I don't know how much you can really deduce from the first two nights of a still young NBA season, but it's already looking like this will be a season of the haves and have nots. And most fortunately for us, the Nuggets are one of the "haves."
There were some ghastly scores in the NBA tonight. Philadelphia got crushed by 14 at Orlando. The Knicks lost by 22 at Miami. The Kings mustered only 89 in Oklahoma City. The Grizzlies put up an unacceptably low 74 points in their home opener to a weak Detroit team. And worst of all, the Bobcats scored just 59 points against the Celtics who were playing the second game of a back-to-back.
The Nuggets opponent - the historically tough Utah Jazz - didn't fare much better than the NBA's other losers tonight as the Nuggets rolled over them 114-105 in front of a very energetic Pepsi Center crowd. (By the way, kudos to the passionate Nuggets fans who braved brutal weather conditions to come out and support the Nuggets in spite of the 8:30pm local start time!)
A few observations from the fan's perspective tonight...
...Starting Anthony Carter beside Chauncey Billups is doomed to failure. Not only was A.C. reckless with the ball on offense, but he might as well have defended Utah's Deron Williams while wearing a Matador's outfit and holding a red cape. It's no coincidence that the Nuggets big second half run came while A.C. was on the bench. I always have and always will defend A.C.'s effort on the floor, but he should be saved for garbage time only given how well Ty Lawson is already playing.
...Which brings us to Ty Lawson, who evidently is a quick learner. When I saw Lawson play in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, I swore he led the league in shots blocked. Clearly, Lawson has worked hard on manipulating his body to avoid getting his shot blocked and has learned a few more things as well in advance of tonight's game. Could he have played any better for a rookie debut? Welcome to the NBA, Ty Lawson!
...Carmelo Anthony is ready to play (and is going to make me look smart for drafting him in the second round of my fantasy league). Remember earlier this week when we pointed out how successful the Nuggets are when Melo takes at least nine free throw attempts, shoots 50% or better and grabs at least nine rebounds (he had eight tonight)? Those numbers are for real as are the Nuggets when Melo plays like he did tonight.
...Approximately 32 minutes per game might be the magic number for Chauncey Billups. When on the floor, Billups looked fresh and focused as evident by his 4-7 shooting from three-point range and having only one turnover.
...You had to love George Karl's beaming expression when Lawson came off the floor to a well-deserved standing ovation. Karl was like a proud father trying desperately not to overpraise his son's performance too early, but just couldn't contain himself.
Speaking of containing ourselves, let's not get too amped up over this first victory. But it certainly feels great seeing the Nuggets taking defense of their division title so seriously in Game 1. Now it's off to Portland where another one of those "haves" team awaits; the well rested Trail Blazers...
Photo courtesy of AP: David Zalubowski.