Last we checked on Brian Shaw, the Nuggets coach was blaming his team’s slow starts on pizza and nachos.
But replacing the junk food with healthier options hasn’t turned Denver’s fortunes early in games.
The Nuggets have lost all eight first quarters this month, though they’ve gone 5-3 in those games. The issue isn’t isolated to December, either. Denver has the 10th-best net rating overall, but just 21st-best in the first quarter.
“We had Steve Hess, our strength coach, kind of change up some of the routines in warm-ups,” Shaw said. “And the only thing that it came down to was after you look at the film is defensive alertness. We’re scoring enough points, for the most part, in the first quarters. But defensively, we’re allowing teams to get comfortable, swing the ball around and just feel like they’re out there five-on-zero.”
Shaw has stressed that his players get out on the court after the pregame chalk talk to warm up, something not every player has been known to do.
“We are done with our talk, and chalk talk and board work and film session, usually with about 23 or 24 minutes left on the game clock before the game starts,” Shaw said. “They are supposed to be ready and out on the floor to get a good 20-minute workout. And what we’ve been finding as well as we’ve been researching what the problem is, is we come back in the locker room a lot of times and it’s 16 minutes on the clock and there’s a lot of guys still in the locker room.
“We’re trying to get them out there and make them understand that’s what it takes. You’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to get loose, you’ve got to get warm. We’re hitting every angle that we can, and hopefully it will be remedied soon.”
As I wrote before, the statistics don’t prove Denver’s first-quarter struggles are anything more than natural variance. But Shaw is also better positioned to see how the Nuggets are playing rather than just what they’re producing. A lethargic team might do OK, but a coach knows that’s living dangerously.
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But because the 14-9 Nuggets are playing so well in spite of their early struggles, that makes Shaw’s focus more reasonable. What else is he supposed to concentrate on? The Nuggets are exceeding expectations in most aspects of the game.
This is one area where Shaw thinks he can foster and improvement, and whether or not he truly can, his attention to detail remains encouraging.