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Three Stars of the Night: The Nuggets are still very odd

Jan 21, 2013, 1:00 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

If you needed further confirmation that the Denver Nuggets are in fact very strange, tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder provided some material.

Andre Iguodala, the All-Star swingman, the Gold Medalist, the highest paid player on the Nuggets, didn’t play in the fourth quarter and barely played in overtime.

JaVale McGee…did JaVale McGee things. He tried playing point-center on one possession and headed up a fast break that eventually, predictably, ended up in a turnover. A few possessions later, he ducked out of the way of a pass headed right for him.

Andre Miller, who shoots a flinging set shot (and 19 percent from 3), acted as the team’s crunch time shooting guard.

Put it all together, throw in some big buckets by one of our stars, and what do you get? A win over one of the best teams in the league. I don’t understand the Nuggets, and I’m not going to try to. Let’s get to the Three Stars from Sunday’s action:

Third Star: Russell Westbrook – (36 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocked mascot shots)

Remember all the stories about how Michael Jordan used to look for perceived slights so he could have the motivation to go tear an opponent up? Russell Westbrook is like that, except he doesn’t have to manufacture the criticism. Seeing Westbrook sort of embrace the fact that he’ll never be the “true point guard” fans want has become one of my favorite things about this season. For all intents and purposes, he’s the NBA’s new super villain. He’s demonstrative, he robs fans of free queso, and you can tell he genuinely enjoys getting under everyone’s skin. Westbrook was in full-blown bad guy mode on Sunday against the Nuggets, driving to the rim with reckless abandon and throwing his body in defenders to get to the free throw line a whopping 17 times. Westbrook’s a momentum player, both in the sense that’s he unstoppable when he gets to full speed, and that once he gets a few shots to go down, he usually gets on a roll. The Nuggets survived a comeback spurred by Westbrook that included a huge deep 3-pointer, but if Westbrook is truly the villain he portrays, he won’t forget this game the next time these two teams meet up.

Second Star: Jose Calderon – (22 points and 9 assists in 30 minutes)

Was the Lakers defense deplorable? Of course. But a lot of credit also goes to Calderon, who really saw the floor brilliantly and probed in the pick-and-roll for the Raptors all night. Toronto shot a ridiculous 54 percent from the field against the Lakers, and Calderon’s 22 points magnified the big weaknesses of the Lakers’ defense. The Raptors were great in transition, but even when the game slowed down, Calderon moved the ball to the open man and always made the correct swing pass. If Calderon really is available come trade deadline time, some contender would be very lucky to have his decision making and shooting abilities added to their team.

First Star: Corey Brewer – (26 points, 6 rebounds, 15 points in the 4th quarter)

George Karl went with his gut, and Corey Brewer rewarded him in a serious way. When he wasn’t harassing Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook defensively, Brewer was spotting up in the corner and letting ‘em rip from deep. For a team that has both struggled to shoot from the perimeter (29th in 3-point percentage) and put away games in clutch situations, every one of Brewer’s 15 points were like manna from heaven (the non-Darko Milicic variety) for Karl and the Nuggets down the stretch. Although Oklahoma City eventually caught them in regulation, Brewer’s hot shooting and aggressive nature kept Iguodala on the bench in overtime, which was probably a good thing on a night where he clearly didn’t have it. That’s the luxury Karl has with this deep roster, and although questions about their title chances remain, players like Brewer make the Nuggets a very tough out during the regular season.

  1. 00maltliquor - Jan 21, 2013 at 1:09 AM

    Corey Brewer has really come into his own since joining DEN. Nice to see him not just be another useless former T-Wolves wing player-lottery pick.

  2. dko83 - Jan 21, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    Gotta love the Nugs. Some GMs need to get a slap on the wrist for letting Faried drop, but still.. I love watching this “odd” team.

  3. pdavies576 - Jan 21, 2013 at 4:22 AM

    You may call us odd but most teams wouldn’t want to face us in the playoffs.

  4. fredagsedb - Jan 21, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    Nuggets aren’t odd. They’re just well coached. George Karl looks to who is producing, when he puts his team on the floor, not who has the most accolades or who’s making the most money. That’s liberating in the NBA of our time.

    Size has always gotten contracts, so it’s not really a surprise that Javale McGee is making so much money. He is playing the minutes he should be when you’re looking at his play.

    It is not odd that you wan’t your veteran PG to run the show when the chips are down. Miller has always been able to contribute with scoring even though he’s not a premier 3pt shooter. He’s averaging 13.9 ppg for his career, and he has always been exceptional in running a team.

    I’ll agree that Iggy not playing late is surprising because he has played well this year, but if he wasn’t playing well in this game, or if Brewer was playing better, I think Karl’s choice make a lot of sense.

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