Note from Patrick: If I occasionally indulge myself in a little Kahn-bashing, I have to let Dre get after Karl a little. What I find remarkable about Karl is how terrible he is in the playoffs. He gets away with a lot of awful rotations in the regular season and wins a lot of games because a) his opponents are playing deep rotations with plenty of crappy players too, because it is, after all, the regular season, and b) by definition half of your regular season games are against crappy teams.
But when you get to the playoffs, you no longer have the luxury of playing 40% of your games versus Minnesota, Sacremento, and your opponent coaches, unlike Mr. Karl, are not stupid enough to let the 9th (or 10th) man on their bench get 15+ minutes of playing time. And I do find it truly spectacularly stupid to try to beat Golden State at the small ball game. Because that worked out so well for Avery Johnson. Does Karl not know that Golden State's small players are really good? And that his, well...aren't? Why isn't Javale McGee averaging 40 minutes, 25 points, and 15 rebounds a game? Anyway, I'll let Dre take if from here.
At halftime I was prepared to write how the Nuggets won in spite of Karl's bad coaching. That the key to their success was the Lawson, Iguodala and Faried decided to play well in game three after subpar game 2s. I was prepared to say that Karl had done nothing to address the Warrior's sick three point shooting, or handle the fact that the Warriors were beating us on the boards. And then, the Nuggets lost! And to make sure my fans understand I'm not a complete hater.
- It wasn't all Karl's fault . Team Dre (Miller and Iguodala) killed us! At a combined 21 points on 28 shots, they were chucking too much.
- Wilson Chandler played well. Would love to fault the dude but 60% True Shooting and 9 boards is good.
- Lawson and Faried played well and that's good.
But let's be clear. This loss belongs to Karl. As my friend Mitch used to say "I don't mind poor execution, I mind poor planning." You can sometimes have a bad night as a player, even doing the right things. But if you're chucking up halfcourt shots and trying to pass between four guys, we can be upset. Karl is that guy!
Small Ball Nonsense
Karl's not playing his seven footers to compete with Golden State's linueps. Except, he's actually falling for a trap. Using the heights and weights at basketball-reference, here's a rundown of Golden State's Average height and weight per game.
Golden State Average Height and Weight by Game
- Game 1 - 79.1 inches tall, 218.2 pounds
- Game 2 - 78.6 inches tall, 214.6 pounds
- Game 3 - 78.8 inches tall, 215.2 pounds
Denver's Average Height and Weight by Game
- Game 1 - 78.3 inches tall, 212.0 pounds
- Game 2 - 78.1 inches tall, 209.5 pounds
- Game 3 - 77.9 inches tall, 209.7 pounds
Karl is giving Jackson almost an inch and five pounds every game. Karl seems to think the ideal response to smallball is to play smaller! And let's also ask why Karl might be playing smallball to begin. Here goes on the theory. With a smaller lineup, a team is able to spread the floor more. We need smaller players to be able to keep up with them instead of bigs to stay by the hoop. Sound good? Well guess what?
In game 2 Golden State shot historically well! At 74% True Shooting and over 50% from the three, what defense was a smaller lineup providing? What's more in game 2 the Warriors also outrebounded the Nuggets by 10.
In game 3 Golden State kept it up. While not a historic night, they shot a 61% True Shooting and 40% from three. And oh yeah, they outrebounded the Nuggets by 8.
So Karl is playing smaller players and he can't keep the Warriors from scoring and can't get the ball? At Sloan, Stan Van Gundy talked about how some coaches place a system over winning. And yes, Karl is doing just that.
The Nuggets will not win with Karl in charge
The Nuggets improved roughly ten games from last season. And we'd love to credit Karl. Except there were three simple factors.
- Faried was a beast as a rookie. Just giving him more minutes was going to help.
- The Nuggets got a very good player in Iguodala.
- The Nuggets have a huge court edge due to altitude. This seemed to vanish in the lockout shortened season.
In short, the Nuggets were supposed to do better. This season wasn't a surprise. It wasn't Karl's great coaching. Good players + killer home court = winning season. That simple! The Nuggets have done a surprisingly good job of getting a roster of hardly any bad players. Karl has done a remarkable combination of giving lots of minutes to his weaker players, and playing smaller lineups. Unless you've got Jordan, Pippen and Rodman, you simple do not have the talent to forgo playing bigs. Karl hasn't learned this and as he's been a coach for almost two decades, I doubt he's going to change his ways.