“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”

– Desmond Tutu

“Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

– Andy Dufrense, The Shawkshank Redemption

Seems like a little hope is in order in the moment, no? Not that we’re all wound a little tightly these days. I can’t bring it to most of your life, but I might bear a few glad tidings from your favorite basketball team. Your Denver Nuggets just completed one of two six-game road trips they’ll have this season (the other in March), and come home only winning a third of the games. A critic’s eye will tell you they gave a couple of those games away, and have issues with injuries and consistency. Hopefully the same critical eye picked out a few pearls amongst those grains of sand. Here’s a starter kit:

They were in (almost) every game. After the first embarrassing loss in Dallas, Denver played much harder in each of the last five, and nearly split the trip before a late-game lurch turned into an overtime loss in Indiana. The Nuggets made each of those last five teams “feel” them, as coach Malone is so fond of saying. They still lost more than they won, but it wasn’t for lack of effort, and a couple of breaks could have made it a very different trip.

They shared the load. Five different guys led scoring in the six games. To wit:

  • Dallas: Will Barton, 23 points
  • New Orleans: Gary Harris, 24 points
  • Orlando: Kenneth Faried, 20
  • Indiana: Trey Lyles, 25
  • Detroit: Jamal Murray, 28
  • Boston: Gary Harris, 36

They stepped up short-handed. No Nikola Jokic. No Paul Millsap. Hell, last night they were missing Will Barton, and when Jamal Murray cashed in a three-pointer with 16.4 seconds to make it a four-point game, every Celtic player and fan took a quick look at the clock and did some addition. Denver put up a season-high points total for a Boston opponent this year, but the Celtics were fortunate to have a hot offensive night of their own.

They pushed back. Indiana, Detroit, and Boston all brought an in-your-face game on both ends of the court, and the Nuggets chose to meet force with force, playing close on defense, and driving the lane and making the extra pass. The interesting question will be how strong that defense will remain when Jokic returns in the next few days.

They grew up. While Juancho Hernangomez is still noticeably recovering from him his bout with mononucleosis, a couple more semi-new faces are gaining some traction in Nuggets lineups this year, in Lyles and Malik Beasley. Lyles would have broken double digits for the third game in a row had he hit one of his three free throws last night. Beasley has had a few ferocious moments this trip, even sparking a couple of comebacks along the way. Both have also been a part of some of the stronger defensive combos on the floor, a big positive when needed down the road.

They stuck together. To say this season (and the last few, frankly) have been tumultuous would be an understatement. The players on the floor night to night have been an ever-changing mix to see what might click with the gents who have been missing. The guys who see the floor have given great effort, whether in success or failure, and those who have not have cheered the guys on the floor, as they know tomorrow may well be their night on the carousel. It’s not easy for guys wanting their game time to prop up the gent who’s in their way in the moment, and the Nuggets organization has at least bred an environment where these guys want the best for each other and the team.

BAKER’S HALF-DOZEN BONUS POINT: Monte Morris. At home. In front of mom. I only wish that three-pointer would have dropped, man. Nice touch, Nuggets.

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