I can't decide what I'm more excited about ... that the Nuggets got their first win of the season while I'm writing or that Chris Andersen went coast-to-coast for a sweet finger-roll and looks completely healthy again. Either way, the much needed 106-89 road victory is complete.
I don't really know what happened in the 2007 Daniel Day Lewis film There Will Be Blood because I fell asleep both times I tried watching it. And if you know anything about me and my appetite for movies of all kinds, then you know that not finishing a film is a pretty amazing feat for me.
I did everything I could to jinx the win tonight as I started writing the recap around 9:00 minute mark of the fourth quarter, and like with the movie, fell asleep a little bit with the Nuggets up 12 points and doing all they could to blow the lead. The Warriors would shrink the lead down in just two-minutes time to get within 4 points (81-77), but down the stretch the hot shooting of Carmelo Anthony combined with a defensive shredding Ty Lawson and some nice ball movement allowed the Nuggets to recapture a big lead and win tonight's game going away.
Let's break the rest of this down player-by-player style ...
Chris Andersen: While Melo's second-half scoring binge will get lots of headlines (this one included), it was the return of Birdman that I wanted to see. Last season Bird was hampered with nagging injuries and the right knee patella tendon injury that required surgery this past off-season. He looked a little heavy last season (not fat, just playing with more body weight it seemed) and with the injuries he just wasn't the same dynamic energy guy that the team needed.
Birdman looks slimmed up, totally healthy, and obviously covered in tattoos. When he was getting ready to check into the game at the 6:24 mark you could see the people sitting courtside just staring at Bird's appearance of the big mohawk and the fresh ink. Andersen played a total of 18 minutes (about 10 in the first half and 8 in the second half), was 3-3 from the field (1-3 from the foul line) for 7 points, 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 1 steal, and 1 foul.
Bird's timing on rebounds was a little off and he needed to box out a little bit better and he still is going to leave his feet for block attempts. But his presence on the floor helps on the defensive end, you could see a Monta Ellis baseline drive where Bird ran at him from the foul line and Ellis adjusted his plans of going to the rim to dishing the ball off (Ellis was fouled by Arron Afflalo before he met Birdman at the rim). But Denver's shot blocker is back and we'll see teams respect his shot blocking ability and hopefully will stop some of the attacking Denver has been facing.
Bird had three memorable plays on the night ... first, a trademark two handed jam off a pretty feed from J.R. Smith. Second, in the third quarter Bird jumped the passing lane at the foul line and stole the ball, went coast-to-coast, took off from just inside the opposite foul line, and layed in a pretty finger-roll ... all in under 4 seconds. Third, still in the third quarter with 30 seconds remaining Andersen caught a long pass from Lawson in traffic, was tied up by Stephen Curry, and somehow managed to toss the ball backwards and into the cylinder for an And1 (he missed the foul shot). Glad to have Andersen back.
Carmelo Anthony: While scribbling down notes in the first quarter I wrote, "Melo could get 50 if (he keeps) attacking." Melo went for 39 points on 10-24 shooting, but what he really did well was get to the foul line. As Andrew Feinstein has been harping about, Melo needs to attack and get to the rim ... he will draw fouls. Melo was a perfect 17-17 from the charity stripe tonight. Melo also grabbed 9 rebounds (3 offensive), handed out 5 assists, and chalked up 2 steals. The downside ... Golden State's small forwards combined for 34 points between starter Dorell Wright (2 points) and bench guys Reggie Williams (16 points) and Rodney Carney (16 points). Melo didn't guard those three guys all night, but the Nuggets did get lit up by some bench players.
Al Harrington: When Big Al checked into the game in the first-quarter he was met with plenty of boos. He got more when he kept burying shots, and when he went to the foul line. Harrington helped the Warriors to one of the greatest playoff upsets of all-time against the Dallas Mavericks, but that was way back when in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. Well, Harrington went out and had his finest shooting night in a Nuggets uniform ... going 5-7 from downtown (7-13 from the field), with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. His 19 points off the bench and his timely three-pointers were key for the Nuggets tonight. You could see that Big Al was loving playing a big game against his old team.
