2010-11 Game 81: Denver Nuggets 134, Golden State Warriors 111

Tonight the Denver Nuggets defeated the Golden State Warriors to reach the 50-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season. Along the way nine Nuggets reached double figures in scoring — one short of the team record 10 — and professional pine-rider (or should I say, “former” profesional pine-rider) Kosta Koufos had perhaps the best game of his young career scoring 18 points and nine rebounds in only 19 minutes of action. What can I say Nuggets fans? Tonight was a historical evening in so many ways that all one can really do is sit back and smile. That’s what I did at least, as the clock ticked down to the final buzzer and George casually loosened his tie the way he always does before meandering off the court giving a wave of respect to the opposing coach. I didn’t really know what to think to be honest. As a fan, you learn to enjoy those magical moments that captivate your heart as a result of success, but what do you do when those moments become a regularity as they seemingly are with the Nuggets? You’d think at some point you might get used to the feeling, but conceivably the years (decades?) of ineptitude this franchise once suffered from have rendered us appreciative of even the most simple accomplishments to date. Every year at this time we’re now finding our faces decorated with a Cheshire Cat-like grin as we glance at the bold “50-something” wins mark in the NBA standings, and still it’s just as delightful now as it was then. Though the three consecutive 50-win seasons under Stan Kroenke and Mark Warnkentien’s watch will always be cherished and reminisced about, it was this year that — to me at least — was the most impressive of the current streak, and in light of this there are a few people we need to thank.

A tip-of-the-hat must first go to Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri for the outstanding work they did this year with the Carmelo Anthony trade extravaganza. They were the ones who enabled the Nuggets to accomplish this special feat yet again by working every possible scenario to the death and in turn getting far more than we probably should have for Anthony. These guys both came into one of the most precarious situations a rookie general manager and first-year owner ever could stumble upon and concocted the most delicious, thirst-quenching glass of lemonade imaginable given a grotesque batch of lemons. Please Nuggets fans, if you ever get the opportunity to meet these two fine gentleman make sure you express your gratitude for the tremendous amount of expertise and patients they displayed during this entire process. We truly are in great hands with Ujiri and “Lil’ Kroenke” for years to come, and because of that the franchise’s future looks promising as ever.

Next, a tip-of-the-hat goes to George Karl. Though never the most sprightly George Karl fan, I’ve managed to sprout a growing appreciation for not only the job he has done on the basketball court, but simply the man himself. Karl has transformed this team into something I never thought possible: an unselfish, team-oriented, well-executing, hard-nosed defensive squad that never gives up. Obviously the departure of Carmelo Anthony helped do wonders for the team in the areas mentioned above, but there’s no doubt Karl is the mastermind behind the operation. I’ve never seen team basketball played as such a high level before. The passing and unselfishness alone are sublime, but when you add that to the tenaciousness on defense, it’s just plain beautiful. Though he may not win, Karl definitely deserves to be in the running for Coach of the Year.

Finally, I would have originally given Carmelo Anthony a tip-of-the-hat for allowing us to get something for him in return for his services, but he in fact beat me to this display of acknowledgment by already removing his entire hat off to himself earlier in the year. (OK, I was kidding; I never planed a tip-of-the-hat to Melo in the first place. That was the facetious side of me coming out.)

And now on to the game!..

To start the night off the Nuggets were introduced alongside some of the most tenured season ticket holders in franchise history. It was really cool to see, and gave you the impression tonight was going to be a good one. Shortly after this memorable  introduction Nene then made two-straight free throws, and at that point the “good omen” seemed to be inevitable. The quarter went back and fourth with each team making short runs, but in the end the Warriors led 32-31. Of note was Birman’s exuberant performance in which he looked as lively as we’ve ever seen here in Denver. Bird was making incredibly athletic put-backs, blocks and rebounds throughout, which made his rest appear justified and needed as ever.

