Come on... When the Nuggets went down 14-2, and Brian Shaw called a timeout, how many of you thought... well, it's Friday, I could always just (fill in the blank).
Whatever Shaw said to the team should be bottled and sold for another 70 games this season, as the Denver Nuggets find themselves the proud owners of a three-game winning streak, and a dash of confidence against a very solid New Orleans team. What happened? Let's break out a few key components of tonight's 117-97 win.
Return of the Manimal: Kenneth Faried, who has struggled against tough big men, had a rough assignment tonight against Anthony Davis, an early contender for league MVP this season. Faried surprised many with an energetic and dynamic game against the Brow, and battled him to a draw for the evening, even outscoring Davis 19-18. Though Davis got his, the Manimal gave him everything he could handle, and that gave Denver an opportunity to capitalize on other matchups as well.
Call AAA: Arron Afflalo continued his recent return to relevance, matching Faried as high scorer at 19. AAA was all over the floor, harassing the Pelicans backcourt into turnovers and poor passing. Afflalo has rediscovered his game after a frigid start to the 2014 season, and none too soon for Nuggets faithful.
Be Positive: Twelve players saw the floor tonight for the Nuggets, with Jusuf Nurkic and Alonzo Gee coming in for the last four minutes of garbage time. Nurkic and Gee were the only Nuggets on the negative side of the plus/minus category, with the other ten regulars all to the positive, led by JaVale McGee at a whopping +22 in his 19 minutes on the floor. McGee's 14 points put him into double digits with five other Nuggets (Faried and Afflalo - 19, Wilson Chandler - 18, Danilo Gallinari - 17, Ty Lawson - 11). You can add, but notice that the small forward position produced 35 points tonight. Good stuff from Ill Will and Gallo.
The Rooster Crows: Speaking of Gallinari, a number of McGee's points came off of the Pelicans collapsing on Gallo at the three-point line and Gallo making the smart pass down low. Gallo's 17 also spelled six or eight of JaVale's 14 points, and those were alone under the hoop. Smart ball by Danilo tonight.
Fool me twice, twice: I friggin' loved Nate Timmons' article on the state of the team and AAA's seeming benching last week, especially the way he wrapped it around the "fool me twice" and last year's rift with Andre Miller. He hit a nail on the head. Oh, and scooped the Post and national outlets. Not bad, Timmons. Not bad.
Also similar to last year, Shaw seems to have affected a possible turnaround. Tonight he got this team to respond, and the Nuggets did not look back. If, by some overly optimistic twist of fate, this proves to be a turning point, that will be two years running that Brian Shaw and the Nuggets have found a way to reset.
Let's not get hasty, this team is still learning and growing, there will be bumps. If you watched the broadcast, communication seemed very positive tonight between players and coaches alike, but wins will do that sort of thing. On the upside, this was a tougher team than the last few the Nuggets gained their sea legs against. Oh yeah, one more thought...
Don't pay too much attention to the preview: The Nuggets controlled this game with their starters and frontcourt. Pretty much diametrically opposite of what I said would be key. Sweet.
What caught your eye tonight, Nuggets Nation? Faried's three? Pierre's smooch? Gallinari's return? Wilson Chandler's continued good play? Hit me with your best shot. Fire away.