There was a different energy associated with the Denver Nuggets as they came back from the 9 day All-Star break. Right from the get-go as they played the Milwaukee Bucks on the first game of their two-game road trip the team looked very ... spirited. Frisky, if you will. Due to the suspension of Ty Lawson (one game) for missing practice on Wednesday, and various trades, the Nuggets started a lineup featuring Jameer Nelson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic.
It was a very long lineup but found things difficult going to score, yet there was a very nice pick up in defensive energy. Particularly from the point guard spot. Nelson came in and provided some toughness from the perimeter that the Nuggets hadn't seen for awhile.I mean in a long while. Since maybe Chauncey Billups was here in Denver? Maybe?
Nuggets battled the whole game and lead from opening tip until just before the end of the third quarter. Then the Bucks and their slappy, grabby defense started wearing on the Nuggets players. The Bucks built up a lead as big as nine in the fourth. While the Nuggets battled back, it was clear they didn't have the offensive chops to overcome once the Bucks got the lead and the Bucks expanded things out and pulled away down the stretch.
Nurkic had another fantastic game, finishing with 11 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. That is pretty damn impressive for the Bosnian rookie. Additionally, while he had a rough shooting night (3-12) Gallo scored 10 points and had 4 steals to go with 5 rebounds on the night. Gallo started at the shooting guard position and was mostly a positive on the floor in his 37 minutes. Chandler finished with 19 points on 8-20 shooting.
Chandler goes through spurts, like Gallo, when he can't hit a shot. However what bugs me is Ill Will's defense has really fallen off this season and there were times when he was guarding O.J. Mayo where you were left scratching your head as to what he was doing ... particularly giving Mayo the baseline quite frequently. However, Chandler was the Nuggets primary offensive threat tonight and played admirably.
Lets face it folks, this is what we want. Competitive games with competitive effort. I will never, ever encourage losing ... but losing with a game like tonight (despite only scoring 81 points) is something I think we can all live with. After the Nuggets traded JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee in the span of a month and a half, it's not hard to understand giving up as a player. However everyone has to enjoy the effort the Nuggets put up tonight against a good Bucks team.
On to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder in the next game. There are 28 games left in the season and the Nuggets currently sit at 20-34. The playoffs aren't happening, but maybe we can see the development of crucial players such as Nurkic, Gary Harris and Joffrey Lauvergne. This is what Nuggets fans want to see and this is what I want to see.
In the meantime, just sit back and chill. Don't sweat the small stuff and just watch the team. Reach that moment of zen and just take the games in stride.
It's alllllllll good....