The second quarter saw JR Smith attempt a number of bad shots — not to mention an array of basketball plays — only to see him fail time after time. But nothing he did was out of control enough for Karl to yank him and because of that JR appeared to settle down, compose himself and then starting playing like the “Good JR” we all know and love. At the end of the quarter things were tied up 54-54.

When the third quarter began we saw Nene relegated to the bench for the rest of the game because of a strained groin, and only minutes later Afflalo followed for hamstring issues. At this point things looked bleak. Even facing the Golden State Warriors is not something you want to do with as many injuries as we had; they’re an NBA team at the end of the day and with Curry lighting it up like he was, I admittedly grew anxious. But again, like we’ve seen all year long since the “Big Trade” the Nuggets displayed a vast amount of vitality as they clawed their way through a difficult struggle and came out the other side better because of it. JR sparked a huge run with his 5-6 shooting — including 4-5 from downtown, equating to 17 points total — and proved yet again that if you only let him work through his rough patches, he’ll make sure you don’t regret it.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around the Nuggets had gained momentum and begun to pull away. It was at this time Kosta Koufos gave George Karl the most convincing case he’s put forth yet to receive more playing time, as he tied his career high in points with 19, and hauled down nine boards in the process. Koufos surprised a lot of people tonight, me being one of them. I always thought this was a guy who could contribute if given minutes, but tonight he proved he could do much more than that. Koufos displayed a fairly well-rounded game that revolved around being aggressive on offense, and simply doing his job on defense. When given the ball down low Koufos showed off a number of swift post moves that resulted in baskets and often times was able to create enough space to lead to easy layups or dunks. Bottom line: The man is a legit 7-footer who’s young, athletic and has now proven he can play when called upon in tight situations. Though he may have a hard time finding minutes in the future with such a crowded front court, there’s no doubt that Karl now has another one to add to the long line of players who can contribute solid minutes at any given time.

(Other excellent performers on the night included Chris Andersen, Kenyon Martin and Raymond Felton. Please click here to check out the full stat lines of all the Denver Nuggets.)

Next up is Utah on Wednesday for the final game of the season. It will be on the road, and with so many injuries you have to believe Karl will be resting many key guys. Hopefully Koufos can get some shine and prove his old team made a mistake by trading him away.

Ramblings…

— On the topic of Koufos, Marlowe stated during the game that when he was traded he got in his car and immediately drove 1,500 miles to Denver so that he could be active and start practicing as soon as possible. I’ve never heard of this before, but you’ve got to love the dedication this guy is showing to improve his game. Maybe one day he could be a legit, starting center in the NBA? You never know.

— During the game Boulder native, Louis Amundson, was on course for making 16-21 free throws and bringing his overall average up to 38 percent on the season. Yes, I just said “38 percent.” I don’t know who would win in a free-throw shooting contest between him, Brendan Haywood and Shaquille O’Neal, but I’m pretty sure I’d pay to see it just to see who would shoot an air-ball first.

— Did I mention how awesome it is to be a Nuggets fan these days? Well, in case I didn’t: It’s awesome being a Nuggets fan these days.

Advanced Stats

Pace Factor: 104.3

Offensive Efficiency: 128.5

Defensive Efficiency: 106.4

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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.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • Kalen

    Looks like it’s still up in the air as to who we’ll get in the first round. OKC and Dallas both won tonight, putting Dallas in second place and OKC only a half game back from L.A. We need L.A. to win both it’s remaining match-ups and OKC to win it’s final one, then Dallas to lose in order to face the Mavs. Lets just hope the Lakers don’t continue to landslide.

  • ParkHillNative

    Nice work, Kalen. I was watching the telecast in the East Bay and missed whatever might’ve been said about Afflalo’s hamstring. Sure hope it isn’t serious.

    • Kalen

      They’re saying he’ll sit out at Utah for precautionary reasons. But what worries me is that every time he tries to come back, even after a long stretch of resting, he keeps re-aggravating that same injury. Even if he gets 5-6 days of rest, I’m just not sure it will be enough to cure his leg. The injury he has is a nasty one. Hamstrings are terrible to pull and take forever to finally go away. We need AAA in the first-round so bad too. I guess all we can do is hope and pray.

