It only took nearly 14 years for George Karl and seven for our Nuggets, but at long last Karl and the Nuggets won a game in Phoenix.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't that dramatic.
But finally - finally! - the Nuggets won a basketball game in the valley of the sun. And unlike all those at-Phoenix losses where the Nuggets were on the wrong end of a double-digit defeat, the Nuggets bested the Suns on Thursday night in emphatic fashion, winning by 19 points.
What was a 10-point halftime lead turned into an absolute rout in the second half. In fact, the final score makes the game seem closer than it really was.
Nugget dynamo Ty Lawson made former MVP Steve Nash seem every bit the 37-year-old point guard that he is. Lawson - who finished the game with 20 points on 8-13 shooting to go along with 11 assists (eight in the first half) and four steals - may have played his best game ever as a starting point guard...adding more fuel to the "point guard controversy" fire that may be looming in Denver.
And other than Suns' backup center Marcin Gortat's astounding rebounding performance, the Suns were manhandled on the boards by our Nuggets. By game's end, the Nuggets had 51 total rebounds compared to just 42 for Phoenix with Gortat's 18 rebounds accounting for almost half of Phoenix's total. You know you're having a curse-breaking night when your starting shooting guard - in this case, Gary Forbes - out-rebounds everyone in the game except the opposing team's center.
But what should be encouraging to Nuggets fans while being very discouraging for our future opponents is that the Nuggets won at Phoenix - a team that had won 10 of its previous 14 games - without the services of it's two arguably most talented offensive players, Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari. It will no doubt be challenging for Karl to find minutes for all these players when AAA and Gallo return, but I could think of worse problems to have.
When the Nuggets last won at Phoenix (on April 7th, 2004) Andre Miller anchored the point guard spot, Jon Barry started at shooting guard, Nene was the power forward alongside Carmelo Anthony at small forward, and Marcus Camby was the starting center.
Miller has since been replaced by Allen Iverson who was replaced by Chauncey Billups who has been replaced by the Ty Lawson/Raymond Felton combination. Barry is an NBA on ESPN/ABC analyst who has rarely had a good thing to say about Denver since he has been on television. Nene - remarkably - is still with us. Camby was dealt away long ago for a trade exception, then got his money in Portland and (shockingly) got hurt again. And Melo was recently turned into Felton, Gallo, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos.
You know, the guys that will make the remainder of this season (and post-season) very much worth watching.
Non-Stiff of the Game
Denver's Starting Five: With so many players contributing to the Nuggets win at Phoenix, it's hard to claim one as the "Non-Stiff" of the game. Nene and K-Mart missed just three shots apiece and Lawson only four. Chandler had another quietly effective night and Forbes did a lot of dirty work. Just a great effort all around from the starting five who set a great tone for the entire game.
Stiff of the Game
Vince Carter: 2-11 from the field with just one rebound and only two assists. Most of the Suns played poorly but VC played the worst.
Looking back, it was fun rooting for those 2003-04 Nuggets. The team hadn't even sniffed a playoff berth since 1995 and with rookie sensation Carmelo Anthony on-board, enthusiasm was in the air for Nuggets fans. Thanks to our newly assembled, hard-working team, that enthusiasm - and then some - appears to be back again.
And it doesn't hurt when you beat the Suns at Phoenix, something that seemed oddly impossible these past seven years.