Give the Warriors credit, they got the Nuggets to do exactly what they wanted: play an up-tempo, sporadic, shoot-first basketball game. Unfortunately for the boys from the Bay Area, the Nuggets are a hell of a lot better at playing Warriors basketball than the Warriors are and thus won handily 127-112.
What could have been an exciting game turned into a boat race as the Nuggets took an early first-half lead and barely broke a sweat for the remainder of the night. After the Nuggets blew the game open in the first half, the closest the Warriors got was 106-100 with 8:38 remaining in the game, at which point Nuggets interim head coach Adrian Dantley remembered that he has Carmelo Anthony on his team, inserted Melo into the lineup and the Nuggets really never looked back.
Of course, it helps when Chauncey Billups can't miss a shot. Continuing his best-season-ever as a professional basketball player, the all-business Billups erupted for 37 points, just two shy of his career high that he posted on the Lakers earlier this month. And it was an eruption indeed as Billups missed just six of his 19 field goal attempts, including a stellar six-of-eight shooting night from behind the three-point arc.
As is typical when you play the Warriors and the possession count goes ways up, many Nuggets were big time contributors tonight. In fact, the box score reads like the Nuggets got into the Hot Tub Time Machine (and yes, I can't wait to see that movie) and they ended up playing the Warriors in the 1980s: in addition to Billups' 37 points, Melo had 27, J.R. Smith had 25 points, eight (not a typo) rebounds and four steals, and Nene and Chris "Birdman" Andersen yanked down 21 combined rebounds. And on the other side of the ledger, three Warriors had at least 20 points, including Stephen Curry's exceptional 30 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds and two steals outing.
But even though the box score looks somewhat glamorous, I found this game to be a bore. When the highlight of the game is Warriors head coach Don Nelson telling TNT's Craig Sager: "It's not that I don't play rookies. I just don't like to play bad rookies" in reference to Curry getting ample PT this season, you know the game is a snoozer.
Congratulations to Dantley for improving his interim coaching record to 2-1. If he keeps this up, he just might find a spot for himself in The Denver Nuggets Interim Head Coach Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Scott Brooks, Mike Evans, Michael Cooper, Dick Motta and Gene Littles.
Non-Stiff of the Game
-Chauncey Billups: For all the reasons mentioned above. Billups set the tone immediately after tipoff against the young, undersized Warriors guards. Dantley curiously mentioned to Sager during his first quarter interview that Nuggets head coach George Karl doesn't like the bigger Billups to post up small guards, but that Dantley was going to do it anyway (and it worked!). Additionally, is it fair to suggest that Billups should be a top four MVP candidate this season behind only LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard?
Stiff(s) of the Game
-Andris Biedrins and Devean George: Watching this game, I kicked myself all night for not having Biedrins and his 13% (also not a typo) free throw shooting percentage on my pre-game Warriors Stiff List. Biedrins has become such an awful free throw shooter that he shoots field goals too quickly hoping not to get fouled and sent to the line. And George with his 1-for-6 shooting and five fouls played like...well...Devean George.
Photo courtesy of AP