For two consecutive games the Denver Nuggets have outscored its opponent by at least 19 points. It’s too bad neither of those teams happened to be the Lakers or Heat, but taking care of business is taking care of business last I checked, no matter who the opponent is. The Pistons are a team in turmoil, perhaps more than any other team in the entire league right now. It’s your classic case of a rebuilding nightmare where you aren’t loosing enough games to land a top pick in the draft, yet you’re not winning enough games to make the playoffs either. Top this all off with an array of player-coach feuds, multiple hideous contracts and not nearly enough cap space to sign big time players in the off-season and you have the makings for a perfect Franchise-Failure Sunday — courtesy of Joe Dumars.
So, it was only fitting that the Nuggets took a bite out of the vulnerable treat that is the Pistons these days. The surprising thing: We absolutely manhandled them even without two of our starters. Beating a bad team by 30 is one thing — one totally awesome, fun, exciting thing. But beating a bad team by 30 without two starters? You’re saying something when that happens, and my guess is it’s probably along the lines of, “We’re the Denver Nuggets. We’re bad-ass. And we’re not afraid of anybody. Come get some if you want a piece.” After all, that’s the message our team has been subtly conveying to the league for roughly the past three years, and that same mentality nearly landed us our first trip to the NBA Finals.
The obvious player to point to in such a route would be none other than JR Smith with his 31 points off the bench, but it’s important to keep in mind that about 15 (at least) of those came when the game was already out of reach from the Pistons standpoint. Yes, JR surprised nobody tonight, where in typical JR fashion he did most of his damage when the game was nearly sealed shut. Tonight’s win — in my eyes at least — really was ignited by the great play of the “role players” (feels weird saying that because it seems as though we have a team full of them), specifically Birdman, Al and Forbes. Altitude mentioned several times that the reason Bird has been playing so well according to Karl, is because “[the Nuggets] have two new roosters in the hen house.” Technically we have five, but it’s clear Karl’s referring to the hens that actually get playing time and are similar in size to the Bird. I think a lot of Nuggets fans suspected this was the reason for Bird’s revived energy, but Karl’s comments are affirmation, and I must say that it’s quite nice. Having competition within the team only creates a more competitive environment and allows for only the best lineup to be on the floor come game-time. It’s something every team can hope for, but only few are lucky enough to have. We are one of the lucky ones and because of this I think it’s fair to say that Bird finally found his wings again.
Notable stat lines consists of Nene’s 18 points on 6-8 from the field, 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block; Ty’s 15 points on 6-11 from the field, 11 assists (tying his career high which was set two nights ago) and four steals; and of course JR’s 31 points on 11-22 from the field as well as 9-16 from downtown, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Closing Thought: The “Gold Digger of the Night” award goes to “Shooter,” aka “Jr.,” aka “JR Swish,” aka — OK, that’s all the nicknames for JR I can come up with off the top of my head. Anyways, (insert nickname from above) reminded us all once again why we love him… then why we can’t stand him… then why we love him some more… then why of course we always find our faces in our hands when it’s all said and done. JR was amazing tonight, there’s no doubt about that. He’s capable of doing things only few players in the history of the NBA have done, yet on a consistent basis. Making nine 3-pointers to anybody else in the league not named Ray Allen would be a night to remember, yet with JR it seems like just another day in the life. Watching nine 3′s drop from the same dude is crazy. I was sitting on the couch all alone tonight, yet often found myself pumping my fists, talking out loud and smiling the entire time JR was shooting. How many players in the league can you honestly say make you do that? Not many, that’s for sure.
I’m a big JR guy. I think his talent is so incredibly unique that if harnessed the right way, he could be one of the deadliest forces in basketball. I mean, he’s already one of the best Sixth-Men in the entire league (if not the best) and he’s undoubtedly the biggest wild-card any team could even think of pulling out come playoff time. But like every superhero, he’ll always have that one fatal flaw — that one weakness. Sadly, it’s JR’s own mind that is his Kryptonite. Take tonight for example. After avoiding (for the most part) bad shots all game, JR just absolutely spat in the face of respectability when he walked over to Forbes, demanded the ball out of his hands when we didn’t even need to shoot — just let the clock expire — and hoisted up one last 3-pointer that didn’t even come close to going in. It was such a poor display of respect all around. Lack of respect for his own teammates, lack of respect for his opponent, lack of respect for his coach, but most importantly lack of respect for the game. From a mile away when I saw JR walking towards Forbes I just kept thinking in the back of my mind “Oh, he is not about to do that! He is NOT about to do that!!!” And of course, as always, JR did.
It will be interesting seeing how JR’s future plays out with the Nuggets. He’s a free agent after this year and although he’s stated how much he would love to continue his career in Denver, there’s no doubt that (A) George Karl’s contract extension will play a roll in him deciding to come back, and (B) many teams will be lining up for JR’s services in the hopes that he’d be their starting SG, and not a backup like he is here. I want to see JR back, but with an already crowded back-court and the points mentioned above you have to ask, “Are the days of the most athletically gifted/talented knuckled in Denver Nuggets history about to come to an end?” Only time will tell.