82374_trail_blazers_nuggets_basketball_medium_mediumAnd just like that, the Nuggets are back in the hunt for the Western Conference’s number two seed. As Alfred E. Neuman might say: “What, me worry?”

For the second straight time playing the Trail Blazers in Denver, the Nuggets walked over our division rivals.  But unlike the previous matchup when the Nuggets leapt out to a 13-point lead and never looked back, this time the double-digit advantage didn't come about until very late in the third quarter.  Better late than never.

Even though the Blazers made a game of it for two and then some quarters, they never looked into it to me.  It's as if they conceded this game before taking off their recycled material shooting shirts, knowing they wouldn't have the legs to beat a rested and very angry Nuggets team with something to prove.  But I won't complain about witnessing another Pepsi Center blowout courtesy of the NBA schedule makers, because the Nuggets desperately had to win this game to stay in the hunt out West.

What I especially liked about tonight's Nuggets victory was the balance with which it was accomplished.  I remember looking up at the scoreboard midway through the fourth quarter and seeing four of the five players on the floor having scored at least 15 points.  When was the last time we could say that?

The only area of concern that I could take away from this game was that J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony seem to be rushing poor jump shots early in the shot clock for no apparent reason whatsoever.  Melo finally let the game come to him and had a splendid fourth quarter, but J.R. – sans several incredibly acrobatic plays around the basket – took an assortment of atrociously timed shots en route to (gasp!) 2-10 shooting from three-point range.  

Before jumping into the not-so-cheap-seats observations, allow me to thank the Magic for beating the Mavericks at Dallas tonight.  As of this morning, I was concerned the Nuggets might slip even further away from the Mavs.  But now the Mavericks are suddenly within reach yet again.

The View from the Not-So-Cheap-Seats…

…Broncos legend John Elway was in attendance (with the always annoying Rick Reilly) along with his gorgeous ex-Raiderette wife.

…Nene and former Nugget Marcus Camby yacked it up each time they lined up during a free throw.

…Nene played the toughest that we've seen him play in some time.  This was not a teddy bear performance tonight.

…another former Nugget, Andre Miller, abused Johan Petro on several occasions.  Seeing Miller out-muscle the much larger Petro for several rebounds leaves me with no hope that Petro can anchor the center position for more than a few starter's minutes only.

…Melo's fourth personal foul – called while on offense – was complete horseshit.

…when the Blazers made things interesting early in the third quarter, the fans started booing the Nuggets.

…Chauncey Billups should have made three three-pointers tonight, but Melo dunked the ball back in on a Billups' shot carom even though it was probably going in.

…Arron Afflalo's defense on Brandon Roy was awesome.

…Camby's jumper was red hot, and I'm convinced he made more outside shots tonight than he made in his entire Nuggets career.

Non-Stiff of the Night

-Nene: As mentioned above, Nene played tougher than normal and was key to the Nuggets victory with a solid all-around performance for four quarters: 22 points on 9-14 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, three blocks and no foul trouble!

Stiff of the Night

-Brandon Roy: Just as he did last time he walked onto the Pepsi Center floor, the Blazers star player disappeared and had no impact on the game.  This was mostly due to great defense by the Nuggets Arron Afflalo, but Roy's body language was garbage from the start and he resorted to whining mode too early for a big game.  Roy fans should be very disappointed.

Opposition's Take: Blazers Edge

Photo courtesy of AP: David Zalubowski