Consistent rotation could help Nuggets find groove

Denver coach Brian Shaw finds benefit is using nine players
by Aaron Lopez

After 32 games, eight starting lineups and countless nights searching for effective combinations off the bench, Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw hopes he has finally found a consistent playing rotation.

Shaw used nine players in Friday night’s victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. The starters were Ty Lawson and Randy Foye in the backcourt,J.J. Hickson at center, and Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler at the forward spots.

Darrell Arthur, Evan Fournier, Timofey Mozgov and Nate Robinson were the four subs off the bench.

Expect those nine names to remain the same when the Nuggets face the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday.

“I think everybody would feel pretty good about the amount of time they got to play,” Shaw said. “They don’t feel like they’re getting yanked out. We’ll take a look at that and we’ll continue to monitor how that works. Obviously if it continues to work, we’ll continue to do that.”

For the season’s first two months, Shaw regularly played 10 or 11 players – not because he wanted to be democratic, but because he was still trying to determine his best options with a roster he was coaching for the first time.

“I’ve been hearing people in my ear all year long, ‘You can’t play 10 or 11 guys,’ but I wasn’t playing 10 or 11 guys because I’m trying to keep everybody happy and play everybody,” Shaw said. “We were so inconsistent, I was constantly searching for the right combination night in and night out.”

When Denver’s losing streak hit eight on New Year’s Day, it confirmed what Shaw had already been thinking: He needed to shorten the rotation, in part, to allow reserves such as Fournier and Robinson to stop looking over their shoulders for a quick hook.

Fournier responded by matching his season-high with 12 points against Memphis, including five during an 11-2 run that gave Denver the lead for good late in the third quarter.

“I like responsibilities,” Fournier said. “I talked to the coaching staff, so now I know what they are expecting from me. We are on the same page and can keep moving forward.

“I was on the bench with a lot of negative thoughts. It just feels good to talk to the coaches and know what they’re expecting so I can get better and just be happy. That means a lot.”

Robinson also enjoyed a resurgence. After going scoreless in back-to-back games, he scored 15 points, including 13 in the second half.

“We got to talk to all the guys individually and air some things out and give them an understanding of how it was going to be going forward,” Shaw said. “I think it liberated Evan him and I think it liberated Nate. They showed it in the way that they played. When I see the ball go in for them and I see them make winning plays, it gives me more confidence to have them out there.”

Robinson played the whole fourth quarter and did a good job contesting Mike Miller’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

Shaw chose not to foul intentionally because Denver already had surrendered 10 offensive rebounds in the game, including one off a missed free throw.

“The dilemma that you’re in at that point is, should you foul?” Shaw said. “We’ve been such a poor team boxing out and giving rebounds off of free throws that I didn’t want to foul and have them make one and then miss the second one.

“We said that they’re just going to have to make a great shot over a contested hand. (Miller) got a good look at it but we finally got a break.”


WHEN: 7:30 p.m. MT
WHERE: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV; RADIO: Altitude; AM-950

DENVER (15-17)

F Wilson Chandler
F Kenneth Faried
C J.J. Hickson
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

F Nick Young
F Shawne Williams
C Pau Gasol
G Jodie Meeks
G Kendall Marshall

Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (fractured left tibia) are out.
LOS ANGELES: Steve Blake (right elbow), Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Jordan Farmar (left hamstring), Xavier Henry (bruised right knee) and Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) are out.

Denver is 5-26 on the road against the Lakers dating back to the 1996-97 season . . . The Nuggets have won 10 of the last 16 regular season meetings overall . . . The Nuggets won the season series with the Lakers in 2012-13 (3-1), marking only their fourth season series win over Los Angeles since 1994-95 (won 3-1 in 2006-07) . . . On Feb. 27, 2009, the Lakers shot just .298 (28-94) from the field, their second-worst percentage since moving to Los Angeles in 1960 . . . On Nov. 13, 2009, the Lakers managed just 23 second-half points (a record for fewest points in a half) and just eight points in the third quarter (a Nuggets record for fewest points allowed in a quarter).