The Denver Nuggets played a grueling stretch of five games in six nights and three games in three nights, but managed to muster up the execution and and energy needed to close out the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. The 91-86 home victory helped the Nuggets finish 2-1 in their patch of three games in three nights, and now they only have to deal with that pressure once more this season, Feb. 1st-3rd.
With Nene out due to foot soreness, a big advantage for Denver in the second half was the ability to play a lighter lineup with perimeter threats at every position. Despite giving up at least five inches and 20 pounds to Andrew Bogut, Al Harrington limited the Bucks' center to 1-3 shooting in the 4th quarter and allowed George Karl to keep a smaller lineup in at the end of the game. Here is Harrington on his approach to guarding Bogut in the closing minute of the game, via NBA.com :
I just told my teammates if they had an opportunity and wanted to double they could double, but in my mind I was going to guard him straight up, hold him up, and just contest any shot he was going to take. I knew it was going to be one of those little hooks. Once he turned to shoot it I just tried to get in his air space.
Bogut on Harrington's post defense, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
I couldn't score on him. He's so strong down there and he just pushed me off the block. I couldn't really make them pay for going small. He was a game-changer for them.
The Bucks had plenty of chances -- including four opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final 76 seconds -- but never quite did enough to outplay the Nuggets in the fourth quarter. SB Nation's Milwaukee Bucks blog, Brew Hoop, explained a key aspect of the loss:
All told, Denver's best players soundly outplayed their Milwaukee counterparts and in the end that made the outcome feel about right. Ty Lawson (16 points on 13 shots, six assists, one turnover) bettered Brandon Jennings (5/16 fg, 12 pts, 3 ast, 6 to), Danilo Gallinari was steady and efficient with 21 points and 10 boards on just 12 shots, and Al Harrington (17 points on 12 shots, eight rebs) ran circles around the bigger Andrew Bogut and everyone else the Bucks threw at him. Not the way the Bucks wanted to kick off their five game Western road trip, but they don't have much time to dwell on it with a game in Utah on Tuesday night.