The Denver Nuggets have covered all three of their games since firing head coach Brian Shaw. They’ll try to keep on the sunny side when they host the Houston Rockets as 5-point puppies on Saturday’s NBA odds board.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 6: 44-40-4 ATS, 4-7 Totals
They wanted him gone, and they got their wish. The Denver Nuggets no longer have to worry about head coach Brian Shaw or his confounded triangle offense; they let Shaw go on Tuesday, and since then, Denver is 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS under interim coach Melvin Hunt. Next up: the Houston Rockets, who visit the Malted Battery Acid Center this Saturday night (9:00 p.m. ET) on something of a high note at 6-2 SU and ATS in their past eight games. The NBA odds at press time have Houston laying five points.
There’s been plenty written over the past few years about how the triangle offense hasn’t really worked for anyone in the NBA – except for Phil Jackson, that is. Jackson’s “coaching tree” hasn’t borne much fruit; we’ve all seen what’s happening with his New York Knicks these days under Derek Fisher, and we’ve seen the likes of Kurt Rambis and Bill Cartwright fail with the ol’ triple-post.
Some of this has to do with the intricacies of the triangle. It’s not rocket science, but it is one of the more difficult offenses to master – and therefore, to teach. A lot of NBA players don’t appreciate having to play hard defense, either. Or any defense, for that matter. But you can also make a strong argument that there’s no place for the triangle in the modern game, now that people understand the value of the 3-pointer.
Faried at Last
Ultimately, Shaw had all of these things working against him in Denver. But now that he’s gone, the Nuggets (22-40 SU, 24-35-3 ATS) are a very happy bunch of players, and they’re morphing back into the team that had so much success under George Karl. Hunt was one of Karl’s assistants when Denver was crushing the NBA odds in the early 2010s. He’s got them running up and down the court just like the good old days, and for the moment, it’s working.
It isn’t all sunshine and roses, though. Breakout center Jusuf Nurkic (16.5 PER) has missed the last four games with a swollen ankle, and Darrell Arthur (12.7 PER) is out with a strained calf. However, now that Denver is running and gunning again, Nurkic (plus-3.9 DBPM) and Arthur (plus-0.9 DBPM) aren’t quite as important down low. Kenneth Faried (17.0 PER) is where it’s at right now – he’s the biggest beneficiary of Shaw’s departure, posting double-doubles in each of the last three games.
Alas Smith and Jones
Figuring out the Rockets (42-20 SU, 36-36 ATS) from one week to the next has been difficult, partly because of all the roster shuffling they’ve had to do. Dwight Howard (18.1 PER) still has that bad right knee and isn’t close to returning. But Terrence Jones (19.7 PER) has performed well now that he’s back in the lineup; Houston is 10-5 SU and 9-6 ATS in the 15 games Jones has played since his return on Jan. 28.
Having Jones in the starting lineup makes it that much easier to keep Josh Smith (15.2 PER) coming off the bench, a role in which he’s had some success since the Detroit Pistons let him go in December. Smith got a modicum of revenge Friday night when the Rockets beat Detroit 103-93 as 7.5-point home faves. He was 0-for-3 from downtown, a shot that he’s better off not taking (30.6 percent), but Smith was also a plus-15 against the overmatched Pistons reserves.
Oh, and James Harden (26.9 PER) had a triple-double. It’s always good to see The Beard in motion, and he could very well end up winning the MVP award if Stephen Curry continues to slow down in Golden State. But for now, we’re going to add the Nuggets to our NBA picks. Should be a fun game either way.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Nuggets +5 at 5Dimes