Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nuggets Look Soft as Jazz Win Easily

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets had better get the kinks worked out in the next two weeks. In a game that I felt was a going to send a statement to the Utah Jazz and their fading playoff aspirations turned out to be exposing of just how susceptible the Nuggets may be when they don’t have all the players they need. I have to now kindly remove my foot from my mouth and retract the statement I made calling the Utah Jazz, the Utah ‘Junk.’ The Jazz beat the Nuggets like they stole something 115-104.

The only analysis I have to offer in hindsight to this pitiful showing by the Nuggets is they absolutely necessitate Marcus Camby to have any chance in the playoffs. Marcus was not available to play in last night’s game and every time the Jazz wanted a lay up it was as if they were merely scoring point blank and proceeding to collect two hundred dollars. The Nuggets were so weak on the interior that I do not think I would be over estimating when I say that the Jazz scored on 20-25 uncontested lay ups (I stopped keeping track after the second quarter). Its one thing to get beat by a team shooting a red-hot percentage on jump shots. It is another to lose playing ole’ defense every time someone drives the paint.

The effort was just not there last night. The Nuggets appeared out of sync with each other and sloppy for lack of better words. Utah dominated every aspect of the game. Utah had six guys score in double figures. Denver only had three. Utah also shot 58% from the field while the Nuggets could only connect on 49% of their attempts.

There isn’t much more to say…

The Nuggets have Minnesota on Friday night at Pepsi Center. This last showing needs to be stripped from the memory of the Nuggets. At one point in the game I saw a look on George Karl’s face that looked bewildered. This look of bewilderment could have been due to the lack of execution and intensity. The previously mentioned is something only the players can dictate and the Nuggets really mailed this one in. Discerning to see because the Nuggets should be building at this point on positives that are going to carry over to the post season, not searching for answers.

The Nuggets season is not a wash at this point (thankfully!). This loss doesn’t kill our pending position in the post season standings, but needs to be rectified on Friday versus the Timberwolves. Anything less than a win against Minnesota is reason for alarm in Nugget country.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Good Loss for the Nuggets

(FortCollins-CO) The Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets last night 107-96. The game was much closer than it appears in the box score, but in the end, the Suns can just put up too many points too quickly and left the Nuggets scratching their heads. Not only did I predict this loss for the Nuggets, but I feel that this was a perfect illustration for the Nuggets to see what an unselfish team plays like.

I typically don’t focus my articles on the other team, (I usually don’t even mentioned who scored what for them), but in this case I think that its important to examine the fine tuning of the Suns. This fine-tuning that I'm speaking of are the intangibles that a team with a pure team concept embraces. Take a look at the stats if you don’t believe me. First, the Suns collectively passed out 27 assists to the Nuggets 14. This signifies that not only do the Suns make the smart pass to open teammates, but even more importantly is they make passes from good shot opportunities to better opportunities. They move the ball phenomenally, especially around the perimeter.

Next, and most importantly, is the way that the Suns make you play their style of game. They realize that they are the best at what they do and if they can make another team try out score them. Nine times out of ten they are going to win the game. This is where I felt the game was won and lost. Trading buckets with the Suns and trying to win the game is basically a mission impossible. The Nuggets never really hunkered down on defense when they were closing in on the Suns and consequentially were out gunned.

The usually suspects were all involved for the Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points. Andre Miller scored 24 and passed out six assists, but turned the ball over four times. Marcus Camby tossed in seven points, rejected three shots, and snared 15 rebounds. The last stat column in the game that the Nuggets were outfoxed in was bench scoring. The Suns were huge off the bench with 31 points compared to the 17 the Nuggets mustered.

It is obvious that the Nuggets didn’t exactly play their ‘A’ game, but there were incredible positives that can be built on from this loss. They were right there with a chance to win in the fourth quarter with the Suns. Maybe with a little bit more of bench contribution Denver wins this game. Maybe with a little bit tighter defense the Nuggets win this game by a big margin. Maybe, maybe, maybe... However, this loss doesn’t kill the Nuggets. They still have the third seed come playoff time and can look at this game and fine tune the areas that it’s going to take to beat the Suns in a potential second round rendezvous.
My predictions for the next game are a little something like this. There is no way that the division’s “redheaded-stepchild” Utah Jazz are coming into Pepsi Center and beating the Nuggets. Coming off a loss like this will have the Nuggets hungry and ready to give the home fans something more to cheer about. I’m sorry I had to give Nuggets fans a glimpse into the loss that came last night, but it made me ten for ten. Time to start the stretch run out one for one at the cost of the Utah junk, I mean, Jazz.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Superior Nuggets Squash Sonics

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets never let the Supersonics even remotely within distance to pose a threat. Every time that it would have seemed that the Sonics were making a run and putting some pressure on the Nuggets seemingly insurmountable lead, the Nuggets would just counter punch and add a couple of more points to their cushion. The final at the end of four solid quarters with no Nugget lapses was a convincing 117-104.