  • Monimo

    As usual, very good article, Kalen. I think, Melo deserves a “tip-of-the-hat”, too. He has been honest to the Nuggets all season long and – at the same time – he didn’t told the press that he would sign only with the Knicks. So the awesome trade became possible. The Nuggets knew that they had no chance to keep Melo and the Knicks where not sure at all to get him by free agency. Bosh or Lebron played through the last season and didn’t communicate their determination to leave. Result: Cleveland and Toronto got nothing for their superstars. So, thank you Melo and good luck in NY! My utopia is NY-Denver in the 2011 Finals with the Nuggets getting title in the Madison Square Garden!

    • Kalen

      Like I said, I would have given him a “tip-of-the-hat” if he hadn’t already taken it entirely off to himself earlier in the year! In my book, if you’re taking your hat of to yourself, then you don’t need any “tips” from anybody else. But yeah, I am happy he gave us the heads up.

      • http://roundballminingcompany.com John

        I appreciate you guys trying to be gracious to Carmello but I don’t think he told us ahead of time for any reason other than he was trying to force our hand to make the trade this year rather than wait to the end when he would potentially lose money in a new CBA. Guys like Carmello do not think of the anyone else other than themselves in those situations, he did not think about the Knicks, the Nuggets or the fans…. I enjoyed his time here but am glad he’s gone. Is anyone as shocked as I am how much his former teammates (revealing after the trade) did not seem to like playing with him? This was surprising to me…. go Nuggets!

  • Aussie Nugs Fan

    Lakers have the tie breaker against OKC so they only need to win 1 of 2 to atleast finish 3rd. I’m not sure if Spurs will try against them tomorrow night, even if they did lose they would definitely beat Sac Town on the final night.

    OKC should beat the bucks on final night aswell, which means it will come down to Dallas at home to New Orleans to decide who we are getting.

    So annoying that the mavs won in overtime tonight! they would be 4th if they had lost!

    Problem with the NOLA Mavs game is its in Dallas, and there is a chance that if NOLA are 8th (or will drop to 8th with a loss), they may prefer to stay 8th and play spurs, than win and get LA.

    So most likely opponent is OKC…

    Desperately hoping Nene is alright!!!

    • Charlie

      Nice breakdown. That is how I see things playing out right now but you really can’t count New Orleans out as they are an extremely up and down team all season.

      Popovich is famous for selective tanking. I have little doubt that they are going to hand the Lakers a win tomorrow night with the first seed locked up in an effort to keep them on the other side of the bracket. If I’m right the Spurs are gonna start their ballboy and the game will be a complete mockery from the start

  • Charlie

    I’ve been incredibly impressed with the past two games out of JR. They may have been against sub par opponents but man is it nice to see him have a fantastic impact without shooting the lights out from deep or going into scoring mode from the start. I think it has been somewhat difficult for JR to find his offensive role amongst so many good shooters on our team. He is doing a lot more stuff and using his talents differently to set people up and get the ball moving. Besides a couple of vintage Bad JR games he is showing a side we haven’t seen as I always thought JR had been molding himself after Carmelo and Iverson since he got here.

    Forbes also had a solid all around effort in Chandler’s absence and when you add that to Koufos’ performance there’s really no reason not be excited about Denver’s ability to find talent going forward.

    What really bummed me out was Afflalo though, who obviously shouldn’t be playing and had a setback for really no discernible reason at all. JR and Forbes can pick up the minutes fine and thats what they ended up doing anyhow. It reminds me of the Nuggets recklessly rushing K-Mart back of the floor at the end of the season last year.

