Although this game for most observers may go down as a miraculous put back from a Rudy Gay miss by the Grizzlies' Dante Cunningham. The Nuggets may have found something more important. Their collective spine.
Nuggets lose 103-102 in Memphis.
With about 10 minutes left in the third quarter the Nuggets were down by 23 points and were playing like they were dead men walking. A funny thing happened though. Corey Brewer , who hadn't scored the entire first half starting hitting three-point shots like he was was standing at the Pop-a-Shot at Dave & Busters, he finished with 26 points ... all in the second half. Three consecutive three's later and the Nuggets were suddenly within 14 points.
The rest was - well - almost history.
They key, along with Brewer was the lineup of Chris Andersen and Kenneth Faried in the Nuggets' front court. The energy they provided (going after every rebound, intimidating attempted lay-ups, getting inside) was contagious for the rest of the team. Ty Lawson was suddenly playing better. Andre Miller was suddenly playing with more fire. Even Rudy Fernandez, who had a bad game overall, was going for steals and pushing the Grizzlies back court.
Birdman, who most likely learned he was on the trading block today, came in and continued his recent good play. While his 7 points and 7 rebounds stat line doesn't leap out at you ... one can see if they watched the game that Bird was flying everywhere, attempting to block every lay-up and being the Birdman of old. While Marc Gasol did have a bit of his way with him, Gasol actually had far less points and assists with Bird guarding him than he did before. Gasol finished with 16 points, 10 of which were in the first half.
Manimal rewarded Coach George Karl and his sudden faith in him by scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. He was everywhere. Going after every offensive rebound and looking to score. Which is a change from what we have seen in the past from him. This energy was felt by everyone and the Nuggets fed off that. With Faried and Bird in there the Nuggets cut a 10 fourth quarter deficit down and even took the lead a couple times. It was great to see.
Unfortunately, with the great news about Faried comes the bad news. Dante Cunningham was Faried's man ... and Manimal didn't adequately block him out on that final, ill-fated, shot attempt by Rudy Gay. Cunningham leaped in the air and tipped the ball in with 0.2 seconds remaining. Sealing the Nuggets' fate in this game. One hopes that Manimal will learn from this mistake, and take the positives from this game and hold his head high. He proved tonight he has a bright future in this league and his minutes tonight show this.
Ty Lawson also located his spine. He was driving the lane ... even when the lane was stacked and GASP, good things happened! Yay! THAT, my friends is the kind of Ty we need in every single game. PERIOD. No more cajoling, no more prodding, none of that. Every game Ty needs to play like he did all night with driving the lane and creating. Having a stat line of 18 points and 6 assists is not bad in any way. Keep it up Ty and I will stop riding you. Miller also had himself a good game. He finished with 13 points and 9 assists and looked interested again, as opposed to the last several games.
Timofey Mozgov is back. Well, he WAS back. After putting in some good minutes, Moz looked like he tweaked his left ankle again and had to leave the game. It looked like he was able to come back in (if needed), but I'm sure every Nuggets fan held their collective breath when they saw that re-injury. Moz played some good defense, but looked a little rusty on offense. That will only improve I believe.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Now THAT is more like it folks. A spirited effort all around by the Nuggets in the second half. While an entire game with that kind of energy would be nice, it seemed like the Nuggets quite figuratively flipped the switch and turned it in to hyper-drive. Starting with Brewers threes, and ending with an unfortunate tip-in. I'm less concerned about the final result than I am encouraged about the energy and the general vibe the team put out in the second half. It was SO much better. Like a giant weight had been lifted and the sunshine came through the clouds.
We all now know how important Danilo Gallinari is to this team. Yet, with spirited efforts like tonight, the Nuggets can make up for Gallo's absence by giving constant effort and energy. They need this. So while there are those who are waiting for Wilson Chandler to save the day ... maybe, just maybe, the spark the Nuggets needed was lit in the second half of tonight's game? I saw a change tonight. George Karl finally trusted a young player and didn't re insert Al Harrington (happy birthday Al but...wow you played terrible tonight) when the chips were down. These are the things that will help this team going forward more than anyone knows.
There's no such thing as a good loss, but damn this feels like one.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78