The Nuggets still don't have a player who's scored 30 points or more this season.
Yet it was the 20th time they've had 6 or more players score in double figures - Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Randy Foye, Timofey Mozgov and Nate Robinson all chipped in at least 12 en route to a 125-117 victory. Nights like tonight are when I'm thankful for the depth that this Nuggets team has to work with, having solid contributions from every player in the rotation. Even with having played the night before in Denver against the Pacers, the Nuggets managed to notch a season high in fastbreak points (33). Many of those points came from the entire team collectively pushing the pace all game, leading to open looks for the Nuggets in the paint where they feasted to the tune of 58 (!) points. The Kings clearly missed the volcanic DeMarcus Cousins protecting the paint, and certainly would have been helped with Rudy Gay's ability to score the rock, but thems the breaks. The Nuggets took care of business against a team that they should beat and did it in exciting fashion. There were some frustrating touch fouls called by Joey Crawford and the rest of the ref crew tonight, but the game mostly evened out in the end.
Tonight, Lawson had another gear that nobody else on the floor could match. He was all over the court, forcing the ball in transition, jumping passes upcourt, and performing a spectacular array of circus shots which he mostly converted. Though the sprightly Isaiah Thomas gave Ty fits at times, he couldn't match Ty's extremely efficient shooting (9-15 for 27 points) and relentless drives inside. Ty's scored 29 points two other times yet just can't seem to break that 30 point barrier - but when he's carrying the team like he did tonight it's hard to dispute just how dominant our diminutive guard can be.
The Kings were helped along by a 22-point night from Isiah Thomas and 19 from sharpshooter Marcus Thornton. Though they got 18 more from exciting rookie Ben McLemore, the Kings really didn't have much else to answer the endless waves of solid players the Nuggets threw at them. Aaron Gray showcased how big he is but little else. Scrappy Carl Landry boxed hard on the interior but otherwise was invisible, and Jimmer Fredette and Travis Outlaw contributed a very "meh" 17 points. In all, though there were some scary moments, the Nuggets did a good job defending the 3 (holding the Kings to just 25% from the arc on 4-16 shooting) and forced the Kings into 31 fouls and 16 turnovers.
I was surprised by the Nuggets collective energy tonight. It would have been easy for them to fall asleep in Sleep Train (hurr) given their flight from Denver the night before, but they played with aggression and speed and were rewarded. A high-flying alley oop pass from Lawson to a streaking Faried for a dunk underscored, highlighted and exclamation-point-ed how the team chose to run its game tonight. A tip of the hat to Timofey Mozgov, who continued his excellent play - he was a perfect 5/5 from the floor for 14 points, 2 rebounds (seriously Moz?), 2 blocks and a steal. He bothered the Kings inside every minute he was on the court, and showed off a growing confidence in his game. It's pretty great to see a player whom I once regarded in the same way as I did Malik Allen become one of the most reliable contributors for the team on both ends of the floor. Keep it up, Moz! Quincy Miller also made an appearance tonight, going 3-4 from the floor (with 2 huge threes) for 8 points, 2 steals and a block. I continue to think that Miller can be a big force for this team as he develops, and it's exciting to watch him display a multifaceted offensive game with his long, lanky frame.
Throughout the night, the Nuggets capitalized on the high pick and roll with Lawson, Hickson and other bigs, catching the slow-footed Aaron Gray and undersized Quincy Acy frequently out of position. What caught my eye was that the Nuggets were collectively setting much tougher screens, freeing up Ty for open looks or to hit the man rolling to the bucket for an easy layup or dunk. If the Nuggets could simply bring the screening that they displayed tonight to every game, there's no reason why they couldn't be much higher than 11th in overall points per game. The fact that they are still struggling mightily on defense (giving up 59 points in the first half to the Kings) is somewhat muted by their high-scoring play of late, though their interior defense still needs a lot of work.
The up-and-down Nuggets have now won two in a row, and will get a two day break before they next face the Charlotte Bobcats in the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night at 7:00pm.