While I love going out on a Sunday afternoon with some friends to play basketball outside, it just seems wrong to start an NBA game at 3 in the afternoon on a gorgeous day in the Mile High City. Although the Nuggets seemed to be daydreaming about spending the day outdoors to begin the game - going down by as many as 14 in the first quarter - they eventually shook off their Sunday stupor to pull out a close win over the playoff-bound Wizards.
Overall, this entire game had a strange feel to it. Whether it was the early start on Sunday or being concerned about their March Madness brackets, none of the players seemed like they could get a rhythm going - on either team - and there was lots of sloppy basketball to be had. Easy passes were thrown away, outlet passes found themselves in the crowd or in the hands of the opposition, and simple entries into the post seemed like an impossible task.
Ultimately, it was the Wizards who succumbed the most to the doldrums of a lazy Sunday afternoon. They turned the ball over 24 times leading to 30 Nuggets points. John Wall had 8 turnovers alone, with 4 more apiece from Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza. You're not going to win many games when your starters have almost twice as many turnovers combined (19) as the other team's (10). The long ball also betrayed the Wizards today, as they hit just 5 of 16 shots from outside. Bradley Beal (21 points, 8-18 from the floor) and Drew Gooden (15 points, 7-12 shooting) had nice games, but their solid efforts couldn't overcome the near-constant turnovers.
There was some bitter and some sweet to this game, too. It was great to see former Nugget Al Harrington playing on the court, and I'll always appreciate the "Ninja Turtle's" huge grin and great teamsmanship while he was here. He thankfully wasn't great against the Nuggets today, but I still think he is capable of being a solid player off the bench for the Wizards going forward. It would have been nice to see Nene play, but he's currently out with a sprained MCL (natch). I hope both Harrington and Nene are able to contribute well in the Eastern Conference playoffs for the Wiz.
There was more bitter when it came to the return of Andre Miller. Nate Timmons' excellent investigative basketball journalism in the preview turned up this article from the Washington Post, in which Andre Miller essentially states that the whole ugly situation with Shaw was because he was too prideful to apologize for acting like a spoiled primadonna, instead of a 14 year veteran:
The Nuggets initially suspended Miller for two games for conduct detrimental to the team after he berated Shaw. After that, Miller stayed away from the team, admitting he was exiled by choice. Denver would need a point guard after Nate Robinson was sidelined for the remainder of the season because of a knee injury and Ty Lawson missed time because of a fractured rib. But Miller wasn't receptive when the Nuggets discussed reconciliation.
"They were like, 'If you come back and apologize, it'll all be good.' I wasn't willing to make that decision. Because of my morals, what I felt was the right thing to do for me," Miller said. "I was ready to go. You can tell when a team is thinking about possibly going in a different direction. Wasn't any communication there, and I could just feel the vibe where I was at in the organization, and it was time to move on."
Sheesh. Well, enjoy whatever else you have left in the tank elsewhere, Andre, and I hope you one day learn to control that overblown ego. During the broadcast on Altitude, Chris Marlowe noted that there was "virtually no reaction at all" by the Pepsi Center crowd to Andre Miller playing in the game - seems about right. Andre ended the night with more turnovers (2) than assists (1), committed 3 fouls and scored just 2 points on three shots in 13 minutes.
As the remainder of this season winds down, I'm hopeful that we will continue to see development from the youngsters on this team and the preservation of the health of the remaining players. In a season in which the Nuggets have missed more than 221 combined games to injury - not counting Wilson Chandler's late scratch - health must be a priority in the remaining contests.
After an off night against the Mavericks, the real Manimal stood up again today. He led the team with 20 points on 8-15 shooting to go along with 8 rebounds, 3 huge blocks and connected on 4 of 5 free throw attempts. Faried is seemingly improving in almost all areas (though his defense remains a concern) with so many of his teammates sidelined for the season, and he's helping make a strong case for a big contract extension in the coming offseason. Faried is one of my favorite Nuggets players ever, and I sincerely hope that the organization is willing to commit to him going forward.
Randy Foye has also been a complete warrior. No, he isn't the most efficient player in the world, he doesn't always take the smartest shots, and he's not exactly breaking many ankles these days. But today he connected on 5-9 shots from downtown and poured in a total of 17 points - this marks the 3rd straight game where Foye has connected on at least five 3 pointers, something he's never done in his career. Kudos to him.
Lumps of Coal
ACLs and the injury vampire haunting this team. Seriously, can we just replace all the knees of the Nuggets with some bionic parts or something? Or at least cover everyone in bubblewrap? It's gotten ridiculous. Jan Vesely is the latest Nugget to go down, suffering a rib contusion that could keep him away from the court in perhaps the most difficult stretch of the season coming up.
The Nuggets will play again tomorrow night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma (gulp) starting at 6:00 PM.