This has to be the most bizarre season of Nuggets basketball I can ever remember. In what seems like a side story of the 2011 season, the Nuggets continue playing games and fall to Houston for their second straight loss at home. There are a couple ways to look at this latest defeat. It bears repeating that Denver played without Nene and almost no Chauncey Billups. Even shorthanded, it does seem a little disheartening and unexpected that Melo has a career game and the Nuggets still roll over at home thanks to a heartless collective team effort. Should we really be surprised though?
Like I said, the season just keeps getting weirder. Losing Nene prior to tipoff was a big loss, but the Rockets start 6’6″ Chuck Hayes at Center and were also without two of their best players in Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming. I figured the shorthanded Nuggets would still play it like a regular home game against the undersized Rockets who actually have a defense ranked worse than their own. Chauncey Billups left with a leg strain in the first quarter and didn’t return, but don’t let the score fool you. Houston gave an inspired team effort from the start and the Nuggets just didn’t. It was more or less a walkover victory for them and despite possibly the best game of Melo’s career, the Nuggets barely managed to make it interesting.
Melo, despite recording zero assists, was fantastic. It must be noted that even before Chauncey went down the Rockets never double teamed him. Carmelo took advantage and made his defenders pay with an array of strong moves to the rim. He put Shane Battier in foul trouble early making him work so much the guy barely was able to play on offense. He went toe to toe with their starting Center down in the post. Oddly it had no effect on the energy or morale of the team and had to be the “quietest” 50 I’ve ever seen anyone score. It’s not a knock on Melo, but you don’t expect a good team to stand around and watch that performance like it’s shootaround while the opponents cruise to an easy road victory.
I don’t have much to say about this one. To me it seems all season long this team has accepted that they are going to part ways and are simply biding time waiting for the inevitable. JR Smith and Al Harrington are both having probably the worst seasons of their careers. Guys come off the bench one night seemingly knowing they aren’t in the rotation and won’t get any run in the next game. Everyone plays hard and means well. The pieces just don’t seem to fit. Guys like Ty Lawson and Gary Forbes, who could be part of the long term future are languishing in minor roles making it hard to get a sense of how they might pan out. The best things we have going for us are Arron Afflalo and Nene – and there is absolutely no guarantee they are here beyond this year.
I hate to overreact to this loss. I’m not trying to do that, but this season has been exhausting. It’s hard to forget these games as soon as they happen and just move on to the next one like I should. Mainly because this squad’s time seems to have run out and they already know it. I certainly just don’t want to give away Melo to end it, especially in the latest rumored pittance we’d get from the Knicks and Minnesota. I’d almost prefer just letting Melo walk at the end of the year. But, is there really anything to gain with that course of action? To keep this team together I feel like you need more than just hope that they are going somewhere.