Just when Denver sports fans and pundits alike were writing the obituary for the Denver Nuggets' 2011-12 season, the Nuggets march into Chicago (on the second of a back-to-back, no less) and taken down the home-dominant, Derrick Rose-less Bulls in blowout fashion. Which begs the question: who are these guys?
Coming off consecutive blowout road losses, we all figured that our Nuggets would be sitting ducks in Chicago on Monday night. Instead, the Nuggets turned in a spirited effort, actually played well in the third quarter for the first time in ages and left Chicago with a 17-point victory. With or without Derrick Rose, prior to Monday's game the Bulls had lost just four times at home. Four.
In fact, the Nuggets have now beaten (Chicago, San Antonio, Dallas, Indiana, Philadelphia, Houston and the Clippers) or almost beaten (the Lakers, Oklahoma City and Memphis) the NBA's very best home teams.
Or maybe the Nuggets should just stick to playing Eastern Conference teams not based out of Cleveland, because against the Western Conference the Nuggets are a woeful 14-22. Meaning, while we as fans try to figure out who these Nuggets are they better do it faster or they'll find themselves on the wrong end of a tiebreak when trying to make the playoffs.
The thing is ... I think most fans (and their head coach, George Karl) know who these Nuggets are. They are young, deep, athletic, dynamic and fast. So why hasn't the team embraced this? Why - from the coaching staff through the last man on the bench - have these Nuggets allowed so many opponents lately to dictate the tempo of the game? If the Nuggets can best the Bulls in Chicago on the second of a back-to-back, playing a third game in four days, why can't they play with similar energy against the likes of the Mavericks, Jazz and Wolves - teams they could find themselves in a tiebreak with a month from now?
To say it's perplexing puts it mildly. Mind-numbingly frustrating is more like it.
Of the many positives that came out of the Bulls victory, one has to be starting newcomer center JaVale McGee. While I've been a proud member of Nate Timmons' Mozgov Militia since the day the big Russian arrived in Denver, McGee is simply a far superior athlete, a rim protector (as long as he gets the Marcus Camby in him out of his system) and a potentially great offensive rebounder. I'd start McGee over Timofey Mozgov for now, relegating Moz to perhaps the best backup center in the NBA. Not a bad role, mind you.
And maybe Arron Afflalo needs to get himself suspended more often, because he came back from his one-game suspension with renewed energy and focus and looked like the Afflalo that the Nuggets gave a trunk load of money to in the off-season.
But at the end of the day, the Nuggets seem to go as point guard Ty Lawson goes. When Lawson is aggressive but controlled, the Nuggets win. When Lawson is checked out and goes through the motions, go ahead and hand the Nuggets another loss. Just look at Lawson's last 15 games since returning from an ankle injury - there's a direct correlation between his performances and Nuggets wins and losses.
So who are these guys? These guys are Ty Lawson's team, for better or for worse. Whether or not the Nuggets make the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season will rely greatly on Lawson's performance.
On to the links ...
Way off Track - Mile High Sports
James Merilatt writes that the Nuggets season is "careening" off course.
South Stands Denver Fancast | Denver Sports Podcast - Jekyll, Hyde, Denver Nuggets
The Bulls lost their eleventh game of the season tonight to the alter ego of your Denver Nuggets.
With Bulls game tonight, HochCast looks at enver’s efense | Nuggets Ink — Denver Nuggets news — The Denver Post
Benjamin Hochman looks at enver’s efense in his video cast.
Nuggets G Arron Afflalo talks about his ejection | Nuggets Ink — Denver Nuggets news — The Denver Post
Nuggets G Arron Afflalo talks about his ejection.
Lawson scores 27, helps Nuggets beat Bulls 108-91 - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
Ty Lawson tied a season high with 27 points, Arron Affalo added 22 and the Denver Nuggets shot 50 percent Monday night to beat the Chicago Bulls 108-91. Denver, playing its third game in four nights as part of a seven-game road swing, got its first win three games into the trip.