When it was announced that George Karl would miss several road games in his battle with throat and neck cancer, yours truly questioned whether or not assistant coach Adrian Dantley was up to the task of filling in for the Nuggets head coach. While I seriously doubt AD will ever win over 970 NBA games as Karl has, AD's 4-1 record (3-0 this season after tonight's win at New Orleans) as the Nuggets head man in Karl's absence is admirable and deserving of our praise.
Sans having a lineup including Malik Allen, Joey Graham and Anthony Carter on the floor together for about two minutes tonight, AD is doing a lot of things well. Notably, he's keeping the Nuggets loose during a tough stretch of the season and the players are responding with smile filled victories. At the end of the day, basketball is just a game and those who play it should be having fun while doing so. And if that means a few behind the back passes, spectacular dunks, trash talking and so forth - all of which we saw tonight - then so be it.
Feeding off AD's loose atmosphere the most appears to be Nuggets superstar small forward Carmelo Anthony, who again tonight reminded us that in a close game, the team with the best player often wins. And no one was better than Melo tonight. Not only did he have 12 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter, but he tied his season high with 12 rebounds (four offensive). When Melo finds that extra gear in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets become lethal closers as the Hornets - who put up a good fight until the final three or so minutes - found out tonight.
Also contributing to the cause in the rebounding department were Johan Petro, Nene and Chris Andersen - all three of whom are taking on additional responsibilities with Kenyon Martin being out and are delivering handsomely. By out-rebounding the Hornets 49 to 36 in this game, the Nuggets were able to prevent their recent playoff foes from getting easy second chance baskets and turned the Hornets into the bad jump shot shooting team that they are.
Congratulations to AD and the other Nuggets assistants for keeping the ship afloat while Karl deals with ongoing cancer treatments. We continue to wish Karl and his family the best and, thankfully, in the meantime the Nuggets appear to be in good hands with the coaching staff that Karl has been grooming.
Non-Stiff of the Night
Carmelo Anthony: As noted above, Melo carried the Nuggets to the promised land thanks to 12 fourth quarter points and 12 rebounds. If the Nuggets continue to rack up wins, Melo may vault himself back into the MVP conversation.
Stiff of the Night
Morris Peterson: It's tempting to put J.R. Smith and his 1-12 shooting night here but at least J.R. contributed to the game in other areas, including four assists and two steals. And thus, the Stiff of the Night goes to Morris Peterson. I almost forgot that "Mo-Pete" was still on the Hornets and with good reason because he had yet another forgettable game tonight. 0-6 from the floor and four fouls in 32-and-a-half starter's minutes.
Photo courtesy of AP: Bill Haber