Sometimes all you want to see out of your basketball team is effort. Tonight the shorthanded Nuggets had a defensive intensity that rivaled their best effort of the season. Playing without Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups ... no problem for Denver tonight.
The Nuggets had five players score in double-figures and were led on the night by Ty Lawson and his 23 points and 9 assists. Denver snapped their 3 game losing streak and their 6 road-game losing streak. I really can't say enough about the Nuggets effort tonight. The Nuggets defense was a harassing one and it led to 24 Jazz turnovers and 15 steals by the Nuggets.
Nene led the team with 6 steals on the night to go along with 22 points and he played his best defense of the season. Number 31 was active on the defensive end and was moving very well. Typically we'll see Nene pick up some ticky-tack fouls on defense because he is known to reach instead of moving his feet, but tonight he was playing the passing lanes and staying in front of his man. Hats off to his effort tonight.
Coming into the game I was very concerned with how the Nuggets were going to score points. There was a moment in the second quarter where the offense stalled just a bit and that is usually where Melo can carry the team for as long as he needs to. Tonight the Nuggets got points in a couple of ways ... first, they were attacking the rim relentlessly and second they were sharing the ball very well. Utah is not a team that can block shots and Denver's game plan and attacking style was perfect (especially on the road).
Joey Graham started in place of Melo tonight and Graham had a nice game. Joey started off going 3-5 from the field and was following his teammates' lead by going to the rim. He ended the night with 7 points and looked good in his role.
Lawson played up to the role of a starting point guard tonight. Lawson was scoring in the paint, hitting some jumpers and getting his teammates involved. Lawson's vision and control with his speed is impressive. Ty set up his teammates for easy dunks and completed some very difficult passes and lay ins in his 38 minutes.
I have not heard a home crowd boo as much as the Utah crowd was tonight. The fans seemed upset with the refs and perhaps the effort from their team as well. It was a great game for the Nuggets and it was all about their effort. If Denver could come out with this kind of effort every night they would be a lot better than 21-12 right now. The 105-95 win was very impressive as the Nuggets controlled the flow of the game with their intensity.
After seeing a win like this and the defensive effort that the team displayed I want to see more of it. Good teams will give you glimpses of great basketball and great teams will bring this kind of effort more often than not. As fans sometimes losses are okay if you feel like your team left all their effort on the floor and tonight the Nuggets played their asses off and earned a win. Best of both worlds.
1-0 in 2010.
Happy New Year!
Photo courtesy of AP Photos Colin Braley