Right about the time Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried landed on the Pepsi Center floor grabbing his ankle (sprained ankle, x-ray's negative ... day to day), I managed to scream forth the loudest F-bomb that the city of Thornton has ever heard or ever will hear. I should have known better than to yell like that though as the Nuggets won 118-109 to attain their best-ever NBA record of 55 wins.
Led by their two starting wing players, the Nuggets managed to stay ahead most of the game and, despite losing a bit of blowout focus at the end of the game managed to win comfortably. An adjustment to the starting lineup prior to the start of today's game indicated that George Karl understood the starting unit's spacing issue since Danilo Gallinari went down four games ago. That's not the fault of the recently returning to the bench Wilson Chandler. The starting unit has been in flux, but spacing has been a big issue and Karl decided to stir things up a bit.
Into the starting lineup goes Evan Fournier, and boy did he respond. 24 points 4 rebounds 4 assists and 3 steals. For a rookie making his second-ever start, that was pretty impressive even WITH the Blazers missing three starters. Fournier's playmaking ability is essential to the Nuggets attack, particularly since Gallo's injury they have been relying a huge amount on one player. That player, Andre Iguodala, had himself an impressive day with 28 points 7 rebounds and 9 assists. Iguodala looked freed up a bit on the offensive end with Fournier in the starting lineup, and really filled the stat sheet well. Stuffed it, you might say. Nuggets have needed his all-around game of late, and it really came in handy today.
Ty Lawson returned to the starting lineup and, while not 100% still, was even more confident in this game than he was against the Mavericks on Friday night. He finished with 12 points and 10 assists. Hopefully his activity and speed are a sign of things to come, as well as his willingness to direct the flow of the game during crunch time. While Damian Lillard scored 30 points tonight (much of which while being guarded by Fournier) you never got the feeling he could take over this game. Good show from both Ty and Evan.
Additionally Anthony Randolph came off the bench and stepped up big time in absence of Kenneth Faried. He had 18 points and was very active on the offensive end, if a bit lost on the defensive end. This was ok because the Nuggets weren't playing an offensive juggernaut today. However, Nuggets will need both Randolph and Wilson Chandler to step up big time with Faried out for awhile. Chandler had 11 points, but was a victim of early foul trouble again and never got into the offensive flow of the game. One thing is for sure though, if Chandler isn't in foul trouble he will be dangerous on the offensive end and solid on the defensive end.
One last note. Someone please alert the police, because Andre Miller has been replaced with the mind of Smush Parker. I'm not entirely sure what has happened to Miller the last couple games, but he is playing the worst I have seen in quite some time. Maybe the minutes have caught up to him? Maybe his desire to prove himself has outweighed his ability to actually follow through? Who knows. All I know is he is too important as backup point guard to be this damn bad. Step it up Dre.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Nuggets play the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow. They are at a point now where dropping games is not an option. If they want to hold on to the three seed they NEED to keep winning. No excuses, keep the pedal to the metal and win. While the loss of Kenneth Faried is undoubtedly painful, other players need to step up in his absence, just like when injuries to Ty and Gallo happened. This team has the potential to be very very special and caving in now and giving less than 100% effort is NOT an option.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78