Blowing a 26 point lead in the third quarter is never a good thing. But falling behind by one with 1:10 to go, composing yourselves and grinding out a victory against the Western Conference's second best team is a very, very good thing.
(They were a little lucky, too. Chris Paul got hammered on his way to the basket in those closing seconds and the refs - who over called the game in the first half - let that one slide.)
Our Nuggets seem to do only two things consistently this season: win 6.6 out of every 10 games and never play two games the same way. They fall behind by 18, come back and win (like the 76ers game). Or they go up by 26, blow the lead, and win (like last night's Hornets game). Or sometimes they blow out a team wall-to-wall and never look back (like the Kings game). Or get their asses handed to them out of the gate and never put up a fight (like the Cavaliers game).
But it's games like last night's affair that will mean more down the road than the others mentioned above. Maybe the next time the Nuggets find themselves up 20ish points, they won't rest on their laurels, disappear in the second half and watch their lead vanish.
NBA teams - good and bad - are notorious for giving away second half leads and it's always infuriating for the fans of the leading team. I stupidly thought that being up 18 in the latter minutes of the third quarter would be enough to get the Hornets to quit last night (just like the Hornets folded to the Magic on Christmas Day), but obviously it wasn't. What typically happens, however, is the team behind exerts so much energy coming back that they rarely pull it out down the stretch. And that pattern was present in last night's Nuggets victory.
At 23-12 with 10 out of the next 13 games at Pepsi Center (including six more consecutive home dates), THIS is the Nuggets moment to seize the division lead for good. Head coach George Karl is already playing the "it's still early in the season card" but I'm not buying that. Last I checked 23 plus 12 equaled 35 and that's six games away from the halfway mark of the entire season. I wouldn't exactly call that "early in the season." And with the exception of the Pacers (who embarrassingly beat the Nuggets at Pepsi Center last season), those consecutive home games coming up are against teams similar to the Hornets: the Heat, Pistons, Mavericks, Suns and Magic - i.e. all playoff calibre teams who know how to win playoff series, and not one pushover in the group.
So did last night's win help or hurt the Nuggets? I guess we'll just have to wait and see over the next six games.