The Nuggets tonight showed the first killer instinct I've really seen from them all season. Instead of letting the Mavericks back into it when things tightened up in the 4th quarter and their lead reduced to just 4 with 9:30 to play, the Nuggets utilized a trio of huge three pointers from Nate Robinson to drain the life out of the Mavericks and seal up their second road win.
Against a (formerly) undefeated at home Mavericks team, the Nuggets struggled early. At one point in the 1st quarter, the Mavericks were shooting 90% from the floor and led by as many as 11 points over the Nuggets. Instead of shrinking from the hit to the mouth, the Nuggets caught fire and started locking up the Mavericks on defense. While the Mavericks did shoot 46% from the floor, they shot just 26% (5-19) from 3 and were unable to find good looks against a Nuggets team that looked shockingly competent defending the perimeter.
While Brian Shaw's mind-bottling rotations still don't make a whole lot of sense to me - at one point, we saw a Miller-Robinson-Foye-Arthur-Hickson lineup so small it would make Papa Smurf blush - perhaps that's becoming a boon to a team that is finally starting to gel. The Nuggets simply have so many weapons, and the frequent hockey-shift-like substitutions make it very difficult and frankly disoriented for opponents to truly impede the wrecking ball this Nuggets offense is becoming. Hell, even Anthony Randolph saw the floor tonight, and contributed by stumbling into Foye, which shoved Foye into Dirk, leading to Dirk free throws. I like to think that the touch of the unicorn derailed Dirk tonight, who was a mediocre 7-15 from the floor and "only" put up 18 points.
The Nuggets again tallied 23 assists after dishing 24 against the Mavericks on Saturday, as Ty Lawson once again posted an absurdly good double double: 19 points on 7-11 shooting, 11 assists, 3 rebounds and just one turnover. As much as I know Ty Lawson will likely again be overlooked by Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, or Russell Westbrook for an All-Star selection, he is showing that he deserves more than just a passing glance. Even with increasingly rarer bouts of passivity, Ty is taking the reins of this team like never before and stepping up as the leader we've all known he could be.
There's so many superlatives to hand out tonight, I'm just going to start listing what I loved:
- JJ Hickson posted a season high 22 points to go along with 8 boards and did admirably on the defensive end. He was making nearly everything he had a look at tonight, especially inside, and helped cover Dirk at times. Alongside his fellow frontcourt partner, Kenneth Faried notched another double double with 10 and 10 in just 25 minutes. 32 and 18 from your starting frontcourt is nothing to sneeze at.
- Tonight marked the first time in forever that I can remember the Nuggets successfully attacking a zone defense. In Karl's offense, the Nuggets frequently stagnated as they were simply awful from outside and could not open up teams that packed the paint. Shaw's Nuggets don't have that problem this season, and another 40% night from beyond the arc helped carry the Nuggets. They were extremely aggressive in pushing the ball off misses, helping keep the Mavericks from getting back into the zone on defense. A trio of threes from Nate Robinson - again in the fourth quarter - helped open a yawning 13 point chasm of separation between the Nuggets and Mavericks, and the Mavericks zone simply collapsed.
- Evan Fournier's first NBA alley oop lob pass for a dunk!
- Jordan Hamilton continued to show improvement, crashing the glass for 7 boards to go along with 11 points on an efficient 4-8 from the floor. He continues to make some head-scratching mental errors, but his effort level has increased dramatically and he's becoming a big contributor off the bench.
- In the waning minutes of the game, Andre Miller again contributed not one but three critical offensive rebounds to seal up the win. Even as Andre remains mired in a mini-slump, he still finds ways to meaningfully contribute to a Nuggets team which needs his veteran leadership.
- The Nuggets bench destroyed the Mavericks', outscoring them 41-21. 6 players scored in double figures for the second straight game.
- After stumbling out of the gate, the Nuggets are finally over .500 at 7-6 - after a road win, no less! - and currently hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
- The Nuggets held another team to less than 100 points. They have done so in 6 of their 13 games so far this season.
The Nuggets will next play at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, where they will face Kevin Love and old friend Corey Brewer on their home floor and attempt to draw closer to a .500 road record.
Opposition's Take: Mavs Moneyball