Crunch time. Two possession game. James Harden has been completely locked up due to some stingy perimeter defense, but he still lurks as a viable closer. Rockets forward Patrick Patterson is hitting corner 3-pointers, which is apparently a thing that happens now. This has been a sloppy game, but it’s winning time for the Nuggets. Time to put your best lineup on the floor and seal this thing.
So who does Nuggets head coach George Karl trot out to close the game? Oh, just your standard four forward, Lawson-Brewer-Iguodala-Gallinari-Faried lineup that would make every coach not named Don Nelson blush.
That’s what makes the Nuggets fun to watch, even when they sometimes really aren’t. They can go through a brutal third period where nothing happens offensively, but you still can’t turn away, even as they turn over the ball 21 times on the game. There’s just something so alluring about the endless possibilities the Nuggets present — the chance that you’ll see something unique when watching them. It’s the chance that you’ll see something that can’t really be matched by any other team.
Or, ya know, it’s the chance to watch someone like Kenneth Faried.
Denver’s second year forward hogged all the eyeballs in this one, stealing Harden’s (ahem) thunder as he took over the game with some incredible displays of athleticism, leading the Nuggets to a 93-87 victory over the Rockets.
The beginning of the end came off a fine assist late in the fourth quarter from Andre Miller, whose sole purpose in life is to throw picture perfect lobs. This particular lob was about as good as it gets — from behind half court, Miller gauged the timing just right and put the ball on the mark for a streaking Faried. All of Faried’s tightly wound 6-foot-8 frame exploded into the air in a jaw-dropping display of athleticism that, again, makes the mind race with possibilities.
Faried’s next big play may have been even better. As James Harden did his trademark arms in front, sweep through the lane move, Faried tracked him step for step and timed his attempt at the rim perfectly, turning away a player who had come in averaging 35 points a game. Although Harden’s 5-for-15, 6 turnover performance can mostly be attributed to some killer perimeter defense from Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer, it was Faried playing the role of rim protector and primary rebounder when the game got tight, something you wouldn’t necessarily expect with three viable 7-footers on the sideline.
What we’re seeing in Denver is something that’s been in the cards for a while now. The positional revolution is something we’ve all been whispering about, but lumbering 7-footers and “big” shooting guards still roam the plains. George Karl, however, just acts like a kid at the soda fountain, pouring a bit of each flavor into a cup and happily testing how it turns out.
And really, it takes a coaching staff willing to experiment (do you hear this, Kevin McHale?) and look past the labels for a play like Miller-to-Faried to even happen. Like “Moneyball” displayed so wonderfully, it needs to be a mindset that permeates throughout every level of the organization. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey probably loves the idea of Royce White’s versatility, but if Kevin McHale doesn’t play him, what does it matter?
There’s no such disconnect in Denver, and the result is Miller (playing shooting guard) throwing dimes to Faried (playing center) and inspiring the imagination. And if things go well in Denver this season? Maybe they’ll also ignite the revolution.