    • http://roundballminingcompany.com John

      I think the difference I saw in JR last night was not so much “good JR” vs. “bad JR” as much as JR missing, for the most part, well-selected shots and then getting hot in the 3rd quarter. It’s easier for Karl to leave him in when he’s missing shots that he should be taking knowing that all good shooters must shoot themselves out of a slump. Not a big JR fan but he has impressed me more than anyone the past mo with his improved shot selection. I think we have our very own “Vinny the Microwave” Johnson on our team now, very cool and way to go JR!

  • Nuggs Fan

    The depth and unselfish play are two big reasons I am so proud to be a Nuggets fan! Now if they can just get all their players healthy for the playoffs I can get really excited because I think they can beat anyone on any given day. All this talk, or should I say worry, over who they will play first is unwarranted. No time for playing it safe. If you want to play with the Big Boys no better time than the present.. GO NUGGETS!!!

  • Ernie

    Is anyone else thinking the Nuggets should just forfeit the game against Utah so that no one else gets hurt? Or send the CBA team? This is ridiculous.

    Weird game. They couldn’t hit anything in the 1st half but since GS has no inside presence still scored 54 points, all on dunks and free throws.

    Afflalo even when he was in there wasn’t the same, defensive intensity way down and no explosiveness. A shame, Nugs have no one else like him that is reliable defensively at the 2 and making open corner 3s and mid range.

    • ParkHillNative

      I agree with all of what Ernie says. Koufos should definitely start and play the majority of minutes at the 5. No reason for Afflalo, Gallo, Chandler, or Nene to even board the plane for SLC.

      • Kalen

        Yep, agreed. No reason at all to risk anything. Put Kuofos out there with Ty, Felton and JR and let them tear it up. Can’t wait to see how Favors plays though. He’s been getting more time lately and has been doing aight.

        • Ernie

          I even think that is too risky. Have Stacey Augmen play with Adrian Dantley and Melvin Hunt. Let Steve Hess run the point, and choose the rest of the team from the front row of fans.

  • http://www.herbalremediesworld.com/index.html SG

    Another point of view

    I love your enthusiasm for the Nugs and I am thrilled that they have done what they have done but I’m not nearly as cheery as you are about the immediate future.

    Here’s why.

    Koufas doing well in his umpteen minutes is pretty much meaningless since it was in garbage time against a terrible road team. I root for KK but we have to hope Mozgov gets over injury and develops now and beyond.

    A bigger issue is that we are going into playoffs with too many important players injured or missing a lot of time right before playoffs due to injury. That takes away an advantage we have over every other team. Namely, depth.

    We have to hope that the basketball gods are not angry with us but the AAA setback makes me think we better pray with more fervency.

  • Tom

    The Nuggets will play Lawson, Smith, Forbes, Koufos, Harrington, Chandler, Gallinari, and Anderson against Utah. (Felton and Martin are getting rest days apparently). Ely might get some garbage minutes. That means that Smith will have to play some PG when Lawson is out. The starters will probably be Lawson, Forbes, Chandler, Gallinari, and Koufos. I expect big minutes from Koufos, Forbes, and Smith.

    Martin, Felton, Nene, Afflalo, and Mozgov will be out, but the first four should be fine for the start of the playoffs. Not sure what the minutes will look like when this team is at full strength. It’ll be interesting to see what Karl’s rotations are like in the playoffs.

    • Aussie Nugs Fan

      Tom is this lineup definitely a fact?

      Ty is improving every game and most of those guys don’t get that many minutes buy why risk Chandler and Gallo?

      Also I hope people don’t think I’m disloyal in any way but I am planning to put a fair bit of money on Utah once I know the lineups because I think the game will mean a lot more to them.

      If anybody knows who is playing or who isn’t please let me know!

      • Kalen

        I’m pretty sure they were saying yesterday that Ty, Forbes, Chandler, K-Mart and Koufos would be starting, but not 100% positive.

      • Tom

        Almost a fact. Gallinari didn’t play and Lawson didn’t play much (which means the PGs tonight were Smith and Forbes, lol). Chandler got way more minutes than I expected.