After a hectic day that saw a couple of Nuggets pack their bags (well, Andre Miller probably had his packed a long time ago) and another one go under the knife, Denver took care of business and dispatched the Milwaukee Bucks 101-90 to end a five-game losing skid.
The trades from earlier in the day, along with the litany of injuries, left the Nuggets with a mere nine players available for the game. It didn't matter, because the Nuggets only played eight anyway and were never really lacking for energy the entire night. They seemed fired up from the outset, and Kenneth Faried in particular was looking very spry. All the noise surrounding Faried throughout the season regarding whether or not he'd be dealt had to have been affecting him. With the burden of the trading deadline lifted from his shoulders, he played as active and engaged as I had seen him in a long time.
The Nuggets got off to a hot start in the first quarter, shooting 58% from the field and 4-7 from downtown. Faried's seven points on 3-3 shooting led the team, and the Nuggets were up 31-22 after one. 30-point quarters don't come around quite as often with Ty Lawson out, so the game couldn't have started on a better note. The shooting cooled off in the second but a late fade-away three-pointer from Wilson Chandler gave the Nuggets a 50-42 lead at halftime.The Nuggets three-point shooting was key in building the lead, as they hit 6-12 in the first half while the Bucks were only 1-7.
The third quarter began a little slowly with some turnovers and missed shots from Denver. Milwaukee cut the lead to two and it was looking like the Nuggets might be in trouble. Then Randy Foye took over with three straight beautiful assists, including two big alley-oops to Faried. The lead went back to 9 and the Nuggets finished the quarter up 11.
Denver struggled offensively to start the final quarter. They didn't get their first basket until an awkward bank shot from Evan Fournier with 7:55 to go. However, the Bucks were never able to get closer than five during the cold stretch. Once the shots started falling again, there was nothing Milwaukee could do. The lead grew to 15 and the Nuggets were able to close the game out comfortably.
Overall, this was a solid win for Denver. I know the Bucks are not a very good team, but the Nuggets hadn't been playing very well of late no matter who the opponent was. The competitiveness returned in the last game against Phoenix, and tonight the effort and energy payed off. Next up is the Chicago Bulls tomorrow night, where we should get to see new Nuggets Aaron Brooks and Jan Vesely in action.
Game Observations -
- The Nuggets' big men were tremendous tonight, as Faried led all scorers with 26 points and snagged six rebounds, J.J. Hickson had 14 and 10, and Timofey Mozgov had 14 and nine before fouling out.
- Anthony Randolph didn't play his best game, and was the only Nugget to finish in the negative in the +/- category, at -2. It was surprising that Quincy Miller didn't get in the game, especially considering Randolph didn't play that well and the team was so short-handed. He must be deeper in Brian Shaw's doghouse than originally thought.
- The Milwaukee Bucks were short-handed tonight also, as point guard Brandon Knight was a late scratch. Caron Butler led them in scoring with 17 points, but their most exciting player is rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. He's fast and lanky, can finish around the hoop and sees the floor well. He had 11 points and four assists. If he slows his game down a bit and develops a jump shot, he can play a huge role in lifting Milwaukee from out of the cellar.
- The Nuggets actually played some defense tonight. It was their first time holding an opponent under 100 points since January 25th (my birthday, coincidentally). They also led wire-to-wire in this game, another rarity.
- Foye had a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists in what should hopefully be the last game where he'll be the primary point guard.
- Faried admitted during the post-game interview with Scott Hastings that the trading deadline did make him "unfocused" and "nervous", but he's ready to go all-in for the rest of the season now that he knows he's staying here. If he plays like he did tonight, the Nuggets can be more competitive than they showed before the All-Star Break.
- Altitude broadcaster Chris Marlowe said the Bucks run "a cute little offense." I couldn't tell if he was being condescending, truthful, or giving them an underhanded compliment. Maybe it was all three?
- It's such a relief to have the Andre Miller saga in the rear-view mirror. I liked Miller while he was here, in both stints, but this situation was embarrassing on many levels for all parties involved. I am glad it's over with.
- Nuggets vs. Bucks recap: Kenneth Faried's 26 points help Nuggets bag Bucks, end losing streak
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- Denver Nuggets trade Jordan Hamilton to the Houston Rockets for Aaron Brooks
- Nuggets vs. Bucks preview: Evan Fournier, Nuggets try to get on track in Milwaukee
- Nuggets trade Andre Miller to Wizards in three-team deal, get Jan Vesely back