The Nuggets tried their hardest to play down to the level of their competition tonight. But it's pretty tough to play as poorly as the Wizards do, and thus the Nuggets walked away with their 46th victory of the season.
To think that the Nuggets could easily win their 50th game before April even begins is surreal. As good as last season's Nuggets were, this season's incarnation is better...even with the injuries and their nasty habit of sometimes - okay, almost always - playing more like their competition than their true selves.
That nasty habit reared its head again for three quarters and change tonight, as the Nuggets found themselves mired in a low-scoring affair that unfortunately resembled a WNBA game. On the Nuggets side of the basketball, it seemed as though Carmelo Anthony was the lone Nugget giving a full effort for all of his 42 minutes. His teammates - and his Wizard competitors - were clearly gassed and flat having played last night.
Since Nuggets head coach George Karl missed his first road game on February 25th due to undergoing throat and neck cancer treatment, the Nuggets have played a startling 12 games in 20 days, including four back-to-backs and seven road games. The Nuggets record during this stretch? Try 9-3 on for size. So while it may frustrate us to watch them play poorly for quarters at a time, it sure is hard to argue with the results.
The View from the Not-So-Cheap-Seats...
...when Karl first walked onto the floor, the early arriving crowd went berserk and gave him a well earned standing ovation. Then, a few minutes later, the Nuggets PA announcer formally welcomed Karl back and Karl received a second rousing standing ovation. In addition, the crowd was littered with fans holding up "We Love Coach Karl" and "Get Well Soon Coach Karl" signs. It was good to see Nuggets fans at their best and you could tell Karl was touched.
...Wizards assistant coach Don Zierden and actor Wallace Shawn (of "Princess Bride" fame) had to be separated at birth.
...the staff from Deer Creek Middle School who performed heroically in the face of a madman shooter in late February were honored before tipoff...by getting a photo op with referee Dick Bavetta. With honors like these, who needs...
...the Wizards Al Thornton - who I thought could be a potential stud when he was a Clipper - looks heavy and out of shape. That didn't stop Thornton from pestering Melo all night on the defensive end.
...Andray Blatche looks great. He's a legit 6'11" and could be an All-Star someday. He killed the Nuggets tonight before going down with a nasty ankle sprain.
...who the hell is Alonzo Gee? I had no idea who this guy was until he hit that amazing half court buzzer beater at halftime.
...Anthony Carter played great, but you had to love his transition pass to Kenyon Martin during the second quarter. (That's supposed to be a joke. You see, K-Mart was on the bench in a suit and...oh, nevermind.)
...as noted above, no one on the Nuggets worked harder than Melo tonight. Melo was mixing it up in the trenches on offense from the opening tip onward and just had a "we're not losing this game" look in his eyes all night. I can't say enough about Melo's effort tonight.
...Chauncey Billups had two amazing passes in traffic during the third quarter - one to Nene and one to Joey Graham. Unfortunately, neither Nene nor Graham could finish at the rim.
...curiously, neither Renaldo Balkman or Chris Andersen were present with their teammates on the bench. At some point, I need to get to the bottom of why some Nuggets do and some Nuggets don't join their teammates during games when injured. And no, I still won't accept the "they're getting treatment in the locker room" at 9pm at night excuse considering the entire training and fitness staff are on the bench with the team.
...former Nugget Earl Boykins received a nice applause when he came into the game and then he proceeded to play like, well, Earl Boykins. Meaning, Boykins routinely over-dribbled until the Wizards' shot clock wound down forcing himself to take the last-second shot. Boykins remains as one of the NBA's all-time enigmas. On the one hand, he's a fascinating, inspirational story. On the other, he's a total ball hog and you'll never win with Boykins on your team.
...I'm concerned J.R. Smith thinks that the 24-second shot clock is really an 18-second shot clock, because he continuously took bad shots with plenty of time on the clock until he scored 13 relatively meaningless fourth quarter points.
...Melo should send Wizards center JaVale McGee a "thank you" note for scoring his 28th and 29th point tonight, because they came on McGee mishandling a rebound rather than a Melo make (when this happens, whomever is closest to the basket for the offensive team gets credited with the make).
Non-Stiff of the Night
-Carmelo Anthony: 29 points, 12 rebounds (five offensive) and endless effort. All this considering the game was the second of a back-to-back makes Melo the clear "Non-Stiff of the Night."
Stiff of the Night
-JaVale McGee: Other than having abnormally skinny legs, McGee has a text book NBA body - obnoxiously long arms, huge hands and he's at least seven feet tall. And yet against the undersized Nuggets McGee could only muster five points on 1-for-6 shooting and three rebounds in over 21 minutes of playing time.
Photo courtesy of AP: David Zalubowski