Our Denver Nuggets wasted no time picking up where they left off during the previous regular season by running their opponent out of the building early and never looking back.
After losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a hard-fought but ultimately one-sided playoff series last spring, the 2010-11 NBA season left a bitter taste in Nuggets' fans mouths while serving up many questions about whether or not our new-look Nuggets were for real. It was an unfortunate ending to an otherwise Cinderella season of sorts, because prior to that playoff series the Nuggets were essentially barnstormers - routinely blowing out opponent after opponent who dared enter Pepsi Center in the wake of the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Watching the Nuggets decimate the Utah Jazz at Pepsi Center tonight, it felt like we were transported back to last March when the Nuggets won 10 of 13 games and virtually all of them were one-sided affairs. In fact, the joke around here at the time among our most ardent readers was that I only covered blowouts. And I suspect we have many more blowouts to come as road-weary teams come into Denver during this lockout-truncated season.
Two games into the nascent the 2011-12 season won't in any way erase the bitterness and disappointment of that Thunder series. But after seeing our Nuggets up front and in person for the first time this winter, I can confidently say that we will - again - have a great regular season team here in Denver.
Not that tonight's opponent, the Utah Jazz, provided much of a test. (The test will come tomorrow night when the Nuggets play at Portland followed by a home-and-home with the Lakers over New Year's weekend.) But you can't fault the Nuggets for doing exactly what they should do against a lowly team like Utah playing the second of a back-to-back.
The view from the not-so-cheap seats...
...hoping to get back into good graces with the fans, the Nuggets trotted out longtime season ticket holders alongside each player during introductions. It was a great gesture but the fans are clearly on-board with the team as the game was a sellout.
...oddly, non-suited up rookies Julyan Stone and Jordan Hamilton thanked the crowd for coming in tonight.
...let's get right to it: Al Harrington looks surprisingly great (as called out by me on Renaud Notaro's radio show last night!). After coming into training camp with a fat contract and an even fatter waistline last season, no single player took more heat from me and my fellow Stiffs than "Big Al." Harrington has lost at least15 pounds and has looked sprightly in his first two games. He's making shots that he otherwise would have missed last season and it's as if his body is finally in sync with his veteran basketball brain. It's a good thing the Nuggets didn't amnesty this guy!
...how glad are we that the Nuggets didn't deal Melo to the Nets and take Derrick Favors back in trade last season? More on that below.
...Timofey Mozgov is displaying a nice mid-range shooting touch. If he perfects that, big things lay ahead for The Moz. Unfortunately, Al Jefferson clearly had no fear going up against Mozgov and torched the big man for many easy shots inside.
...in person, Ty Lawson's speed is jaw dropping. The kid simply dances around and through opposing lineups.
...when the Nuggets hit the 52-point mark with three minutes to go in the first half, I knew the Jazz had no prayer. We saw this routinely last season when the Nuggets scored in the high 50s and low 60s during first halves, and opponents never caught up.
...Andre Miller didn't shoot well but 12 assists off the bench in just 27 minutes of playing time? Are you kidding me? 'Dre could start on 15 NBA teams right now.
...former CU standout Alec Burks had a nice "homecoming" of sorts with 15 garbage time points, mostly off fast break slam dunks. He's skinnier (and a bit shorter) in person than I expected, but could supplant Raja Bell at shooting guard before season's end.
...Gordon Hayward has a nice shooting touch that will keep him in the NBA for years to come.
...Arron Afflalo must not be in game shape yet as his shot still looks off and Nuggets coach George Karl kept his minutes tight.
...the crowd erupted when rookie Kenneth Faried entered the game, but the excitable rookie couldn't even make a layup! Faried looks raw but you can't coach motivation and enthusiasm and I think he'll be just fine down the road with some seasoning.
...after all the talk about not falling for ball fakes, Chris Andersen can't help himself and still falls for every ball fake.
...surprisingly, most of the crowd stayed until the very end and gave the Nuggets a well-earned standing ovation. It's going to be a great (regular) season!
Stiff of the Game
-Derrick Favors: As a few of us saw last season during his lone trip to Denver while playing for the Nets, Favors' body language looks "sulky" and he just doesn't appear to want to be an impact player in the NBA. He somehow managed to grab 10 rebounds on Wednesday night, but I'm not bullish on Favors' game and am glad the Knicks were the Nuggets trading partner for Melo!
Non-Stiff of the Game
-Nene Hilario: 25 points on 10-13 shooting plus seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Wow. Nene looked amazingly comfortable out there and to his credit, appears to have kept himself in great shape. Remember - most Nuggets fans were worried that Nene would shirk his conditioning responsibilities during the off-season. And from the looks of things up close, he kept himself on a tight workout regimen.
Is 66-0 too much to ask? Okay, I'm joking.
We should be cautiously optimistic about this squad. While the Nuggets have looked impressive in their first two games and I know many more blowouts are on the horizon, we did play two teams on the second of back-to-backs that looked dreadful in their first games to begin with. Let's get excited after the Nuggets beat the Trail Blazers in Portland on Thursday night.