Playing like their competition... (Nuggets/Knicks recap)

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Just because the Nuggets were playing the Knicks tonight, didn't mean they had to play like them.

First off, why is it that Nate always gets to recap the feel good walkover victories whereas I'm saddled with the games - win or loss - with a negative bent?  I hate to be so negative after a W, but I guarantee George Karl and his coaching staff aren't the least bit happy with the way tonight's victory went down.  And neither should we.

The Nuggets hosted one of the shortest and worst defensive teams in the NBA tonight, but rather than drive the ball to the rack and punish the Knicks porous interior defense they engaged in a long-range shootout from the opening tip, at the risk of wasting Carmelo Anthony's finest scoring night of his career.  The Nuggets 35 free throw attempts is a phony number, too, because a large percentage of those free throw tries came as the result of the Knicks being over the foul limit in virtually every quarter.  

And that was just on the offensive end of the floor.  

Defensively, the Nuggets might as well have worn matador outfits and held out red capes all night as they allowed the Knicks to routinely waltz into the lane en route to a 49% shooting night for their opponents from the Big Apple (the Knicks typically shoot about 43% from the field, fourth worst in the NBA).  There's an old NBA saying that the first team to 100 points wins, but that's not necessarily the case when both teams are tied at 100 with over seven minutes to go.

All that said, it was a thoroughly enjoyable game to watch for offense junkies.  Melo's career high 50 points was sensational, complete with a lot of "oh, no don't take that sho----oh, yeah!!!!" makes.  It's hard to believe that Melo - he of the 33-point quarter - had never dropped 50 in a game before.  He was certainly overdue.  

But as well as Melo played, the Nuggets were unable to get Melo involved offensively down the stretch and closing duties fell to Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith who combined to make the game's final six, very clutch field goals (four for J.R. and two for Chauncey, including the very last two in the game).  I've heard rumblings from Nuggets fans lately concerned about Chauncey's scoring accuracy, and hopefully tonight's performance puts many of those doubts to rest.

It needs to be acknowledged, however, that somewhat similar to the recent contests against the Clippers and Nets, the Nuggets are falling into a bad habit of playing down to the level of their competition (or, in tonight's case, playing like them).  Instead of having lesser opponents dictate the tempo of the game, the Nuggets should be imposing their will on the dregs of the NBA.  This is the NBA, though, and what makes the sport so much fun to watch is the unpredictable nature of the game.  Tonight's game showed just how unpredictable this game can be.

Congrats to Melo and the Nuggets on an always needed and welcomed victory.  But how 'bout some defense on Sunday against the Timberwolves, fellas?

Photo courtesy of AP Photos: David Zalubowski

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