Ty Lawson: The Blur stepped into the starter's role tonight in Chauncey Billups' absence. I thought maybe George Karl would start Anthony Carter for Billups, as he hates to disrupt his bench role players. But Karl did the right thing and gave Lawson the start and let him play 33 minutes and kept him on the floor as the solo point-guard in crunch time. Karl has been showing great trust in Lawson late in games and it paid off tonight. The Nuggets were up 86-82 late in the fourth and struggling to get a bucket. Afflalo got a steal and fed Lawson on the break and instead of pulling up with three Warriors running with him, Lawson decided to take it all the way to the rack and scored on a circus layup giving Denver a much needed score and really re-igniting the offense. Just before Scott Hastings mentioned that Lawson is like a Mike Shanahan era Broncos running back, that is best making one cut and going down field ... I was thinking he's just lethal when he can square his shoulders to the hoop and get a head of steam. When Lawson is attacking he makes the Nuggets a different team and it showed tonight. Lawson finished with 14 points on 5-8 shooting and handed out 5 assists. He was the perfect guard against Golden State tonight.
Nene: After a big game against the New Jersey Nets, the big guy was expected to go off again tonight. Well, Nene turned into the great disappearing man tonight. In 30 minutes he was just 2-3 fromt he field and was frustrated by the Warrior defenders. He finished with just 6 points, but like any good player he made a difference in other areas of the game by grabbing a team-high 9 rebounds (a tie with Arron Afflalo and Melo) and providing some key defensive stops. Overall a pretty forgettable game from Nene.
Arron Afflalo: Afflalo had a breakaway in the second quarter and decided to just lay the ball in ... the crowd let him have it with some boos. The always business-like Afflalo had a nice shooting night going 6-10 from the field and hitting 3-4 from downtown for 15 points. Afflalo was also busy on the glass and pulled down 9 rebounds. Afflalo had a couple of those corner pump fake threes and drives where he steps out of bounds. Not sure how he does that so often, but it seemed like he wasn't making that mistake as often this season ... he'll have to clean that up.
J.R. Smith: I've been very happy seeing J.R. get back into the rotation. Whether being let out of the Karl Doghouse is to just not hurt his trade value more, or to help the team win games, I'm just happy to see him back on the court. Smith played just 16 minutes tonight and was only 1-7 from the field (4 points), but his one make was a pretty crossover on rookie Jeremy Lin and a pretty finish at the rim. A weird season so far for Smith.
Anthony Carter: I'm probably one of A.C.'s biggest critics, but tonight he played pretty well. He did miss his first two shot attempts (both baseline jumpers) and finished the game 0-3 from the field, but he did only take three shots and he has to shoot when he's left wide-open. Carter did have 3 assists and 3 steals and provided the team with some energy off the bench and continues to have good chemistry with Smith, Birdman, and Nene. Not a bad 15 minutes from A.C., but I was worried during a game break interview where Karl said he's been trying to figure out how to get A.C. minutes ... um ... no Karl.
Gary Forbes: Just 4 minutes tonight for the Rook.
Shelden Williams: Just 13 minutes tonight for the starting center. Much like we've seen in years past with Arron Afflalo and before him Dahntay Jones, Williams is now being reduced to starting the game, getting yanked, and not reappearing again until the second half starts, but quickly going to the bench again. Williams has seen his roles with teams shrink just about everywhere he has been and it would appear that Denver wont provide him with anything different. Williams was looking like a find and now we're seeing his role disappear and with no real reason that I can tell. He's probably not a guy who should play 30+ minutes a night and with Denver's depth and style he is being pushed out once again ... rough career for Williams.
The Nuggets don't play again until the day after Thanksgiving (at Pepsi Center versus the Chicago Bulls), so they gave Nuggets Nation a nice parting holiday gift. We'll continue to be active here at Denver Stiffs, so don't go anywhere.
I'd like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday ... 8-6 ... Go Nuggets! There Will Be Turkey!