Thank God Carmelo Anthony finally made a few shots.
Regardless of how you felt about Carmelo’s forced departure from the Mile High City the first contest between the Denver Nuggets and their former franchise player it would not have been as enjoyable had Melo ended the game without having made it a challenge.
I am on record as saying I wish Carmelo well in New York. There was no benefit for Denver to have him stay any longer. We can argue all day if the Denver Nuggets need another player like him to reach their ultimate goal. What there is no doubt about is this team is easy to cheer for and they play in a way that is endearing.
Many times fans get the feeling that the players they cheer for do not care about what happens on the court as much as they do. Last night there was little doubt that the Nuggets players and coaches cared as much as the fans, and probably even more.
There were several occasions where Denver could have folded. There were plenty of obvious excuses. They were shorthanded, it was the fourth game in five nights, all on the road, add in the overtime periods and it would have been the most forgiveable loss of the season.
There were no excuses, no white flags, just determination and effort. Of course there were mistakes, some of them mindbogglingly bad. But Nuggets players took turns making big plays. Danilo Gallinari took a charge, Al Harrington made a three, Nene would pull down a big rebound and who could forget Andre Miller’s sideline three (I hope everyone noticed he was so close to the out of bounds like if he had put his right heel down, he would have been out).
The players were not the only ones who wanted it. With Denver’s depth everyone pointed to games like this one where depth would be key. George Karl has never been a man who bows to convention. Despite the fact Denver was had a grueling schedule and even as the fourth quarter gave way to overtime for the first time all season George Karl played only seven men. I am sure you all have seen the box score. Four starters played more than 45 minutes, three of them 49 or more. Of course if Arron Afflalo and/or Rudy Fernandez were available they would have played. The only reason that makes sense to me why Karl would suddenly shut down his rotation was because he wanted to win so badly that he was only going to play those he trusted implicitly.
That is good news for some and bad news for others.
Chris Andersen, despite Nene doing a periodic impersonation from a corpse due to extreme fatigue, never saw the floor.
Gallinari on the other hand, probably saw far too much of it. The Rooster was on the floor for 52 minutes. He had only hit 40 on one other occasion this season. Gallinari certainly validated Karl’s support. Gallo was the lone Nugget who was consistently fantastic. Whether it was his solid defense on Carmelo, or his 20 trips to the free throw line, it was his finest performance as a Nugget, probably the finest of his life.
If this was a novel, the story of Denver’s victory would be the passing of the torch from the departed Carmelo Anthony to the next chosen one Danilo Gallinari. It was the night Danilo outdueled Carmelo, set a career high and was the driving force behind one of the best regular season wins in recent memory. This game could be a watershed moment For Gallo. From now on the Nuggets could be Gallo’s team.
Reality does not always fit into our idealized storylines. In a few months, or a year, or three this might just be an incredibly fulfilling regular season win.
Whether reality spoils our story or not, it was great theater and for one night in January the Nuggets and their fans were completely of the same accord.
I was fortunate to have Howard Beck ask me to write about the Carmelo Experience for the New York Times Off the Dribble blog. Enjoy the ride Knicks fans!
Carmelo contemplates the meaning of life, at least his life. Does he shoot too much?
Congrats to Denver Stiffs for a great Stiffs Night Out. Every time they showed the tiny group of people at the Nuggets viewing party it made me sad they cameras were not at Jake’s.
Carmelo and George Karl spoke for the first time since the trade before the game.
Chad at NuggetsNuggets passes this post along as he details how the overtimes felt for many Nuggets fans.