How's that for a bounce-back win?
Two nights ago, the Nuggets lost by 8 at Phoenix, playing on the second night of a back to back away and the third game in four nights. Tonight, the Nuggets obliterated the Suns like a smoked Thanksgiving turkey and showed the collective sharpness we've all longed to see with this squad. This was a tremendous response to the Suns ending the Nuggets' long winning streak, and it was great to watch the team play with a chip on their shoulders.
In the pregame, Kenneth Faried mentioned that the team's goal was to hold the Suns to 24 points or less in each quarter. While the team succeeded in the first and the third quarters, they didn't need to in the 2nd or 4th, because after the first quarter the rout was on. Far from the tepid, lethargic starts that so characterized this team in the initial games of this season, the Nuggets jumped on the Suns immediately. With only 6 minutes to go in the first quarter, the Nuggets were suffocating the Suns and held a 15-7 lead. Faried tweaked his ankle, and Shaw inserted J.J. Hickson.
Something changed with Hickson's insertion into the game. His energy and effort was contagious, and the entire team kept attacking throughout the rest of the quarter. A rested (and seemingly less knee-sore) Danilo Gallinari came in, immediately had a spectacular drive and dish to a cutting Timofey Mozgov for a dunk and the rout was on. After a solid start from Arron Afflalo, Gary Harris stepped up for the ailing Randy Foye and responded with a pair of twine-snapping 3s and solid defense. The Nuggets led 33-22 after one quarter and never looked back.
In fact, the team scored 33 points in each of the next two quarters, and finally let off the gas slightly in the fourth quarter with 23. Tonight was a true collective effort, with seven players in double figures, and they would have had eight if Alonzo Gee could have made just one more free throw. This team seemed to take Wednesday's loss personally, and stepped on Phoenix's neck to ensure they couldn't come back with another barrage of ridiculously lucky long threes. We even got to see Jusuf Nurkic absolutely destroy Archie Goodwin with a block and earn his first NBA technical foul! Good stuff.
Most satisfyingly, the Nuggets silenced Gerald Green, holding him to just 12 points on 3-10 shooting and 2-5 from downtown.
A few big standout numbers from this one:
Rebounds: Nuggets +24 (58-34)
Assists: Nuggets +6 (20-14)
3PT FG%: Nuggets +3.3% (38.1% - 34.8%) - Phoenix shot 52% on Wednesday
FG%: Nuggets +7.8% (46.6% - 38.8%)
Nuggets of Gold
No "veins of silver" or "lumps of coal" needed tonight. This was a spectacular, top to bottom, complete performance from the entire team tonight. Everyone was on the same page, passing was crisp, rotations were tight, closeouts were on time and hands were up. Someone recently remarked that we still haven't seen a complete, dominant single game performance from this team - well, we got one tonight.
- Arron Afflalo's hot shooting streak continues, and after an awful start to the season continues playing like a quiet assassin. I love watching his confidence grow with every game.
- Ty Lawson has another double double. No point guard in the NBA is playing better than Ty right now. Period.
- Kenneth Faried bounced back with another near double double and only one turnover. He also had a monster one handed tomahawk in traffic to set the tone at the start of the game. He even played a solid defensive game.
- Alonzo Gee's suffocating defense. I don't know how Shaw convinced Gee to be this incredibly devoted to defense and somehow make him refuse to take dumb shots, but here we are. Gee is a stopper in the truest sense of the word, and one we haven't seen since the Dahntay Jones era.
- Danilo Gallinari's quick return from soreness and willing passing was a welcome sight. Gallinari has taken on a leadership role with the second unit, and acting as a point forward when Nate Robinson falters. Gallo's recovery continues, slowly, but that just speaks to how much greater we all know he can be.
Everyone who touched the ball for Denver tonight truly had a good performance, save for maybe Nate Robinson. Hopefully, Nate Rob will work out the issues with his shot and tough fouling that are so uncharacteristic of what we've all seen that he's capable of. Nate had a few tough shots go, but had the lowest +/- of any starter that played more than 15 minutes at just +3.
The Nuggets are also now 6-0 on the season when holding their opponents to 100 points or less. Up next will be a tough matchup with the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on Monday night, where the Nuggets will again look to climb above .500 for just the second time this season.