Sometimes games have absolutely no personality whatsoever. Tonight's relatively easy victory over the Rockets was one of those games. But sitting at 19-7, the best start in Nuggets NBA franchise history, who are we to complain?
First off, let's congratulate this band of Nuggets for completing the best 26-game start in Nuggets history. That's no small feat. Yes, they've had a pair of dreadful, alarming losses combined with a few more clunkers that we'd expect better from, but overall this is a damn good team. They still open games lethargically (as we witnessed again tonight), but there may not be a better third quarter team in the NBA right now. I remember just a few seasons ago when the third quarter was the Nuggets death knell. Oh how times have changed.
But is this really the best start in Nuggets history? Record-wise, yes. Through 26 games last season, the Nuggets stood at 17-9, but you could argue the first four games didn't count (no Carmelo Anthony for games one and two, versus the Lakers in game three and at Golden State in game four with no Allen Iverson). In the Nuggets first 26 games W.C. (with Chauncey), they were 18-8, one off this team's pace. But this season's Nuggets have lost five games to sub-.500 teams, including once at home, whereas last season's Nuggets (again, W.C.) didn't drop a single contest to a sub-.500 team in those first 26 games W.C. So while technically their records are almost a wash, I still liked the spirit and game-by-game seriousness of last season's Nuggets better at this point in the season.
From my seats at Pepsi Center, I don't think I saw the Nuggets break a sweat tonight. Yes, they dug themselves an early hole (I remember turning to my seat mate and saying "they only have 11 points with four minutes to go in the first quarter?!") and then suddenly they were up at the end of the first period and never looked back.
The Nuggets successfully completed what I labeled on Friday as their "no excuses week" (three home games against opponents playing them on the second of a back-to-back) with the record they should have had: 3-0. Part of being a great team is simply doing what you're expected to do, and the Nuggets have done so. Meeting expectations might be a tad boring, but we'll take these relatively easy victories any day.
The view from the not-so-cheap-seats...
...I didn't catch the Chauncey Billups groin injury but did see Chris Andersen limping a bit. The "Birdman" seemed to shake it off, however, and hold his own down the stretch.
...Melo did his best impersonation of Kevin Durant/Alex English by scoring the quietest 38 points I've ever seen him score. I guess that happens when you shoot an astoundingly high 20 free throws (and he promptly sank 19 of them). Convinced that this had to be Melo's career high for free throw attempts, I just looked it up and he amazingly had two 22-plus free throw attempt games during the 2005-06 season.
...believe it or not, watching J.R. Smith shoot threes lately had become cringe-worthy for some Pepsi Center fans. I won't proclaim that J.R. has ended his shooting slump, but tonight's 21-point effort was the most he had scored in 12 games. Eek.
...after Nene missed his wide open layup, he laughed at himself and had a "I can't believe I didn't just dunk the damn ball!" look on his face. So did we!
...did Ty Lawson's sick under-the-basket scoop layup look as good on TV as it did in person? Just wow.
...I'm embarrassed to admit this but I had no idea who David Andersen was until tonight (off the top of my head, I can go 10-11 deep on any NBA roster...12 might be a stretch). But this (legitimately) 6'11" kid from Australia has some game. And believe it or not, his 17 points against our Nuggets tonight wasn't his career high: he put up 19 against the Lakers earlier in the season.
Non-Stiff of the Night
-Carmelo Anthony: Melo didn't shoot particularly well, but as noted above - when you score 38 points and no one really notices - you've ascended to an Alex English-type level in this game. It's become expected/assumed that Melo will go for 30 nightly and anything short is considered an off night. That in itself is the definition of a super star player.
Stiff of the Night
-Chase Budinger: Pardon the reverse racism here, but if you're a white American (i.e. non-Euro), second round draft pick and you're still playing in the NBA you have one job to do: hit wide open shots. And Budinger - who deserves a lot of credit for working his way into the Rockets rotation - couldn't hit any of his shots tonight ending up 0-4 from the field.
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: David Zalubowski