Doug Moe should be proud.
Never before has a Nuggets team been this dominant for this long in Denver. With last night's victory over the hated San Antonio Spurs, the Nuggets bested Doug Moe's 20 straight home win mark set back in the 1985-1986 season and have won 21 straight in the Pepsi Center. They also tied the 2009 Chauncey Billups led Nuggets with their 54th victory, and with 4 games remaining, it is likely the Nuggets will set a franchise record for wins in a regular season.
Instead of using the loss of Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson as an excuse to stumble down the stretch and relinquish home court advantage, this team has turned prognostications of doom into even more lumber on their shoulders. While the flow on both ends of the court is clearly disrupted with the absence of both of the team's leading scorers, the Nuggets keep digging out ways to win. Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer have both shown that they are very capable of increased production with more playing time, a further testament to the top-to-bottom quality of the team that Masai Ujiri has assembled.
Yet if Iguodala and Brewer's games have stepped up, Wilson Chandler's has taken an express elevator. Even while continuing to deal with a slightly separated shoulder, Chandler has proven that he's worthy of a starting spot on this team with his extremely efficient scoring, Iguodala-like defense and heady play. He continues to gain confidence in his shot and is hitting from all over the floor - drives, dunks, short jumpers, 3 pointers, eurosteps - it doesn't seem to matter, everything just seems easy for Ill Will right now.
In many ways, I feel that Chandler has made a strong case for remaining the starter even when Danilo Gallinari returns. Chandler's stocky frame and controlled drives seem to make him less susceptible to injury than the frequently herky-jerky nature of Gallinari's, and he's filling equally well if not better than Gallinari on the defensive end. However, I do fully acknowledge that Chandler has had his own variety of injuries that have kept him off the floor - ultimately, a question of whom to keep far down the road may hinge on each player's ability to remain healthy. Assuming Gallinari's surgery and rehab process proceeds without a hitch, the earliest that we should realistically expect him to be "full strength" is around January 2014 - an eternity in basketball terms.
While I'm confident that Gallo will return to his peak form eventually for this team, in the meantime, he will have lost his starting job on this team - perhaps permanently - to an invigorated Wilson Chandler. I think it may warrant serious consideration by this coaching staff and front office in the offseason to move Gallinari to a bench role, at least until he's proven to be capable of once again playing starter quality minutes - and more effectively than those provided by Chandler in the starting lineup, assuming Chandler's been able to maintain his effectiveness in the long term. It's a problem I'm glad this team may eventually have, but also a situation that must be considered carefully going forward. Moving Faried to the bench is also a possibility that could be considered given the formidable defense that could be employed with Iguodala/Chandler/Gallinari playing the 2/3/4 spots to start.
For now, though, I'll simply remain elated that we're seeing such stellar production from a player once written off as trade bait. The Nuggets have more tools than a Swiss Army Knife and it's amazing to watch them disassemble each opponent differently.
It's hard to emphasize enough, folks - even through the major injuries, we are witnessing one of the best performances from a Nuggets team ever. With just 4 games remaining, the Nuggets are in prime position to lock up home court advantage as the third seed and head into the playoffs with a (nearly) fully healthy Ty Lawson.