When the highlight of the game is John Elway throwing a tight spiral pass to the Nuggets mascot Rocky, you know you've got a blowout on your hands.
Mavericks? At last, check.
After being embarrassed at home by a loss to the Mavericks in late December, the Nuggets responded and then some by walloping the boys from Dallas by an astounding 36 points tonight. I know the Mavericks played late at Golden State last night...but a 36-point loss? And they're considered by many to be a top-four team in the Western Conference? Really?!!
What's remarkable about the Nuggets victories against the Lakers, Jazz, Cavaliers, Spurs, Hawks and now Mavericks - all presumed to be among the NBA's "elite" teams - is that the Nuggets have done so minus at least one key player per game. Tonight's absent player was the suddenly invaluable Kenyon Martin, who sat with tendonitis in his left knee. But just like no Melo, no problem against the Lakers, Cavaliers and Spurs this was no K-Mart, no problem against the Mavericks.
The View from the Not-So-Cheap-Seats...
...as mentioned above, the highlight of the game was Rocky's continued antics with Denver Broncos legend - and known deity - John Elway. Elway sat courtside and next to the basket on the Mavericks side of the floor. Early in the game, Rocky bowed and prayed at Elway's feet a number of times and Elway was clearly embarrassed. But by the time the fourth quarter rolled around and Elway was loosened up thanks to a few cocktails, Elway was a great sport, signed a football that Rocky dug up and threw Rocky two tight spirals down the length of the floor. The first pass landed at Rocky's feet, but the second was a clean catch followed by a standing ovation from the crowd. Kudos to Elway and Rocky for bringing some entertainment to a mostly non-entertaining game.
...Nuggets head coach George Karl's lineup of two centers (Chris Andersen and Johan Petro) combined with three guards (J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson) for a long stretch in the first half was my favorite part of the game. Karl was basically saying: "Screw it, we're killing these guys tonight so I might as well experiment with something new in the lab."
...it was good to see Carmelo Anthony back, but you could tell he's still not 100% on that bad ankle. He was hesitant to drive to the hole (hence the zero free throw attempts) but had no problem on his jump shots, evident by his 50% shooting performance. On NBATV's postgame "NBA Game Time", Chris Webber suggested that Melo continue to sit. I disagree. Melo needs to get himself back into game shape and besides, as Melo said in the postgame interview, he's running out of suits to wear!
...Chauncey Billups may have had his most efficient game of the season. 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting (3-of-5 from three-point range), six assists and three steals in just 28 minutes of playing time.
...speaking of efficient games, how about Nene's 8-of-9 shooting game to go with eight rebounds. And it felt like all of Nene's production came early in the first quarter.
...J.R. Smith's confidence is clearly back which should make 29 NBA teams very nervous right now.
...during an early fourth quarter free throw attempt by one of his teammates (I don't remember who), Chris "Birdman" Andersen was getting "cawed" at incessantly by a few drunk fans behind the basket. Birdman being Birdman, he couldn't help himself and acknowledged the fans and it got them even more riled up and louder. A few possessions later when Birdman was at the line, they went at it again and Birdman couldn't keep a straight face as he clanked his free throw off the rim.
...Johan Petro's sneak attack block on Dirk Nowitzki was the non-Elway highlight of the game. The crowd went nuts when Dirk thought he had Birdman beat, only to have his sideline jumper swatted away by the big Frenchman.
...even though it was a blowout and most fans left halfway through the fourth quarter, Elway stayed until the very end.
Non-Stiff of the Night
-Chris Andersen: The Birdman had a fabulous game tonight. Beyond the solid numbers (14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and a block) his energy was as high as we've seen all season and he wasn't being baited into jumping on head fakes. Wherever the ball went, Birdman seemed to be nearby. Clearly, it's all about the new hairdo which must stay for the remainder of the season.
Stiff of the Night
-The Mavericks Energy: I know I sound like a broken record, but back-to-back games matter and tonight's blowout Nuggets win was further proof of this. Similar to the Lakers body language when they got blown out at Denver on the second of a back-to-back in November, the Mavericks clearly had no interest in playing basketball tonight from the opening tip onward. Great for the Nuggets in the win column, bad for the fans who got cheated out of their money hoping to witness a competitive game.
Photo courtesy of AP