The Nuggets set the tone early tonight with an energized and focused effort on the offensive and defensive ends. Denver looked rested, confident, and they were obviously ready for this game. Portland had their hands full with Denver's front-court players and the Blazers were never able to gain a lead as they lost at the Pepsi Center 104-95.
What the Nuggets did to the Blazers in the first quarter was what we were used to seeing from George Karl and his team early in the season. Actually, the energy on the offensive glass was something that we haven't been especially treated to, thank to one Kenneth Faried.
Faried started off the game 4-4 with 8 points (he finished 6-6 with 13 points) and countless offensive rebounds ... 7 of his 10 rebounds came on the offensive end. He started the game with a little running hook shot in the paint and a few possession later he got a steal on one end and went coast-to-coast and jump-started the crowd with a Dominique Wilkins-esque windmill jam. I admit I was a bit worried when he went fancy, but I was also up out of my seat with that one.
Al Harrington checked in for Faried with Denver up 16-8, Big Al missed his first shot, but got hot and finished the night with 13 points on 5-11 shooting. It seemed everyone in a Nuggets uniform was hot and ready to go, but nobody looked more confident than Ty Lawson. He shot well, drove the ball, and found his teammates. How about the most shots taken on the team with an 8-15 performance for 18 points and 9 assists.
Denver had the Blazers playing on their heels most of the night and the Nuggets led at the half 62-45, after the third 85-71, but they did let Jamal Crawford and company get back into the game for a stretch during the final quarter. The Blazers made it a 91-85 game with about 7:16 left, but the jumper of Lawson kept the Blazers at bay.
The unselfishness on the night by Denver was a real difference maker. The team worked hard to get open shots and found the extra pass time-and-again to record 26 assists. Hustling was big for the Nuggets as they also dominated on the glass with a 54-36 rebounding advantage.
The boards were controlled by Faried (10 rebounds), Timofey Mozgov (14 points and 9 rebounds), and Kosta Koufos (11 rebounds). How about 21 offensive boards on the night for Denver? I don't know when the last time was that Denver ate up the glass on offense that much.
The defense for the Nuggets was very active, they still allowed some open threes to dangerous shooters (Crawford 5-9 from deep on the night) and the Nuggets were not shooting well from deep themselves with just a 6-21 night from downtown.
The nail in the coffin came with Arron Afflalo all alone and putting home a two-handed jam to give the Nuggets a 101-93 lead. AAA dunking is something we rarely see ... maybe these Nuggets will give us some additional surprises the rest of the way.
Great start, now let's see how the team builds off this win ...
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons