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Welcome back, Birdman?... (Nuggets/Heat recap)

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71391_heat_nuggets_basketball_medium_mediumI'll happily take the Nuggets being on the right side of a blowout any day of the week.  But it's extra special when the blowout comes during a fair fight.

Before we recap tonight's events, it should be noted that I - Andrew - is covering tonight's game and not my partner-in-crime Nate Timmons.  So while blowout wins for our Nuggets tend to come on Nate's watch, let's hope my recent spate of jinxes has begun to reverse itself!

The other blowout win I covered recently was when the Nuggets clocked the Lakers a few Fridays ago.  But as I alluded to at the time, that game wasn't a fair fight.  Not only were the Lakers playing shorthanded, but they had to fly into Denver in the middle of the night coming off the late TNT game the Thursday before.  (It should be noted that the Heat playing at the Lakers tomorrow won't be a fair fight for the Heat whatsoever.  Tonight's game against the Nuggets started a half hour late, the Heat will have to travel to L.A. in the middle of the night and the Lakers have been off since Tuesday.  Have I mentioned that the Lakers schedule is a fucking joke yet?)

Unlike that Lakers victory we can gloat for a while about tonight's conquest.  The Heat had no excuse to show up flat: they're healthy, had plenty of time to acclimate to Denver altitude, had more than one day's rest and had confidently beaten the Trail Blazers in Portland on Tuesday.  The Nuggets are just a hell of a lot better than their South Beach counterparts, and it showed.

I don't know about you, but I thought the story of the game tonight was the continued - and desperately needed - resurgence of Chris Andersen.  For the second game in a row, the Birdman reminded all of us why I started the "Bring Back Birdman" petition last season: blocking and altering shots, grabbing big rebounds, finishing around the rim and generally wreaking havoc - in a good way - inside.  And his bench mate J.R. Smith also brought back the energy and production that made the Nuggets bench so special last season.  Now the question is whether or not they can replicate this production on the road.  I've always felt like if the Birdman and J.R. are solar panels, then the Pepsi Center crowd is their sun.

Tonight's victory might also send a more profound message throughout the NBA than the Lakers victory did.  What does it say to the rest of the league when Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups shoot horrifically (and indeed they did, even as Melo eeked his way to the 20-point plateau for the - gulp - 19th straight game!) and yet the Nuggets can still beat a playoff caliber team in a walkover?  It says we have balance and when we play the game the right way, look out.

A few observations that I'm sure most of you noticed, too...

...you have to love J.R. dishing out a season-high six assists.  Imagine if he starts embracing the pass?

...under the radar, Arron Afflalo is finding his role with the Nuggets and is becoming a major contributor.  I couldn't be happier having him on the Nuggets.

...I was thrilled that George Karl picked up at technical foul early in the game when he sensed the Nuggets sluggishness, and even more thrilled to see Kenyon Martin hold his coach back by embracing him.  But I have to admit I was a little disappointed that Karl didn't get himself kicked out alongside K-Mart when K-Mart got tossed in the second half.  Given that the game was clearly over anyway, I'd have loved to see the two of them walking out the tunnel together a la Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains in Casablanca.

...for those who watched the Celtics/Spurs game beforehand, are you as frustrated as I am that the Nuggets didn't draft DeJuan Blair when they had the chance in the second round?  Even though the Nuggets were able to sell the draft rights to their second round pick (Sergio Llull) for a record price, they were being penny-wise and pound-foolish by passing on Blair (along with 28 other teams).  Blair is yet another example in a long line of slightly undersized but gutty, tough power forwards who kicked ass in college and yet NBA teams routinely pass on (just a few off the top of my head: Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, Jason Maxiell, Leon Powe and Glen Davis).  Damn I wish Blair was in a Nuggets uniform right now.  I just can't shake it.

14-5.  Pretty damn good.  A few more victories like this, and the home loss to the Timberwolves will prove to be a wake up call, and not a trend.

Go Nuggets!

Photo courtesy of AP: David Zalubowski