What started out as a potential “trap game” full of sloppy ball-handling, atrocious shooting and nonexistent defense ended up being just another solid win for the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night. Though Sacramento came into the contest on a four-game winning streak, and appeared determined to make it five, the Nuggets simply turned it on like only the very best do when crunch time hits. I fully admit, when the game started tonight, I was worried. After a fairly long hiatus I imagined the “Knuggets” (shoutout to Warren G.!) would come out guns-a-blazin’ and completely bury the Kings right off the bat; but instead complacency had a firm grasp on the guys and it took a while for them to shake it free (about 35 minutes). The Kings — for whatever reason — were playing pretty good ball the first half, while we looked dead. And by “dead,” I mean as in mowed down by Tommy gun, left for the vultures, completely un-embalmed for weeks type of dead. Scott Hastings mentioned tonight was the worst he’s seen us play since the big you-know-what went down, and I couldn’t agree more. We just looked confused, kind of like we hadn’t played basketball in months (I wonder why?), and sluggish, and lackadaisical, and disoriented, and…. you get the point. For a while it was almost as if we had switched roles with the Kings — them playing great, team basketball while we sat outmatched in anticipation of the final whistle.
Luckily for us, halftime rolled around and after finally realizing we were actually playing in a real-life basketball game — not to mention one that was in the heat of a playoff run — we picked things up immediately with the start of the third-quarter. By the 7:15 mark of the third-quarter the ten-point deficit we accumulated at half-time was completely erased. The energy in the building was as if the heat had been turned off throughout an entire Winter’s day, and when that long-needed switch was finally flipped on, it ignited a “circuit of life” throughout the Can. Guys started moving, shots started falling, passes started actually being made and of course the crowd finally got to cheer over something worth cheering about instead of Rocky’s slap-stick antics. I guess it just took a while for the guys to knock off that excess grog, and once they did, it was like turning over the engine on that luxury sports car you hadn’t driven in a while and taking a joy-ride down an open road to victory (not that I know what this feels like as ’93 Honda Accords don’t exactly offer this feeling).
Nobody really had an amazing game tonight, but Ty, Nene and JR all had strong outings. Ty finished with 20 points on 7-9 from the field and a team-high plus/minus of 23; while Nene had a great night on the glass bringing down 15 boards to go with three assists, three steals, four blocks and 12 points. This is the type of effort we need to see out of Nene more frequently. He’s got one of the best all-around games in the entire league for a big man, and putting up stats in these types of categories is what we’ll need most out of him in the post-season. Points — we can get that elsewhere (though it was nice seeing him school Cousins a few times tonight), but blocks and rebounds are what he can contribute to help us win. Meanwhile, JR too had a phenomenal game. His shots were all well calculated, his passes were some of the best on the night and his defense was stingy. I don’t know what it was, JR just really impressed me. He was purely solid by all accounts. He never did anything stupid, he played within the flow of the game, and as always he acted as the immaculate model for the energetic sixth-man role.
Overall, another great win in the long line of them it seems these days. Next up is Sacramento again on Friday, but this time it’s in their house.