Well, that was certainly fun to see. Although there were moments of listlessness in the second quarter, the Nuggets finally managed to play with some consistent intensity late in the third and fourth quarters. Arron Afflalo continues his hot play with 28 points, Al Harrington grabs a double double with 20 and 10, and the Denver Nuggets win 110-97.
Quote of the Night:
Try for 30 assists — c’mon, just try, see if you can do it.
ParkHillNative called it! Tonight, the Nuggets had 33 assists on 41 made baskets against the New Orleans Hornets. Andre Miller and Ty Lawson combined for 18 assists, an excellent performance out of any starting backcourt. Corey Brewer, Nene, and Arron Afflalo chipped in 4 each, Danilo Gallinari had 2, and Al Harrington chipped in 1.
You could just tell the energy was different tonight. Maybe it was the arrival of Peyton Manning in Denver, maybe the Nuggets were tired of losing at homes to bad teams they should beat, but the effort was excellent.
- "Minimal" to "Manimal" for an alley-oop dunk in the first quarter set the tone early. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried love playing together, and when they're out in transition, they're as unstoppable as Wade and LeBron. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch them develop alongside one another. Faried looked like he was on track for another monster night with 9 points and 3 rebounds in just 11 minutes, but foul trouble sidelined the beast early and he didn't see much time on the floor in the second half.
- Nene and especially Gallo are playing at about three-quarter speed and it shows. Gallinari had an awful shooting night (started 0-5, ended up 3-10) and although Nene was efficient, clearly they're knocking the rust off still.
- Defense was all over the place. There were periods of extreme defensive intensity with the Nuggets forcing multiple 24 second violations, but there were also far too many easy interior baskets for a frontcourt featuring Chris Kaman and Gustavo Ayon. While Nene had a pretty block, much of the defensive breakdowns can be attributed to his poor help defense under the basket. Going forward, Nene has to rediscover his quick hands and feet to get into better position. He's constantly out of position and is reaching instead of getting his hands up in the air. Still, it's hard to complain when you hold any team below 100 points.
- No Koufos, no Mozgov, no Fernandez (no Wilson Chandler?). Koufos' knee tendinitis is becoming a worrisome problem, and I hope it doesn't keep him out much longer.
Amazingly, the Nuggets managed to prevent any player on the Hornets from having a career night, as Lance Thomas (???) lead the Hornets with a team-high 18 points tonight. Although Jarrett Jack had a hot start with 8 points in the first quarter, he was quiet the remainder of the game. You could definitely see that he was bothering Ty Lawson, though, and Ty must figure out how to attack guards who can match his speed.
- Only 12 turnovers, 3 from Lawson. Holding onto the ball does wonders for a team's scoring efficiency.
The story tonight, though, was the stellar play of Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington.
Nuggets of the Night:
Arron Afflalo: 36 min, 9-13 (4-7 3pt), 28 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 0 turnovers.
AAA is finally turning the corner after a very sub par start to the season. He's showing that he can be a scorer for the Nuggets when they have needed scoring desperately - Afflalo has scored 28 (9-13), 13 (4-8), 32 (9-20), and 14 (6-12) in his last four games, and he's doing it efficiently. Afflalo nailed long jumpers off the wing screens effortlessly tonight. His game is starting to remind me of a young Rip Hamilton, now that he's more consistently knocking down 15 to 18 footers. Opposing teams are being forced to chase him around the court and through screens, and combined with his defensive intensity, Afflalo is certainly capable of wearing any team's best shooter out. The difference is now he's proving he can be this team's best shooter as well.
Al Harrington: 26 min, 8-16 (1-6 3pt), 20 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 0 turnovers.
Al Harrington is a supremely frustrating player at this point in his career. On the one hand, I really struggle with a lot of his shot selection, and his cement shoes haven't helped my perception of him as a particularly great player on the defensive end. On the other, the guy just knows how to score and will find a way to get his points. To beat the atoms of the dust of the dead horse to death, Harrington's game is like a small-market team's Carmelo Anthony. He will get you 14 points a game, but he'll take 12 to get there. Like Carmelo, he is most effective when he's scoring combined with using his size to control the defensive glass (something Melo did too rarely) as he did tonight. Harrington deserves a lot of credit for his effort lately, even if he hasn't been very efficient.
Chris Andersen: 22 min, 3-3, 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 0 turnovers.
Bird continues to surprise me. Written off as trade bait by many around Denver Stiffs, Chris Andersen is having one of the most efficient and effective seasons of his career in limited backup minutes. It is clear to anyone that his athleticism has declined, but that does not mean Bird can't provide extremely solid production at the 4. His length creates a lot of difficult shots in the paint and he's been far better about biting on pump fakes than he was earlier in the year. He's still a good player, and I hope people stop being so quick to want to see him gone.
Homestand watch: 2-1