Our Denver Nuggets have ascended to the (near) top of the Western Conference by playing the game the right way. But will it translate into post-season wins?
After taking out the Knicks in New York during a thrilling double-overtime game on Saturday evening, the Nuggets accomplished something that this Stiff-laden franchise has never done before: won four road games in five days. And with the bright spotlight of Carmelo Anthony-versus-the-Nuggets being on them leading up to and following the game, the nation's basketball punditry is finally taking notice of the Nuggets.
Both the New York Times and USA Today recently wrote enthusiastically about the Nuggets' fine play of late, ESPN's Marc Stein now has the Nuggets ranked third in his power rankings and a Denver Post columnist finally got around to writing about something other than Tim Tebow this week (I have to kid those guys, but enough with the Tebow coverage already!).
These are exciting times indeed for Nuggets fans.
Making things even more exciting is that the Nuggets are racking up wins by playing the game as it was meant to be played: by sharing the basketball. The Nuggets lead the NBA in team assists at 24.5 per game and lead the NBA in bench assists with 9.9 per game.
So it's no accident that they're near the top in wins, right?
Well, sort of.
Unfortunately, leading the NBA in assists isn't a very good predictor of post-season success. Three out of the five teams that led the NBA in assists last season - the Rockets, Suns and Jazz - missed the playoffs altogether. The team that tied for the lead - the Mavericks - did win the NBA Championship, however.
In the 2009-10 season, five of the top six teams that led the NBA in assists won at least 50 games (including NBA Finals runner-up Boston). And in 2008-09, two out of the top-five NBA team assist leaders missed the playoffs (with the second most generous team, the Lakers, winning the NBA Finals).
So while leading the NBA assists certainly isn't a bad thing and could translate into post-season success, don't clear out your June schedules for an NBA Finals run ... at least not yet!
On to the links...
Onion A.V. Club - J.R. Smith: Worst US Export Ever
Our friend John Reidy writes about J.R.'s difficult time in China.
NBA Basketball Power Rankings - National Basketball Association - ESPN
This is the place to be for nonautomated NBA Power Rankings! ESPN.com specialists break down the league's team-by-team pulse.
Nuggets sharing the ball and enjoying success – USATODAY.com
The Denver Nuggets are 12-5 with the Western Conference's second-best record, in no small part by leading the NBA in assists.
Kiszla: Nuggets' Gallinari has all-star potential - The Denver Post
Mark Kiszla and George Karl have had enough with the Dirk Nowitzki / Danilo Gallinari comparison and likens Gallo instead to Detlef Schrempf.
Nuggets' Harrington, Miller anchor productive bench - The Denver Post
Chris Dempsey breaks down the Nuggets awesome bench production.
Carmelo Anthony says he could be the reason for NY Knicks' skid - NY Daily News
Maybe, just maybe, Carmelo Anthony is shooting too much. That was one of the issues Anthony raised during his impromptu confessional with reporters Saturday night after the Knicks lost their sixth straight game.