The Nuggets 115-97 win was exciting, but more than anything it was efficient. There was a lot of razzle-and-dazzle to go along with some very impressive shooting performances. The Nuggets, by my count, are now 12-6 against potential playoff teams, including a 6-2 record against the upper echelon squads.
A lot of attention has been paid to Denver’s poor record against sub .500 teams, but like some readers have pointed out, the Nuggets are playing some great basketball against good NBA teams. It’s a lot easier to get excited to play one of the better teams in the NBA versus one of the lottery bound ones and it looks like the Nuggets are having that problem this season. Big wins are piling up and so are inexcusable losses. Chauncey Billups’ message, which he brought last season, of every game being important needs to be said or heard again by this team. The Nuggets are a very good team and might be on the verge of starting to come together to become a special team.
The win tonight over the Magic allows Denver to notch yet another win over an elite team. Like I stated in my preview, the Magic were coming in for the second game of a back-to-back and Denver had the challenge of putting them away early so Orlando wouldn’t be inclined to try to sneak out a win on the road. Let me be clear, just because the Magic played the second game of a back-to-back set doesn’t mean they were automatically going to lose tonight. We’ve seen the Nuggets and their opponents win in the second game of back-to-backs all season, the key to an Orlando win was for the Magic to keep the game close enough late to be able to muster the desire needed to sneak out of Denver with a win.
The Magic started off the game firing up three-pointers and they continued to do so throughout the contest going 12-31 from deep. Denver also fired off a lot long range shots, but managed to hold off on taking as many as Orlando finishing the game with a nice 10-21 performance.
The first half played out with Orlando trying to shoot their way to victory and the Nuggets fighting to keep pace. During the second quarter momentum seemed to be swinging towards the Nuggets and with a halftime score of 53-50 it felt like the Magic’s small three-point lead was living on borrowed time.
Borrowed time was right … Denver came out in the third quarter and smoked the Magic with a 35-19 outburst. If the Nuggets were Shaquille O’Neal and the Magic were Kobe Bryant they surely would have asked, "How my ass taste?"
Thoughts from Pepsi Center:
--I love watching games at The Can. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house and tonight I was sitting Club Level in section 216 (behind the Orlando hoop). Nothing better than seeing things live and getting a different angle than the classic TV view. Great game Jamie … definitely didn’t see a blowout coming.
--The Nuggets played unselfishly, with defensive intensity and with killer instinct. The unselfishness was contagious as no Nuggets’ player attempted more than 15 shots (Melo).
--Denver was led by their two stars as Melo had 27 points (8-15 shooting), 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block and Billups added 24 points (8-14 shooting) and 5 assists. Coming off the bench J.R. Smith finished with 17 points (6-9 shooting), 2 rebounds and 3 assists.
--The rebounding battle came out as a draw as each team collected 36 boards, but the Magic got on the offensive glass and grabbed 10 offensive boards to Denver’s 4.
--Renaldo Balkman didn’t participate in pre-game warm-ups and I didn’t see him on the bench. Ty Lawson sat out and got his ankle some additional rest.
--The Nuggets were hot tonight and shot a very high percentage as a team and finished 43-77 from the floor with 28 assists on those makes.
--It still amazes me that Detroit basically gave Arron Afflalo away. I understand that the Pistons wanted to overpay for Ben Gordan and already had the high-priced Richard Hamilton at shooting guard, but just giving Afflalo away is almost criminal. Spellcheck finished the night 5-8 from the floor (3-5 from deep) and scored 13 points. His corner three is becoming deadly.
--Nene completed what I think was his first alley-oop of the season to Chris "Birdman" Andersen. Bird cut to the hoop, alone, Nene found him from the top of the key and Bird made a great catch and finished with a powerful and crowd pleasing jam.
--Kenyon Martin’s double-double production (Artimis!) is alive (8 double-doubles in his past 10 games) and well after finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Melo’s absence was a blessing for K-Mart’s offensive confidence. It’s almost as if Kenyon needed to be burdened with some offensive responsibility and Melo’s injury was in a way a good thing.
--Nene didn’t seem to mind going after Dwight Howard tonight. Nene used an assortment of moves to score the ball inside and had a jumper or two on the outside en route to his 14 points (7-11 shooting), 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block. A lot peopled expected Nene to get run over by the bigger Howard, but it didn’t happen. Howard was held to just 8 points as his post up game continues to look like the remains from a guy who was calling dinosaurs after drinking tequila, beer and eating sushi and enchiladas all night.
--Johan Petro saw some minutes in the first half. Yes, Johan Petro saw a couple of first half minutes. He didn’t do much, but he was on the floor to spell Bird (who would eventually foul out).
Another great win for the Nuggets this season and one that should help the team build some additional confidence as Denver has now won four of their last five games. I think I can speak for us all when I say we want to see the Nuggets play more like they did tonight and like they did against the Cavaliers. It can be frustrating when your team plays down to their opponent, but it’s also nice when your team understands the importance of a big game and plays some of their best basketball of the season in those contests.
I’m also glad that Denver was able to keep the point differential above 15 … Denver played well enough to be able to show the casual box score browser exactly what happened tonight.
Ben Q. Rock of the Orlando Pinstriped Post has a nice recap of last night's game from the Opposition's Take.
My apologies for some of the bizarre text in the column earlier ... my internet has been giving me fits and copy/paste sometimes adds some crazy html code.
Photo courteys of AP Photos: David Zalubowski