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Lawson, Afflalo, Gallinari bring huge effort to pull Nuggets to a .500 record

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The Nuggets played well enough to have beaten the Bulls by 20, but Tom Thibodeau's stubborn squad refused to go down without a fight. Nuggets win, 114-109.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

That shot by Gallinari should have counted.

His heel was off the baseline and it was an incredible make. I'm frankly just disappointed that the crew didn't let it stand just from the sheer awesomeness of it. It was Gallo magic, and shame on the NBA for taking that away from him. It'll always be a made three in my heart.

That said...

The Nuggets are back to .500!

The energy that we've seen from this team since they dismantled the Pacers back on Nov. 14th is completely different than the way they played through the first seven games. Some of the same old problems - like fouling too much - still exist, but on the whole, the team is playing with passion, intensity, and a rhythm we haven't seen in a long time.

It feels fun to watch this team again.

Nuggets of Gold

Ty Lawson was unbelievably good tonight and is further cementing his case for an All-Star nod this season. Here are his stats from the last 5 games: 20/12, 18/16, 11/9, 15/15, 24/12. That's an an absolutely absurd stretch of winning point guard play, with four double doubles in the last 5 games (all Nuggets wins). It was the tale of two halves tonight with Ty, as though he had 11 assists in the first two quarters, he was just 1-6 from the field with 2 points. Then, in the second half, Ty exploded, shooting 6-10 from the floor and ending with 20 points. Those 20 points included an ENORMOUS long two over Kirk Hinrich to effectively seal the game for the Nuggets in a shot very reminiscent of his famous "dougie" shot over the Thunder. Ty is balling on another level right now and is just shredding every team in his way. Here, have a gif of Ty telling Kirk Hinrich to have a seat (courtesy of TyLawesome):

Arron Afflalo has rediscovered his stroke. He nailed 3 of 4 clutch three pointers tonight to go with 19 points and 4 boards. Although Jimmy Butler carved him up on defense, it's great to see AAA find his stroke again and watch him start to find a groove. I'd like to see him be a little more active on the defensive end, but it's hard to argue with his extremely efficient numbers (7-11) lately.

Danilo Gallinari's magic is returning, and it's a pleasure to see his confidence grow with every possession. He's driving, headfaking, hitting ridiculous turnaround threes and flopping like the Gallo of old. He's going to continue to get better as the season wears on, and I'm very pleased with the way Shaw's worked him into the offense and trusted him to regain his form. Molto bene!

Veins of Silver

Kenneth Faried has a decent night tonight, but was clearly overmatched by Gasol in the post. 12 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes is a very respectable performance, but for the third straight game, Shaw benched Faried in the fourth quarter for Danilo Gallinari. Faried seems to be taking it well, and I'm glad to see that he and Shaw recognize that he's most effective when he's wearing teams down at the peak of his energy level.

Wilson Chandler's been an amazing offensive weapon lately, hitting all sorts of shots. Inside, outside, driving off-balance floater, it doesn't seem to matter - they're going in. He's also played very solid defense and had a quietly solid 14 points and 7 boards. I'm loving the way Wil is stepping up in the starting role for this team.

Alonzo Gee, inserted in the third quarter, had two incredible baseline dunks that ignited the team. The Bulls seemed to forget that Gee existed for stretches on the court, and Gee capitalized in his limited opportunities. Gee's bulldog-like defensive presence sets an example for the rest of the team, and he's not trying to play beyond his abilities.

Lumps of Coal

The officiating:

How the hell are you going to take away points and then reward the other team with their points that were generated off a nonexistant basket's transition?

- Ray Martinelli

That about sums it up. The officials rewarded the Bulls with 37 trips to the line, and had some absolutely horrid calls against Mozgov in the post. Still, the Nuggets again fouled too often (lookin' at you, Nate Robinson) and that will get them into trouble against teams like Chicago.

Ultimately, nobody on the team had a truly bad game tonight, although Darrell Arthur did worryingly hurt his knee early and did not return.

Up next: at the Phoenix Suns tomorrow night at 7:00 PM MST.