know him to be. He’s got 2 more double doubles in the last four games than he did in the entire eight-game losing streak (and was one rebound away from a double-double vs Orlando). He’s increased his averages by 7.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in the wins vs. the losses.
No one has been better since Miller left than Randy Foye, ladies and gentleman! In the losing streak I wanted the Nuggets to drop the guy. No one has looked like a completely different player in January than Foye. Despite my initial judgment, Foye may be a shooter after all.
Foye is averaging four made 3-point baskets a game on 54.1 percent 3-point shooting in the winning streak. Compared to the ugly 0.4 (yes, you read that right POINT 4) made on 12.5 percent shooting in the losing streak. HE’S SHOOTING 46 PERCENT BETTER. Having Foye hit shots early in games is is keeping the Nuggets from getting down early, bringing confidence to the shooters around him, including Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller and Wilson Chandler, and is the single biggest reason the Nuggets are winning again.
There’s no way Foye can continue to shoot 54 percent from beyond the arc, but we can expect this shooting to remain a lot better than the 27.8 percent he shot in December because he shot 41 percent for Utah last season.
It wasn’t Andre Millers play that kept the Nuggets from winning, but it appears him leaving the locker room lifted the cold streak the Nuggets faced in the eight-game losing streak. I hate to Dre go out like this, but his distraction doesn’t matter as long as the wins keep coming.