In a weird game where the Nuggets blow a 24 point lead to the Timberwolves, who lost their all-star early in the game, the Nuggets made big baskets when it counted. Featuring none other than Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson.
Nuggets win 113-107
You come away from this game with an odd feeling. One can focus on the negative and say that the Nuggets shouldn't have been in the position to need big baskets at the end. That is fair. However, this game showed off aspects of the Nuggets game that we have been wondering about all year. Specifically two things ... ability in the clutch, and resiliency. The team showed off both in spades.
Truth be told, as soon as Kevin Love went down with a blow to the head (via an unintentional JaVale McGee elbow) I knew this Rick Adelman coached team would buck up and play harder. I just didn't realize they would wait until the second half to do so. Give credit where credit is due. The T-Wolves could have folded like lawn chairs after Love went down. But they played harder and better defense in the second half. They were lead by two bench guys Derrick Williams (27 points) and Anthony Randolph (28 points) and both seemed to hit jumpers at will.
When the game was tied several times in the fourth, I'm sure it was easy for Nuggets fans to feel like the want to tear out their hair. No need, with six minutes left in the fourth quarter Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried came back on the court and began to work their magic.
Gallo - When Gallo came in, the offense was lagging. Andre Miller was clearly frustrated and reverting back to frustrated "bad" Dre (you know, turnover prone ... lazy). Gallo quickly drove to the basket and drew free throws. He hit a step-back three. Then he hit two mid-range jump shots (18 points 4 assists 4 rebounds). Every one of those baskets were clutch and pressure filled and Gallo nailed them. This is what your best players are supposed to do.
Ty Lawson - The Blur was aggressive all game, and really came up big once re-inserted in the game in the fourth. He provided energy and drove to the basket. He finished with 24 points and 8 assists. THIS is they Ty Lawson I love. This is the Ty Lawson I want to see every single game. If Ty is consistently aggressive he runs the offense great. Tonight was a great example of Ty staying aggressive, driving to the hole, and LOOKING to be dominant. That is a beautiful thing to see. Ty's four free throws down the stretch were huge.
Arron Afflalo - AAA did a great job with being all around consistent tonight. He had 21 points but was steady as a rock. I'm seeing AAA mold himself into a scorer before a defensive player. Which is great because the Nuggets have needed a scoring two guard. Afflalo has been really playing well since the All-Star break and has been the most consistent Nuggets player. Period.
Kenneth Faried - Manimal was in beast-mode again tonight. Thoroughly dominated Love for the brief time Love was in there. It looks like Faried is out to prove a point. Tonight he finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. When Faried came in (around the same time Gallo did) the Nuggets fortunes ... which were flagging at that point ... turned around. Faried's recent dominant games a great signs for the future. He's not waiting for it to be given to him, he's taking it. When you get players like that, well, you know you have something special on your hands.
Among the others, Al Harrington played limited minutes but was effective during his brief stint. JaVale McGee gave some solid contributions and played overall his best game for quite some time. Kosta Koufos was his usual solid (if unspectacular) self. Corey Brewer did well in the first half, then quickly became a black hole in the second. That's my major quibble with tonight was Brewer saw far too much time on the court again. Also, we saw the dreaded "Gallo is the center" lineup at the end of the game, but this time it happened to work. So you know what? No complaints from me.
Nuggets of Wisdom
We get too caught up in style points sometimes. I'm not going to sweat this win because down the stretch in NBA basketball these wins are harder to come by. Specifically when you are fighting for playoff positioning. With the Houston Rockets losing to Utah tonight, the Nuggets are again tied with the Rockets and the Mavs in terms of record (although both of those teams currently own the tiebreaker over the Nuggets). Playoff positioning in the Western Conference is fluid, and complaining about wins is not seeing the forest for the trees. A win, at this point in the season, is a win.
On to play the Los Angeles Lakers. Time to find out what kind of team these Nuggets are. Eight games are left. Time to go get it!