I have to keep reminding myself that the Nuggets have played only two games.
Still, those two games could not have gone much better. After opening up a double digit fourth quarter lead and cruising to a win against the Utah Jazz in game one, the Nuggets went to Portland, weathered an impressive third quarter performance from Brandon Roy and rode Carmelo Anthony to a absolutely huge 97-94 victory.
Heading into the season I had many optimistic Nuggets fans, or maybe just Melo fans, ask me if I thought Anthony had a shot at MVP. I always answered with the same, Melo is a great scorer and is making progress towards becoming a complete player, but he will not be in the MVP conversation yet.
Again it was only two games, but Melo has put together two very good performances. After scoring 30 points on only 22 shots in game one, Carmelo produced an explosion of efficiency by earning his 41 points on only 21 shots thanks to an 18-19 performance from the line.
Melo is now averaging 35.5 points, seven boards and four assists a game on 51.2% shooting.
The Nuggets also were able to stir themselves from an early malaise to play some very good team defense. They held the Blazers to only 34.6% shooting – - including 37.7% effective field goal and 47.5% true shooting – - very impressive numbers. Denver struggled on the defensive boards in the first half, but put forth a much better effort on the boards in the second half. The Blazers took a startling 20 more shots than Denver did largely due to their offensive rebounding advantage, yet Portland only made 28 shots, the same total as the Nuggets.
The teams combined to shoot 90 free throws giving the game a preseason replacement ref feel and the game moved in fits and starts, yet the Nuggets’ defense and Melo’s offense carried the day.
In a one point game with just over five seconds to play Greg Oden received a desperate pass from Brandon Roy and was accidentally fouled by Kenyon Martin and that turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for Denver. A clearly uncomfortable Oden who may have never been in this situation in his basketball life missed both free throws and Carmelo pulled down the rebound to protect the lead. After Melo cashed in his sixteenth and seventeenth free throws of the night the game ended on a desperation heave by Roy which sailed wide right to end the game.
The Nuggets are now 2-0 for only the second time since 1987 and they sit atop the Western Conference as the firs team to two victories. The tough opening stretch does not look so difficult now with wins over the Jazz and Blazers under the Nuggets belts. Denver now plays the Grizzlies in Denver on Sunday before embarking on a season high six game east coast road trip.
For more detailed coverage of last night’s tilt with Portland, check out the Daily Dime at ESPN.com. You can read the chat transcript to see what the conversation was like during the game as I discussed the action with the surreal Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and the TrueHoop Network Blazers’ blogger Beyond Bowie. There is also a little tidbit on Ty Lawson in there from yours truly.