2010-11 Game 68: Denver Nuggets 102, Atlanta Hawks 87

It’s hard to understand (or even grasp the concept for that matter) what heaven must be like. Undoubtedly arriving in such a palatial and euphoric location would be blissful on the highest level. And though we can’t exactly embrace that feeling until we get there, we can certainly estimate as to how it might be. Watching the Denver Nuggets since the landmark Carmelo Anthony trade, one can only assume, is just like heaven. I really can’t describe how fun it is to be a fan of this team right now. As the game tonight against the Hawks concluded I had a plethora of concepts floating around in my head as to how I would cover it, but when it finally came time to write, nothing evolved. I was frozen. The best way I can describe what happened is that I reached a point where words, I felt, wouldn’t do justice as to how awesome it is watching the Nuggets these days. I can sit here and say, “Man what an exhilarating win!” and “I love this team!!!” but no matter how many adjectives or exclamation points I use, I will never be able to transfer my state of mind through this computer unto you, the reader. You really just have to see it yourself to know what it’s like.

In trying to think back to recent periods where I felt this good about Nuggets I could only recall a few stretches in Chauncey’s first year. I think it’s an incredibly satisfying experience watching a team really perform to all of it’s abilities, and that in my estimation is what we are seeing once again with the Nuggets. Last year, because expectations were so high, even when we were playing great basketball it wasn’t nearly as exciting, possibly because it was expected. So maybe that’s it. Maybe the element of surprise is what makes winning at the clip we are so thrilling. One thing is for sure though, the last time we felt this good about the Nuggets they made their deepest playoff push in franchise history. 

But, enough with my selfish diatribe, there was a game that was played tonight and here’s what happened…

Basically all you need to know is that the Nuggets came out of the gate sloppy, stale, lethargic and tired-looking only to suddenly find life midway through the second quarter which thankfully continued all the way through the final buzzer. Admittedly I was a bit nervous in the first quarter. I’ve been closely watching this team for a long time now and I know how they tend to be on the road when the chips are down. In the past, we’ve seen the Nuggets give half-hearted efforts in these types of games in which a MElo chuck-fest would ensue while everyone else stands around watching. But thankfully that trend is no longer present. This team now knows it takes a combined effort from everyone if they want to win, and it seemed this came to fruition sometime in the second quarter as our play went from disorganized one-on-one to well-executed team basketball in one cohesive stretch.

The Hawks remind me a lot of the Nuggets during the Melo Era: tons of talent, but lacking the mental focus it takes to be the best they can be. Sometimes the Hawks bring it, and other times they totally disappear with last season’s first round performance being a prime example. They’re the classic “Box of Chocolates” theory team in that you never know what you’re gonna get. Tonight they played well, but clearly didn’t want it as much as the Nuggets and you could see that throughout the game. They’d knock down a shot to keep it close, and occasionally make a momentum-swinging play, but never did anything they do catalyze into something significant.  Meanwhile the Nuggets, led by Nene, were making big-time blocks, ferocious dunks and sneaky steals one after another.

The previously mentioned Ty-to-Nene combo (we’ve got to come up with a name for this) was once again in full effect tonight. I stated a while back that Nene would be the biggest beneficiary of Ty’s promotion to the starting PG spot, and tonight might have been the  best example so far of that proclamation. Nene finished the evening off with 20 points on 6-12 from the field and 8-9 from the line, while also snagging seven boards, two assists and four blocks. Ty on the other hand had a rough night shooting as he went 2-6 from the field on his way to nine points, but made up for it by dishing out 10 assists in only 26 minutes. Wilson Chandler had a good night scoring 14 points and hauling down 10 rebounds while JR perhaps sealed the game shut with his clutch shooting from downtown. JR scored two consecutive 3-pointers at about the 6:30 minute mark of the fourth quarter when the game was still somewhat close, and scored 15 points overall in only 21 minutes of action. The JR love/hate relationship continues to blossom with every passing game.

Chunks of Gold:

— Am I the only one who absolutely loves Wilson Chandler? Dude is the embodiment of a no-nonsense utility player in the NBA. He does it all, rebounds, shoots, blocks, etc. and goes about his business in a silent, almost assassin-like manor. He’s just the perfect, solid player you want on your team going into battle.

— I had a revelation about Ty tonight. The guy is consistently the best player on the court these days. I know, it feels weird saying that but it’s true. Even going up against players like Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith I can honestly say Ty has the most impact on the floor.

