I don't know how many of the Denver Nuggets players and staff read the comments sections of Denver Stiffs, but my esteemed colleague Jeffrey Morton revealed an interesting tidbit in the Nuggets recent loss to the Memphis Grizzlies post-game Monday night. Jeff mentioned that in speaking with our almost All-Star point guard (and the rest of the team, from what I could see) they were semi-admittedly playing at about half-effort. Several Stiffs quickly jumped on the thread, echoing my silent opinion that our Nuggets ought to finish out the season the right way, and with a little more of a chip on their shoulder.
Well, be it light reading, heat from Brian Shaw, or just a sheer determination to not let me figure this team out, the Nuggets shot out of the gates tonight with a concerted effort against an outmanned Pelicans squad (Anthony Davis barely saw the floor tonight. I thought he was in foul trouble early, but I must have missed an injury), and had an impressive effort through the first quarter. The Pelicans defense was a sieve without Davis, and Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, and eventually every Nuggets big to hit the floor had easy access to the rim, throwing down dunk after dunk. By the end of the first quarter, the Nuggets were up 40-26, and for once, Denver kept their foot on the gas pedal.
A couple more fun facts about that amazing first quarter... That was the first game in nearly a month the Nuggets scored more than 30 points in the first quarter, and also that they had a first quarter lead. It's also the most points New Orleans has given up in a quarter. Fun to watch our guys play great ball, even against a struggling team without their best player.
In the second quarter, the Nuggets kept up the heat on defense, with great steals by Ty Lawson and Aaron Brooks. Bigs were active with blocks as well, and you got the feeling Denver could be in for an impressive night. Our boys were up by 18 at the half, and had stretched it to 21 at one point.
The third quarter has been telling several times this season, and after last games' letdowns, you had to wonder how slowly Denver might come out of the gates. Surprisingly, they further pressed their lead, and with reports Davis was not to return, they took the ball to the hoop time and again. By the end of the quarter, the Nuggets had stretched out to their biggest lead (24 points). Sitting at 105 points at the end of Q3 left tacos (and a win) something of a foregone conclusion.
The final frame got a little sloppy, but the effort remained. The only topics of interest for most of the quarter were: could Faried set a new career scoring high? (he could and did), and how far could we stretch our lead? (32 points). Final score: 137-107, Nuggets over Pelicans (also ruining NOLA's efforts at a season sweep of the Nugs).
Kenneth Faried's career high in scoring (34 points) came on 14 of 19 shooting, with 13 boards, three blocks and two assists in 27 minutes of play. A highly efficient and impressive night for the Manimal. Ty Lawson had a double-double, with a semi-quiet 14 points to go with his 12 assists, but a ridiculous +29 in his +/- (yes, a suspicious one-game measure always, but still) An effortful and well-led game by Ty tonight. Aaron Brooks rained fire coming in from the bench tonight, with 24 points in his 30 minutes. I don't know what Denver's backup PG plans are for next year, and you have to assume Nate Robinson will get the first crack at the spot, but Brooks is NOT going out quietly, and has certainly given Nuggets brass something to think about in the offseason.
God, this feels good to type. NOBODY. Not really. Quincy Miller is still lost on offense right now (six points in 22 minutes), but he played solid defense and passed well within the scheme of the offense. Biggest Stiff of this game was either the Pelicans frontcourt, or me for not getting a first half thread out. Up for debate.
Here's a weird little bit of mathematical wizardry... Did you know if you win all four quarters individually, you also win the game? Shocking. A rare laugher in favor of your Denver Nuggets tonight. What did you see, Nuggets Nation?