So... 82-0 is still on the table.
Including that improbability, several things seemed backward last night, including that I started out with the second half upon my late arrival home. Nate Timmons already wrote a bang-up recap, so let's not dive back into what's already been well-covered. Instead, I went back and watched the first half, re-watched the second half, and swear I saw...
Well, I'd swear I spotted something out of the ordinary. On par with the Loch Ness Monster, a four-leaf clover, or me walking past a box of donuts.
I'd swear I saw the Denver Nuggets playing team defense last night.
I saw Ty Lawson fight over picks. I saw Darrell Arthur ease guys down the baseline and out of bounds. I saw Arron Afflalo harassing guys at half court, and I saw Alonzo Gee come into the game to shut down a red-hot D.J. Augustin - and finally help the Nuggets put a little space between themselves and the Detroit Pistons to close out the game. The Nuggets 10-point lead at the end was their largest of the evening.
I even saw Kenneth Faried make choices on the defensive end that seemed far better than last season. Choices made in concert with the other players on the floor. In fact, help defense was often (but not yet always) on display. Here's how out of the ordinary last night's opener was:
Ty Lawson had three points, Danilo Gallinari had seven, and no one on the Nuggets bench broke into double figures. Team totals of 35% from the floor, 25% from three-point range, and 89 points in total. Over the last few years, those numbers were the recipe for a Nuggets loss, often of disastrous proportion.
In this case, however, Denver had allowed Detroit 40 points at the half, and only 39 more in the remainder. Now, no one is saying they shut out an offensive juggernaut in the Pistons, but their concerted effort on defense was what kept them in the game all night.
So, after one game, are we the new Memphis Grizzlies? Of course not. Mistakes were made, and holes abounded. We're not about to become a "grind it out" crew, and the "Taco Bar" need not be lowered below 110 points (as the offense wasn't horrid). On offense, the pieces and plays were there, the shots often simply weren't falling. But that was a part of what made the evening interesting.
As the Denver Nuggets set out this year to establish its new identity, there will be nights of poor shooting. They are statistically unavoidable, especially with a squad working to establish rhythm, cohesion, and alpha dogs. Who else remembers the glory years of Carmelo Anthony's Nuggets, and the nights that some combination of Melo/J.R. Smith/Allen Iverson/etc. could not find their stroke? Suddenly the game was a blowout for the "other guys" as no one could score, nor intended to put in effort on the defensive end of the floor.
It's early to say we're on that defensive path, but Coach Brian Shaw has been telling anyone who will listen that defense is a priority for the Nuggets this season, and the players have followed suit. Fans were (and are) still a little circumspect until there are several more games under the Nuggets collective belts. But with a very small sample size, defense seems to be a part of the plan in both word and deed, and that could keep this team in games they used to be run off the floor. With players like Gallo, Wilson Chandler, AAA, Gee, Timofey Mozgov, Darth, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris and more willing to commit to a little tenacious D... We may just have something here.
And damnit, every Tenacious D song I wanted to put in this space was just a little too dirty for me to use in good conscience. Please play your favorite in its stead. Instead... wanna buy a D? Ernie's already buying the O...
Did you see what I saw, Nuggets Nation? Were we playing defense?