— The lineup of Bird at C and Al at PF nearly killed us in the third quarter. I will never understand George’s logic behind his rotations, but even more so I will never understand why he’ll continue to play them when it’s obvious they aren’t working.

— Over the last week Ty Lawson is averaging 19 and 11 with 3 steals per game while shooting nearly .600 percent from the field. Nene is almost equally as good averaging 16 and 10 on .700 from the field.

— Following the game Al Horford had this to day about the Nuggets: “They’re a great team. We play like that at times. Other times, we don’t. We’d be a better team if we played like them.” I don’t know how much more complimentary it gets than that. I mean, when you got a player from a rival, professional team saying he wishes his squad could be more like yours, that’s special. You know you’re doing the right thing when that happens.

Closing Thought:

It’s now time that we as fans must ask, “Can pure depth overpower star talent when it comes to a seven game series in the playoffs?” If so, it would be a remarkable development in the world of today’s NBA. With so much made over the Miami Heat’s recent construction (which likely led to the departure of Carmelo Anthony to New York to form his own super squad) there’s something to be said about depth. Looking at our team, we’re by far the deepest team in the entire league, and by “by far,” I mean by faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar. Can our bench be the difference in a seven game series against a team with more star power? Can a team with virtually no “superstars” really beat the Dirk Nowitzkis, Kevin Durants and Kobe Bryants out West? I’m eager to find out, and if the answer to either of the above questions is “yes” it will undoubtedly be one of the most fascinating occurrences we’ve seen in recent sports memory, and maybe then will we truly know what heaven feels like.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • CCH

    It’s just scary that we are doing this without Gallo. Its hard to keep it in, I think we are a top 3 team in the league now, can’t wait for Friday and Saturday.

    • Tim

      Hollinger (or more accurately, his formula) certainly seems to agree with you…

      http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/powerrankings

    • Adam

      I Like Charles Barkley. He tells it like it is. He was one of the first to say that this nuggets team is so deep, and dangerous. The new England patriots have won many superbowls without superstars. You could make a case for Brady, but would he be a superstar if it were not for the coaches, and the other players that surround him? I do agree that Melo did us a favor asking to be traded. He could have waited until next year, and we wouldn’t have gotten squat. Now, we are under the cap, and have some good picks for the future.

  • http://www.797consultores.com Alex V

    You make me cry…Bravo!!! Go Nuggets!!!

  • Warner

    I want to say I nodded my head throughout this entire article. The nuggets of old would have blown that lead and then blown the game. But instead they regained their composure, regained their lead, and returned to smashing. This is the best Nuggets basketball I’ve seen since the WC finals 2 seasons ago. I used to hate seeing the Lakers play seemingly perfect basketball yet at the same time know they could play even better. Dare I say the Nuggets are playing near perfect basketball and yet they’re still a few floors away from their ceiling? Yup. Now, back to tonight’s game… I was a major supporter of Wilson Chandler in NY and the guy has been a gem for the Nuggets thus far. It’s great to have some guys that I love ON AND OFF the court for once. Yes I said love figuratively! I also agree with the notion that Karl puts out disastrous lineups at times. Al, Birdman, and Jr simply can’t play on the court together. Everytime some combination of those 3 played together the lead was blown within minutes. But that’s my only complaint. I hated the Felton, ty combo at first but it has sprouted into a lethal combination it seems (Because Felton can guard shooting guards well). I was sure Felton would be traded at season’s end but I’m not sure that’s required with our pg play of late as long as felton wants to stay. Now, I do have a concern. I’m worried how the team will re establish Gallinari into the system. I’m glad he’ll take mins from Al but I believe Wilson has played himself into the starting lineup permanently. Anyway, it’s a good problem to have and I’m very excited to see how they’ll do against miami and orlando. Go Nuggs!

  • http://twitter.com/chantech chantech

    Ty has always been one of the better players on the Nuggets, Karl just refused to play him…

    • Evan

      he still played him, he just came off the bench because of chauncey billups…

  • Aussie Nugs Fan

    And if you would like to replace Chandler with Afflalo in your chunks of gold description it would fit perfectly aswell. This team is rolling. Only thing that is annoying me is that we most likely have to play OKC first round and they are going really well too and will improve more with Perk. I would much rather have LA or Dallas.

