Guarding an opponent's best player never comes down to just one defender. With defenses switching more than ever and teams looking for mismatches in the halfcourt every time down the floor, team defense has never been more prevalent than in today's NBA.
Tuesday against Detroit, Denver nearly shut out Pistons' leading scorer and All-Star candidate Tobias Harris. Harris finished 0-7, and his lone two points in the Nuggets' 103-84 win came from the free-throw line.
Denver limited Harris, who was averaging 18.8 points on 47.2 shooting from the field and a career-high 45.4 percent shooting from three, behind a true team effort and some luck. Harris shot 0-5 on uncontested jumpers, per NBA.com, although the film revealed that only one or two of those attempts were truly "uncontested."
Harris also only attempted seven shots against Denver — more than a 50 percent cut from the 15 shots per game he was averaging before Tuesday's matchup. That drop-off speaks to the Nuggets staying attached to Harris and not letting him find much airspace throughout the game.
Here, Harris misses a wide-open three-pointer. He was shooting 44.1 percent on catch-and-shoot threes prior to Tuesday night, per NBA.com. That's a higher percentage than Gary Harris. Chalk this one up to good fortune for the Nuggets.
Shot No. 3 - Harris backs down the smaller Mudiay in the post.
Here, Mudiay holds his ground. Harris turns over his left shoulder but the 6-foot-5 point guard stays with him, bodies Harris and gives a really good contest even though Harris gets a sliver of separation. Because of his frame, Mudiay should usually be able to hold his ground like this against bigger players in the post.
Shot No. 4 - Harris gets a clean look from the corner off dribble penetration.
Reggie Jackson comes off a Drummond screen and gets into the lane untouched. Mason Plumlee has to come over and provide help, meaning Mudiay has to slide over and tag Drummond. Harris has space and should have made this shot. Denver survives again.
Shot No. 5 - Harris misses a transition layup
This is a nice defensive play from Lyles, who doesn't commit the foul but gives enough of a contest at the rim to make this a difficult shot.
Shot No. 6 - Harris takes a contested three over Chandler.
Not much to this one. Chandler is just one pass away and stays an arm's length from Harris after taking a step towards the middle of the floor as Avery Bradley comes off a Drummond screen.
Shot No. 7 - Lyles tracks Harris on the weakside and gives a good contest.
Harris' low number of field goals attempts also means that the Nuggets did a good job of staying attached to him in the halfcourt and transition. Chandler was Harris' primary defender throughout most of the game but nearly every player up and down Denver's roster spent some time defending the forward.
The Nuggets also forced Harris into four turnovers. One came when Plumlee drew a charge. Another came in transition when Plumlee did a great job of sprinting back on defense, catching up to Harris and then funneling him towards Chandler who was checking Drummond in the paint. Great team defense from Denver here.
Plumlee needed to play one of his best defensive games in a Nuggets' uniform against Detroit with Nikola Jokic still sidelined. He delivered.
Denver did a great job of containing Harris on Tuesday night. They'll need a similar team effort Wednesday to contain Boston's best scorer Kyrie Irving, who's averaging nearly 24 points per game.