Marlowe Blog: OKC game was revealing for Nuggets
Despite injuries, free-throw woes, Denver showed improvement in loss
It was game No. 10 on the Denver Nuggets schedule, one-eighth of the way through the regular season.
The Nuggets were on the road in hostile territory – Chesapeake Energy Arena – where the home team almost never loses.
The opponent: the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that won 60 games last year and might have made it to the NBA finals if not for an injury to point guard Russell Westbrook.
The Nuggets were missing two starters: Danilo Gallinari, perhaps their best all around front line “big,” and JaVale McGee, the team’s leading shot blocker.
I know what you’re thinking. It was a blowout, right? Not so fast, my friends!
The undermanned Nuggets played one of their best games of the season, and, if not for missing 18 free throws, would have beaten the Thunder at their own game.
It was a game that told me that, at their best, the Nuggets can beat any team in the NBA!
They have size, speed and skill, and despite the fourth-quarter malaise in OKC, their half court offense is improving quickly. I admit the defense is a work in progress, but it figures to get much better when coach Brian Shaw’s system becomes second nature and Gallo and McGee are back in the fold.
Now, regarding those 18 missed free throws …
I believe that the Nuggets will not miss 18 free throws in any other game this season. It was an anomaly.
Remember how it all went down? J.J. Hickson missed his first attempt, then Randy Foye missed a technical, then Timofey Mozgov – fouled while trying to dunk – missed two more. The situation began to snowball, and once it started rolling, it could not be stopped.
Still, I wouldn’t worry about free throw shooting too much. Foye, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, Nate Robinson, Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton and Gallo when he returns, all have the ability to shoot 80 percent or above this season.
So, after 10 games, how would you rate the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets?
Many of the doubters feel anguish over wins and losses. They lament the loss of Messieurs Iguodala, Brewer and Koufos. They dwell on the fact that the Nuggets don’t have a legitimate superstar.
I say, “Let them eat cake!”
In my opinion, there is one sure way to judge the Nuggets this season: Are they getting better? The answer to that question is a big YES.
And, if that improvement continues, it should lead the Mile High Crew right back into the playoffs.
Chris Marlowe is in his 10th 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.