The Nuggets won their seventh consecutive game and brought head coach George Karl to the doorstep of 1,000 NBA coaching victories. But in true Nugget fashion of late, they did it the hard way...
With the Nuggets nursing a 15-point halftime lead and the opposing Memphis Grizzlies looking lifeless throughout the first half, I assumed the Pepsi Center crowd was in for a Sunday night snoozer. I even saw a handful of fans leave soon after halftime (no joke). Those who left missed some exciting - albeit sometimes infuriating - basketball that produced a disappointing third quarter for Nuggets fans followed by a thrilling end to the fourth quarter.
As we've become all-too-accustomed to as Nuggets fans, our squad refused to put away a sub-par opponent, instead let them right back into a would-be blowout affair and still won anyway. By my accounting, this is exactly how the Nuggets have played for five consecutive games now.
But even though the Nuggets seem intent on making a game out of every game, you have to believe that knowing they'll ultimately win in the end is a harbinger of good things to come from this team. They win ugly, for sure. But at least they win.
And you don't claim 999 coaching victories without winning a few the ugly way. Thanks to this current seven-game winning streak, Nuggets head coach George Karl has leaped towards 1,000 victories faster than he even thought he would. As Karl and the Nuggets face the Charlotte Bobcats next, I'll write more in-depth about the significance of winning 1,000 near where Karl's basketball career began...and against one of his closest friends, no less.
But for now, let's look a The View From the Not-So-Cheap Seats...
...Carmelo Anthony was aggressive getting to the basket but he couldn't get anything to fall and this would lay the seeds for the frustrating night to come.
...the Grizzlies players were literally hibernating throughout the first quarter, putting up a mere 16 points to the Nuggets 33.
...has anyone else noticed that Arron Afflalo never dunks even though he gets more fast break looks than anyone on the team?
...matches Melo's early aggressiveness was Nene who was rewarded more with made baskets.
...the Nuggets were so far out ahead that Gary Forbes and Melvin Ely saw ample first-quarter playing time.
...couldn't help but notice that Chris Andersen was nowhere to be found, thanks to that nasty fall he had on Friday night.
...Karl played J.R. Smith and Forbes together for a long stretch, thus debunking his "I don't have enough minutes for both of them" theory that Karl sold us on when J.R. was in the doghouse.
...Ely and Forbes had no problem handling the Grizzlies starters.
...when Xavier Henry nailed that last-second three-pointer to end the half and cut the Nuggets lead to 15, I turned to my seat mate and said: "Just watch, that shot will give the Grizzlies enough momentum to not quit in the second half." Unfortunately, I was right.
...with his frustrating night continuing, Melo unloaded on the refs and got himself yet another technical foul. At least Melo leads the NBA in one category, right?
...Zach Randolph finally heated up in the third quarter. It's fun to watch Randolph in person: he's slow, he looks uninterested and yet he has an amazing nose for the ball and exceptional timing.
...Shelden Williams played a large part in the Nuggets not getting completely blown out in the third quarter thanks to timely rebounds and put backs.
...what else can be said about the third quarter other than the Nuggets played awful?
...Rudy Gay's 20th point - on a turnaround corner jump shot with Afflalo right in his face - was incredible. Little did I know that Gay had another incredible in-your-face shot to come.
...Melo spent most of the fourth quarter sulking on the bench. You could tell he was not happy to be missing the Nuggets fourth-quarter rally.
...the Nuggets had terrific interior passing in the fourth quarter that set up Nene and others for easy buckets.
...Afflalo missed what would have been the game-sealer on a two-on-one fastbreak with Chauncey Billups, but he made up for it and then some with his huge three-point that put the Nuggets up six.
...six soon became three when Gay made his second incredible shot of the night, this time a three-pointer right in Melo's face.
...Melo made up for a shoddy shooting night with a John Elway-esque touchdown pass to Nene to close out the game. That may have been the best assist of the season from Melo.
...as soon as the final buzzer sounded, Melo rushed to the locker room.
NON-STIFF OF THE NIGHT
-Arron Afflalo and Nene: Afflalo and Nene combined to shoot 20-for-27 from the field and were consistently aggressive throughout the game. Nene also contributed 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks as his streak of great games continues.
STIFF OF THE NIGHT
-O.J. Mayo: It's hard to believe that Mayo had a 40-point game in Denver last season. This season he missed that mark by 37 points and shot just 1-4 in limited playing time.
As we've seen for several seasons now, the Nuggets are beating who they're supposed to beat. Yes, it's frustrating to see them routinely allow the opposition back into seemingly easy wins but at 13-6 with a seven-game winning streak, we shouldn't be complaining too much.