Christmas break offers Nuggets chance to regroup

Denver has three days off following loss to Golden State
by Aaron Lopez

A hiatus from the hardwood might be good for the Denver Nuggets.

They can temporarily forget about game plans, defensive assignments, sluggish first quarters and frustrating finishes.

“Definitely a good time for a break,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “I told the guys to enjoy their families over the next couple of days. We’ll have a good crisp practice on Thursday. Maybe this is exactly what we need, to get away from each other for a couple days and then get back to it.”

The Nuggets (14-13) could use the respite after falling to the Golden State Warriors 89-81 on Monday night at Pepsi Center.

Denver fought back from an early 15-point deficit, but managed just 15 points in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets have lost four in a row overall and four of their past five home games.

“We’re not playing good basketball right now,” reserve point guard Andre Miller said. “We have to figure out how to get into a groove . . . We need some better practice, probably. That’s the way you’re going to get better. Maybe the break will help. We’ll see how it turns out after we get back from Christmas.”

There will be plenty of things to work on when the Nuggets get back to work in advance of a two-game road trip to New Orleans and Memphis on Friday and Saturday.

Interior defense, shot selection, turnovers and defensive rebounding are among the main trouble spots.

Against the Warriors, Denver allowed David Lee (28 points, 10 rebounds) to find a comfortable zone in the post; surrendered 20 second-chance points; and committed 18 turnovers that led to 21 points for Golden State.

The Nuggets also trailed after the first quarter for the 11th time in the past 12 games and fizzled in the fourth quarter for the second straight home game. After being outscored 31-17 against Phoenix on Friday, they couldn’t hold a five-point fourth-quarter lead against the Warriors.

“We couldn’t hit any shots,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson said. “We have to be able to execute in the clutch.”

As has been the case for most of the season, the bench was a bright spot for the Nuggets against Golden State. Miller had 14 points and eight assists, while Nate Robinson provided a spark with 13 points.

Denver, though, failed to capitalize after Warriors point guard Stephen Curry picked up four fouls in the first half. Golden State often employed a zone defense to protect their leading scorer, and he didn’t commit a foul after halftime.

“I didn’t think we attacked him as much as we should have,” Shaw said. “We had a lot of opportunities where he was the only defender back and for whatever reason we passed the ball. We know he's their best player and having him out of the game would have helped us out a lot.”

Curry finished with just 14 points, but former Nuggets swingman Andre Iguodala had 12 points, including a critical 3-pointer that pushed Golden State’s lead to five points with 3:19 remaining.

The Nuggets closed within three, but Klay Thompson hit a tough turnaround jumper to put the game out of reach with 22.6 seconds left.

“I don’t think that we’re playing with the confidence or the sense of urgency that it takes to win,” Miller said. “It’s a tight race at the bottom and we can easily move up or we could easy fall out. We just have to figure out a way to get our confidence back and share the ball a little bit more.”

Denver played without starting power forward Kenneth Faried, who sat out with a sprained ankle. Timofey Mozgov started at center, with J.J. Hickson sliding over to power forward.

Mozgov finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.