Carmelo Anthony is officially back to his old self. He took an inefficient 25 shots to get 33 points. Got himself to the free throw line an impressive seven times for 14 attempts. Pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out five assists. And his "boy who cries wolf" routine was back in full gear. If I didn't know Melo better, I'd have thought he tore up his knee, hyper-extended his elbow and got his eyes poked out all in one game tonight.
But alas, Melo - our "Non-Stiff of the Night" to be sure - was the driving force behind a very balanced Nuggets attack. It's rare when all five starters on an NBA team find themselves in double-digit scoring by game's end, but that's exactly what happened tonight in the Nuggets solid but somewhat concerning 113-106 victory of a road weary Rockets team. I say somewhat concerning because you'd think the well-rested Nuggets would have pounced on this Rockets team early and often given that the Rockets had to fly in from the Pacific Coast.
The Nuggets did pounce - eventually - but it didn't happen until midway through the fourth quarter thanks to a rally sparked by high-energy reserves Ty Lawson (who else?) and Gary Forbes. Further proof that the Nuggets have a deep roster to be reckoned with, if you-know-who would just commit to sticking around for a few more seasons.
Frankly, I'm feeling very conflicted with each Nuggets victory (tonight being their fourth straight en route to a respectable 20-13 record on the season). On the one hand, I love watching our guys play hard, play right and play together. And that includes Melo. If ever there was a complete team effort to date this season, tonight's win over Houston was it.
On the other hand, I feel like I'm being teased into getting emotionally invested with a team that ultimately won't look as it does today. So while I'd love to have visions of a Western Conference Finals appearance dancing in my head when I go to sleep later, such a notion is nothing short of a mirage.
With the way the Nuggets are playing, with or without #15, I believe they'll make the playoffs. But doing any damage once they get there is unlikely without Carmelo Anthony on board. So should I enjoy the run while it lasts, or be furious with our star for eventually ruining a would-be great season? The internal conflict of the Nuggets fan continues.
The View From the Not-So-Cheap-Seats...
...Carmelo Anthony seemingly had it going offensively from the get-go, and I was shocked to see that he missed 15 of his 25 shot attempts when looking at the box score at game's end. It just didn't feel like he missed that many shots watching the game live. Regardless, it was good to see Melo regain his shooting touch after a horrendous shooting night against the Kings on Saturday.
...it's always good seeing former Nuggets Elston Turner and T.R. Dunn, now assistant coaches for Rockets head coach Rick Adelman. But as if we needed another example that the Nuggets are clueless when it comes to in-game presentation, there was no acknowledgment whatsoever of Dunn's (arguably the greatest defensive Nugget ever) return to Denver. If I were in charge of the in-game presentation, during an early timeout I'd have shown a T.R. Dunn retrospective on the big screen and saluted Dunn for the fans to cheer him. I'm convinced that whomever runs the Nuggets in-game operations is clueless about Nuggets history.
...Luis Scola is a stud, but seems to have picked up his countryman Manu Ginobili's penchant for acting. It was hilarious watching Nene barely touch Scola's face near game's end, prompting Scola to recoil violently backward and draw a foul. It happened right in front of Nuggets head coach George Karl, who knew the call was so preposterous that he could only sit down in shocked protest.
...finally acknowledging some basketball history, the Nuggets trotted out Harlem Globetrotters legend Curly Neal between the first and second quarters. As further proof that many Nuggets fans are knowledgeable about basketball and therefore deserve more basketball-related entertainment when a Pepsi Center, the crowd gave Neal a huge standing ovation. The Globetrotters will be playing throughout Colorado beginning on the 7th, playing at Pepsi Center on the 9th.
...Kenyon Martin had a fine outing, but was laboring quite a bit on his surgically repaired left knee. I wouldn't be surprised if K-Mart sits for the Nuggets game against the Clippers on Wednesday.
...Chris Andersen can't stop anyone and was scored on relentlessly throughout the game.
...interestingly, many of the ads alongside the scorer's table had Chinese lettering, meaning that this game must have been televised in China (the Rockets remain quite popular in China thanks to Yao Ming).
...I love watching Gary Forbes and J.R. Smith play well side-by-side with each other. I can't help but think of a few months ago when J.R. was in the doghouse and Karl explained it by saying that there weren't enough minutes for both of them.
...the Nuggets dished out 20 assists and are now 4-1 when they have 20 or more assists.
...until he stops assuming foul calls and whining incessantly, Melo will never get any respect from the referees.
NON-STIFF OF THE NIGHT
-Carmelo Anthony: With regard to his many in-game injuries, Melo gave an acting performance worthy of an Oscar...or maybe an Emmy...ok, a Tony. But despite that, Melo played a great game and it's good to see him back in form.
STIFF OF THE NIGHT
-Kevin Martin: The "other" K-Mart shot an awful 3-15 from the field and had three turnovers, too. It's never good when your starting two-guard has as many turnovers and field goal completions.
Barely beating the Rockets at home when they're on a back-to-back is nothing to brag about. But at 20-13, the Nuggets are on the march in the right direction.