    • http://www.NBAbyELIAS.wordpress.com ELIAS

      C’mon, you’d really rather match up with the Lakers than the Thunder in the first-round? That’s foolish. If Denver keeps their heads screwed on straight and continue believing in Karl’s pass-first system, they’re a much stronger TEAM than OKC. I truly believe depth + defense > star power, and L.A. now boasts the SECOND-deepest roster in the West. Keep it up, Nuggs!

      • Aussie Nugs Fan

        Honestly yes. One reason is because I definitely believe at this point Durant is better and more dangerous than kobe or nowitzki. Not saying we can’t beat the thunder but they also play really hard D and have beefed up, I feel like Nuggets v Thunder should be the west finals. I think we would KILL LA at the point guard position and with our bench. I also think we could contain Kobe with afflalo and chandler and match LA’s frontline if nene plays strong and gallinari pulls one of their bigs outside. Dallas would be even better as far as I’m concerned we would be too athletic.

        It’s unlikely but I am really hoping thunder can continue on a tear and make up the 3 game gap with either Lakers or Mavs.

        • JB

          I’m hoping OKC catches Dallas so we get Dirk and the Cubanitas. Tasty.

  • james

    For Ty-Nene, i propose TyNemite. Not great, but ok

    • Kalen

      Not bad James. Tynenmite could catch on. I spent a while trying to come up with something last night and couldn’t think of anything.

    • JB

      You have to call it Carnival whenever Lawson (or Felton) hits Nene on the pick and roll for the jam or easy two. The Brazillian dances and we all party.

  • Nick

    Nice article. I would have to say that there is no way that the dirk Nowitzkis can not beat this team. That is mainly because he is terrified of Kenyon Martin. I want the opportunity to play dallas soooooooo bad.

  • Beefyswats

    I’m lovin’ all the disrespect the Nuggets are getting right now. Not a word on ESPN’s DDL about the Nugs, just a one sentence recap buried near the bottom of the front page.
    “They’re playing at their absolute ceiling now” “I think Portland is a scarier team” “I know nothing about Denver” etc.

    It’s gonna make the Nuggets’ run to the NBA finals all the better.

  • Todd

    I have this team pegged for at least the Western Conference Finals. Great team work everyone wants to win and has to play well or they go to the bench. love it.

  • Brandon

    The nuggys are playing better basketball then they did when they went to the wcf. I am not a fan of most superstars but Melo did do right by us by working with the gms and giving them a heads up that he wanted to go play hoops with his hometown team. No one can blame him for that, hell I would love to play for any Colorado team. But I digress… George Karl is not only inspiring as a person but you can truly tell that this team is now 100% the way he would have it be. A deep defensive pass first team that is unselfish and out there to win period. I admire what the denver nuggets front office did. Chauncy was a huge gamble to get rid of but its paying off with the trust being put back with all these W’s on the board… and against some really really good teams too.

    I totally agree with Beefy Swats though about the disrespect the nuggets have gotten though… watch a Miami heat game and they have half the fans we do at every game. But yet they get a ton more attention because of a crybaby in Bosh, a drama queen in Lebron, and to be honest D Wade is the only person I respect on the heat atm.

    If the Heat were to win these games there would be like a thousand reviews on it with Charles Barkley saying some stupid thing about it.

    Rocky Mountain Life or bust.

  • Criznick

    We still have the Spurs and the Lakers on the up coming schedule, so those will be great games to gauge were we are at. I think this team is capable of winning a championship, but obviously you have to wonder if they can look at LA or San Antonio, and say, “Hey, we can beat these guys,” because we all know that if they give them too much respect they will lose the psychological edge. Just play your best defense, and with the depth on this team they can beat anyone.

    • Kalen

      I agree Criznick. That’s a big reason I felt we lost against the Lakers in the WCFs a few years ago. This team is built to run on emotion, but sometimes that can backfire. I’ve always said we have an inferiority complex against the better teams in the league (primarily the Lakers) but this new Nuggets squad might very well defy that notion. The fight I’ve seen recently is like nothing we’ve displayed in the past. I think it’s a reflection of Karl and his struggles in a way.

      • http://www.NBAbyELIAS.wordpress.com Elias

        Yep, I’ll third that.

  • Jason

    Nuggets are getting no love from any of the talking heads. I love how they bring up the Nuggets’ record since the Melo trade and roll their eyes as they “looks like Denver might be better without Melo”… the scarcasm is starting to irritate me beyond words. This team is playing like George Karl has always wanted them to. He has always preached about playing fast. Both Melo and Chauncey were like fly paper, always holding the ball or posting up for a one on one move. The offense was always stagnent. They could have been much better for the last few years if they had played like this with past rosters, especially when they had Iverson. The have speed, good shooters, good ball handlers, and they play at altitude there’s no reason they should lose another home game this year with the exception of OKC, who is flat out scary right now. I think their GM should be GM of the year.

