I dare any Nuggets fan to have a bad day after a win in San Antonio. You can’t do it. It’s practically impossible. The best part of Sunday afternoon’s win? We get to spend the rest of the day riding this high.
I watched this game in pretty goofy order. I had the game taped courtesy of DVR and missed the first half and planned to play catch up … then my buddy Hunter called and asked me to come watch the second half with him. Well, you have to watch Nuggets games with buddies if they ask so I cruised over to his place and caught the second half before seeing the first half.
First things first … the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story. Denver’s 103-89 win was nice, but Denver never was that comfortably ahead. Heading into the first half Denver rode a 12-0 run to finish the half up four points (45-41) and then coming out of the locker room the Nuggets continued their onslaught and pushed their run to 19-2 before the two teams started trading buckets.
When you play the Spurs … no lead is really safe and San Antonio made a bunch of runs in the second half. Denver fought off each Spur run, but did cough the lead up a couple times, but they never allowed the Spurs to get control of the game. And the two guys that ensured Denver wouldn’t lose … Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin. While it was really a team effort win, Billups and K-Mart just stood out. The two combined for 52 points and hit big shot after big shot.
Denver won both games in San Antonio this season and perhaps as we saw with the Thunder game Friday night … Denver is no longer the Spurs’ "Little Brother."
--Going back to Billups. Mr. Big Shot finished with 25 points, 6 rebounds and 11 assists in 45 minutes. After the game Billups seemed eager for Melo to get back on the floor … while carrying the team is probably a lot of fun, it can also be very taxing. The Spurs, after allowing Billups 13 first half points, started doubling him and dared the other Nuggets to beat them. Billups was still crafty enough to put up 12 additional points, but he also got a lot of help from his running mates. Is it too soon to start planning to erect a statue in Billups’ honor outside Pepsi Center?
--K-Mart put up 27 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists in 39 minutes. Martin somehow channeled Melo’s midrange game against the Spurs and shot 12-21 in the game (including another garbage time three-pointer) and hit 2-3 free throws. Martin’s hard work is paying off and this is obviously the best the Nuggets have seen him play … he’s an All-Star in my book.
--Arron Afflalo was perfect today. Perfect? Yep, the shooting guard was 6-6 from the field and 2-2 from three-point land for 14 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 38 minutes. Afflalo has been so good of late that his minutes are starting to reflect the trust George Karl has in him. I applaud Karl for rewarding his strong play. I recall seeing Afflalo take his man off the dribble and hit a pull-up jumper right in his defender’s face … loving his confidence.
--J.R. Smith continues to bounce back after his rocky Hornets games. Smith was a big reason for Denver’s late first half fun and hit some big shots down the stretch for Denver and was even a presence once again on the boards. Smith finished with 18 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 32 minutes. The Nuggets guard rotation is up there with any team in the league. Being able to throw Billups, Afflalo, Smith and Lawson at teams is almost unfair.
--Chris Andersen was big on the glass for Denver and was trying to do the dirty work for the Nuggets underneath the glass. The refs don’t often reward Bird and he is constantly being pushed and elbowed under the hoop, but I applaud him for getting dirty with it and being Denver’s junkyard player. Andersen finished with 5 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block in 28 minutes. I still wish that Bird had better hands under the hoop to go along with a bit better awareness, but you can’t have it all.
--Nene fouled out in 29 minutes of play, but was battling all day. The Brazilian finished with 6 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists. Nene hit a key jumper down the stretch for Denver and played some good defense on Tim Duncan (always a tough draw). Nene is a key member for the Nuggets and his style fits with the team. Nene continues to be an underrated member of the rotation.
--Joey Graham only played 16 minutes and finished with 6 points and 1 rebound. Graham has done a great job filling in for Melo and shows he should be a part of the rotation once Melo returns, but finding minutes for Graham hasn’t been easy when Denver is healthy.
--Ty Lawson continues to see his time on the floor dwindle. Law played just 14 minutes and finished 0-3 from the floor for 2 points (free throws) and grabbed 2 rebounds. Lawson may have to step up tomorrow night against the Kings, but Tyreke Evans’ size will prove difficult for playing Lawson. The rookie has hit some type off wall and his game confidence seems a little down, but I expect him to bounce back.
A great win in San Antonio and a little closer to getting back to .500 on the road. Antonio McDyess had a great game for the Spurs. When I saw his final numbers I was a bit confused … it seemed like Dyess scored like 20+ points, but he only finished with 13 points on 6-11 shooting. I can still see him hitting jumpers! Denver did a great job of defense on Duncan today … he still had 16 points and 10 rebounds, but he wasn’t able to take command of the game. Denver is in great position to sweep the Spurs this season and that would be a great feat. We’ll see the Spurs in Denver the rest of the way after finishing 2-0 against them on their floor this season.
Opposition's Take: Pounding the Rock
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images: D. Clarke Evans