During the 2012-2013 season, the Denver Nuggets lost a total of three games at home. Through 27 games this season, they have already lost twice as many games. They are still 7-6 at home, but the fact that they are not devastating opponents in the Pepsi Center goes a long way towards explaining their 14-13 overall record.
Last season the Nuggets scored an astounding 108.4 points-per-game at altitude. This season that number is all the way down to 99.5 points-per-game. One might reasonably call that cherry-picking a statistic and there is still a lot of season left, but just think about that number. The Denver Nuggets, whose home court advantage was unmatched in recent seasons, are scoring less than 100 points a game at home. Last night they only managed 81 against the Golden State Warriors.
We’re not playing good basketball right now…We’re not playing good basketball this month. So, we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to get into a groove.”
The Nuggets fired George Karl and hired Brian Shaw because Karl’s “style” of play “doesn’t win in the playoffs.” Unfortunately for Karl, that trend extends all the way back to his previous jobs in Seattle and Milwaukee so there was enough truth in the complaint to justify his removal. Still, there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what Karl’s “system” was in Denver.
An assumption emerged that Karl came to town and blindly said “run run run!” What he actually did was coach to the personnel and the situation. Once the team dished Carmelo Anthony, he realized that their best chance to win was capitalize on their athleticism and their home city by running teams ragged. This philosophy didn’t win in the playoffs, but it did carry this team all the way to the #3 seed in the West last year.
The Nuggets hired Shaw because his system best projects to success in the playoffs. Problem is, the team has to win in the regular season first, something that won’t happen if things continue as they are now. This front office might have underestimated the value of what Karl figured out by coaching to his personnel and his situation, even if those wins hadn’t yet come in the playoffs.