    The Nuggets are playing great and I think they will get better but I’m not ready to give the benefit of the doubt yet for this or beyond. If they finish their remaining games at .750 I’ll jump on the wagon but not yet.

    I’m excited to see how Karl uses Gallo when he returns. He should be getting all of Forbes’ (turnover machine)and Harrington’s (lazy) minutes. If you look at the +/-, Felton is the only bench player who ever has a positive number. Also Karl needs to use Mozgov more now because it’s inevitable that we’ll need him in the playoffs.

    It’s nice to think that the players are playing hard for the betterment of the team but in all reality they’re playing for themselves and their future… the off season is looming and not everyone will have a roster spot next year. But then there’s Harrington’s looks almost as fat as his contract, he seems to be the only one playing lethargic.

    I think the main focus for the offseason should be:

    1. Give Nene an extension before he opts out and signs somewhere else,
    2. Sign JR Smith to a similar contract that’s about to expire, with the promise of giving him more minutes (why does Forbes play at all????)
    3. Lock up Chandler and AAA (with the 60% of the money that normally goes to Kenyon)
    4. resign Kenyon to a reasonable number (like 40% of his current paycheck)
    5. sign another younger Keynon (good defender who runs the floor)
    5. Give Harrington away for a bag of basketballs (good luck… what a terrible contract)

    The bottom line is the team is better since the trade everyone plays harder on both ends of the floor and it’s just fun to watch professionals play that hard for four quarters. But I hope that the coachng staff and management makes good decisions going forward and keeps it going for years to come.

    • Kalen

      On the subject of ball movement and speed: I think a lot of that credit has to go towards Ty too. He’s always the one leading the break and quickly zooming in and out of the lane distributing the ball. His speed has really rubbed off on the rest of the team in my opinion. You look at it, since he got the starting job he’s been averaging 10-plus assists per night, which on most occasions is nearly half of our teams’ total assists.

      I agree on the GM thing too, although it’s probably gonna be hard going up against Cryami and Pat Riley. Ujiri deserves it more in my opinion just because what he did was more technical and skillful. All Riley did was bring a sales pitch to the table and because of all the shiny rings on his fingers Bron and Bosh got all stary-eyed and fell in love.

  • Andy

    Man – this says it all. It is finally good to be a fan. I went to U of Illinois, so until this trade my whole year watching basketball was about teams that couldn’t live up to their expectations. But now the Nuggets are playing beyond them. I still tend to believe that stars who show up every night (Kobe, Duncan, D-Wade, those types – not Melo) end up winning championships but I soooo want this Nuggets team to do well in the playoffs.

  • Kalen
  • magster

    OT: Jeremy hasn’t posted for a while. I’d like to hear his perspective on the new Nuggets.

  • Jimmy

    I just read that article from Fox Sports that you posted, Kalen. I’m from Pittsburgh where there is no basketball team. I loved Carmelo when he played for Syracuse, so I said wherever he goes, my fanhood will go. He went to the Nuggets and I started loving them. So, when rumors started surfacing that we were going to trade him, I was a little torn. But, the more I heard the Carmelo trade interviews, I knew where my heart was. It was in the Nuggets franchise. So, when I hear Carmelo say it was just a business move when it clearly was a selfish move and when I hear him say that he tries to distribute the ball primarily, that drives me nuts. It makes the departure of Carmelo that much easier to swallow. I’m learning that Carmelo is a very selfish man and the trade came down to us trading selfishness (minus Chauncey) for unselfishness in Gallo, Chandler, Felton, Moz, and even Koufos. And I’m loving every minute of it… not to mention the loads of young talent in these players.

    • Kalen

      That’s a cool story Jimmy, thanks for sharing. I hope you have a good time being a fan of the Nuggets even without Melo. Our future is certainly bright.

  • http://bigleaguewiffleball.com/ Jon L.

    I am very surprised how well the Nuggets are doing without Melo. It seems like it is a more well rounded team that shares the ball now and who knows, maybe they will make some noise in the playoffs.

  • Tom Deal

    on ty to nene:

    ty-ne-mite

    i fucking love this nuggets team. i wish i could tell them how i know they can win championships if they just keep it together and work on the small stuff/defense. i hope the nuggets retain jr.