Recap by GoldenNugget
Tonight’s game, ladies and gentleman, is what basketball is all about. Heart, soul, determination, passion and all the other adjectives that go along with describing sports is what the Nuggets displayed this evening for really the first time in a while. We’ve played games this year that you could tell we were really into, but I don’t know if I remember one ever being this intense. I’m sitting here asking myself, “Why can’t we play like this every game?” and I just can’t seem to come up with an answer. Yes, the Melo Drama weighs heavily on this team, but how can we go from playing like we did in Golden State, to this in just one night? What happened last night on the flight home? Did the Denver Nuggets encounter some kind of time portal that sent them back to the 2008/2009 season? I’m just baffled, but you know what, I’ll take it any day of the week.
The Nuggets started off hotter than hell tonight, especially Chauncey Billups who got Denver off to a nearly 20 point lead by the end of the first quarter. Chauncey finished with 30 points, five rebounds, nine assists and three steals on 10-19 from the floor. I was really interested in seeing how we would bounce back from the frustrating loss in Oakland the previous night, but to be honest, I never thought we’d com out firing on all cylinders the way we did. I was expecting more of an exhausted, sluggish Nuggets squad, yet instead we we’re the exact opposite. I think Chauncey deserves a lot of credit for this because in the first it seemed as though he was really the catalyst to get everyone else playing up to their potential. At one point, I remember thinking to myself that Chauncey is kind of like the big brother to bunch of little, delinquent siblings who don’t really have a father figure around kind of like Patrick Swayze in The Outsiders. Without him, our guys just seem lost.
As good as the Nuggets played in the first, as we’ve come to see all too often this season, things can turn on a dime; and that is exactly what happened in the second quarter. That huge lead the Nuggets built up was decimated seemingly in the blink of an eye as Dallas went on a huge run (8-0 at one point) and pulled the game within a few points. It was at this time that we saw guys like Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion and Jose Juan Barea far exceed their usual outing and begin tormenting the Nuggets on both ends of the floor. This has truly become an achilles heel for the Nuggets this year: constantly letting role players come way more than just role players. Does anybody else notice this, or is it just me? For some reason it’s never the Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe Bryants of the world that kill us, it’s the Ryan Gomes, Dorell Wrights and Jose Juan Bareas. Needless to say the 2-3 zone implemented by Rick Carlisle was probably our biggest downfall, and it always will be until Karl can formulate a plan to work around it.
The third quarter was more of the same, yet this time around the Nuggets finally fought back. It was during this time that you could really feel the energy of the game start to generate throughout the Pepsi Center, as well as within the facial expressions of many of the players. You could just start to feel that each team wanted this one, and so it was as Dallas and Denver each sent a barrage of punches the opponents direction. For the most part Chauncey and Melo led the way, and at one point in time Melo hit two 3-pointers within a minutes span that resulted in the trademark smile we’ve all come to know and, well, sadly love. I say “sadly” because those who follow the Nuggets closely know how painful it is to see Melo smile all while behind the teeth is a burning desire to play elsewhere (i.e. New York). But for tonight, I don’t think anybody cared, because for once we seemed to finally be showing some emotion.
I mentioned punches being thrown in the paragraph above and I bring it up again because if the third quarter was a boxing match, the fourth was a full-fledged street fight. The gloves came off for this one, and each team traded blows for the entire 12 minutes of playing time. The only problem for the Nuggets: For every jab we landed, Dallas responded with an uppercut or even a haymaker that appeared to left us surprised, dazed and confused. Yet we did not back down, and with the bright lights shining and the Pepsi Center rocking the Nuggets savored the moment just like a world champion defending his crown in the final rounds of the Heavyweight Title Match as we bounced off the ropes and came back with a flurry of punches named Aaron Afflalo and Carmelo Anthony. Say what you want, but Afflalo won this game for us tonight, and not just on the final shot. Midway through the fourth AAA suddenly looked as if his batteries were re-charged as he kicked it into high gear. Back and fourth with Jason Terry and the rest of the Mavs he went, with Melo right there by his side to fend off challengers, until the final seconds of the game when #15 fouled out on a horrible call. But Afflalo seized the moment, and on national TV hit a beautiful in-stride jump-shot that kissed the inside of the hoop as time expired. AAAAAFFFFFLLLLLLLAAAALLLLOOOO!!!!!!!!!
Closing Thought: The way I felt after Afflalo hit that game winner is what being a sports fan is all about. Just when you think your luck has totally run out, your franchise nothing more than a carcass, your season totally lost, something like this happens and immediately turns the tides. Tonight’s game was fun. The team looked as if it were actually playing with a goal in mind – instead of going through the motions – and that goal: Winning. To me, more than anything this year, wins and losses have become blurred between all the Melo Drama, and that is something you never ever want to see come to fruition. Yeah sports are about fun, learning, sportsmanship and all of that, but at the end of the day, as Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game!” Tonight, I felt as though the Nuggets played to win the game, and I couldn’t ask for any more than that.