The Nuggets started their six-game road trip with a win, but I think the team got a bit confused along the way. Tomorrow is the second game of the back-to-back set ... not tonight. However, with energy levels down Denver got a much needed boost from Arron Afflalo (15 points) off the bench and Dahntay Jones led the Pacers with 20 points.
The Nuggets have been searching for a scoring threat off the bench not named Ty Lawson and tonight their off-season acquisition came through. Afflalo enjoyed his finest offensive game as a member of the Denver Nuggets ... going 6-10 (60%) from the field including 1-2 from three-point land.
It was great to see Afflalo do some different things on the offensive end. He has not been afraid to shoot the ball, but tonight he expanded his game past the deep ball. Afflalo hit some runners, off the ball jumpers, and drove the the lane effectively.
Denver fans have been waiting for Afflalo to look like an upgrade over former Nugget Dahntay Jones and he did just that against Jones' Pacers. Jones himself looked like an upgrade over his Nuggets version as well going 8-15 from the floor (4-6 from the foul line) and leading the Pacers in scoring. It was nice to see Jones have a good game against his former team, but it was even better seeing Denver get the 111-93 win and to get some of the starters some rest.
The lone Nuggets' starter to log over 31 minutes was Nene (36 minutes), hopefully Denver will have some fresh legs heading to New Jersey for tomorrow night's game. The Nuggets did however suffer a couple key injuries; Chris Andersen left the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised right knee and Joey Graham left the game a few minutes later with a sprained right toe. Not sure yet if the injuries will sideline the two for tomorrow night's contest.
Additional thoughts ...
-Ty Lawson's minutes continue to juggle as he saw just 13 minutes of action. On the season in four games Lawson has played 26, 17, 22, and 13 minutes in each game.
-Carmelo cooled off a little bit tonight going 6-17 from the field (11-14 from the charity stripe) for 25 points. But Melo's knack for getting to the foul line in bunches is paying off and so is his shooting from the line ... Melo is 47-55 on the season on his freebies -- good for 85.4% (career 79.6%). To compare Melo was just 26-31 at the foul line through his first four games last season.
-Renaldo Balkman is the absolute last man off the bench. When Birdman went down in the fourth it was Malik Allen who checked into the game, the only reason Balkman seemed to play was due to Graham's injury. My fear has come true ... Graham has taken the scraps of the leftover minutes I was hoping Balkman would get, as always, I need MORE BALKMAN!
-Nene had a nice double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds (6 offensive), but as we've been seeing ... he played a bit tentatively against the bigger Roy Hibbert. That pattern will have to change quick as 7'0'' 260 pound ultra-aggressive Brook Lopez waits to face Nene tomorrow night with the Nets.
All-in-all it was a nice easy win for Denver, although I was hoping they'd be a bit more crisp and convincing. Perhaps the best part of the game was Scott Hastings post-game interview with Double-A (Afflalo) for Altitude TV ... when this exchange occurred:
Hastings, "I'm gonna (sic) buy you dinner on the airplane tonight."
Afflalo, "You gonna (sic) buy me dinner on the airplane? What's that mean?"
Welcome to the Nuggets Afflalo ... your initiation is complete.
The Denver Post has an injury update:
-Billups (sprained left ankle): will play tonight.
-Birdman (right knee contusion): will play tonight.
-Graham (right toe): game time decision
Thumbnail image courtesy of Darron Cummings (AP Photos)