Part of the reason why the Nuggets won this one so convincingly was the ability to play ten players. With that much consistent help from the bench, players stay fresh and can play at an optimal level in their minutes. The perfect example of this is Carmelo Anthony. Anthony only played 37 minutes, but scored 31 points and grabbed five rebounds. When he was in the game he played lights out. When he was on the bench, other players could play all out knowing that he would be coming back in soon.

A perfect example of bench support was Reggie Evans. Evans had a career high in points, 22, and pulled nine rebounds. I think that Reggie is capable of similar nights, maybe not quite as many points, like this every night. He has a very rare quality in players today. That quality is commitment to playing the game every play like it meant the game. He rebounds like a man possessed, which is all desire, and with that kind of hustle it should be no surprise if he becomes a double-double threat every night.

With both things firing on all cylinders it was easy for the Nuggets to put up big numbers across the roster sheet and easily handle the Sonics. Every time that I felt that the Sonics were going to make a run. The Nuggets would exert their force and put them back down around ten. Really makes you think about what this team is capable of.

Marcus Camby finished the game with eight points and thirteen rebounds. Andre Miller was also near a double double with nine points and 15 big assists. The Nuggets had ten players score and the Sonics were out matched in every phase of the game.

Not much more to say…

This win makes me nine for nine if you factor in my predictions for the five and two franchise record road trip. I’m not going to make a public prediction for the Suns. The reason being is I can’t bring myself to verbalize anything but the Nuggets winning, but lets just say I have a theory. Ok, Ok, so I basically said that I think that the Nuggets are going to lose, BUT keep in mind that they weren’t in all likelihood going to win out all the rest of the regular season. I see this Phoenix game being a tail end of a back-to-back set and the Suns are a new team with Amare Stoudemire back in the line up.

The potential loss could be a very positive thing. It can keep the Nuggets grounded and focused in a time where a touch of overconfidence can be fatal. The Suns are a good team, but by no means in a different class than the Nuggets. I hope that I put my foot in mouth on this one. We will know in a few hours. Go Nuggets!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mature Win for Denver Against San Antonio

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets continue to grow up right before our eyes. Denver has a young reliable superstar, cagey veterans at center and point guard, gristly post defenders, and over thirty years coaching experience on the bench. Sprinkle in budding chemistry and a positive attitude and you have a mixture that spells success in the Mile High City. Tonight it meant a 104-92 victory over the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and a message sent to NBA teams coast to coast. That message is clear. Be ready for the Nuggets. They are for real.

The Nuggets dominated tonight’s game for three out of four quarters. The first six minutes saw the Nuggets out to a big league to start the first. San Antonio was diligent however and only trailed by four going into the second. Next step for the Nuggets was to turn it up a notch on offense. In the second, the Nuggets posted 31 points and were rolling into halftime with a fourteen-point lead.

Unfortunately the Nuggets showed a side of themselves that is better off not surfacing. The stagnate; stand and watch Nuggets, showed up to the third quarter and the Spurs began to dictate the tempo and style of the game. On defense the Nuggets were soft on the interior in the half court set and were giving Tim Duncan and Tony Parker way too easy of looks at the basket. On offense, Carmelo Anthony sat for the final five minutes to save some gas in the tank for crunch time and left the Nuggets discombobulated. The slow and grinding pace that the Spurs were executing was taking away from the Nuggets fast break opportunities. Consequentially, the Nuggets went through a lapse where nobody was slashing to the basket and they tried to rely on outside jump shots. This only materialized 17 points on one end and gave up 3O on the other. Going into the fourth the Nuggets were now only up by one.

This is where the Nuggets showed me that they are a maturing ball club. Having to regroup with the defending champs breathing down your neck is no easy chore and it took the defensive foundation of Marcus Camby and the offensive growth of Carmelo Anthony. Camby hammered the defensive glass limiting the Spurs to one-shot possessions and ended the game with 21 rebounds, two blocks, and nine points. Carmelo Anthony took this team on his back down the final eight-minute stretch. ‘Melo finished the game with 32 points and three assists. No Spur was able to defend Anthony with any consistent effectiveness. Anthony was exploiting Bruce Bowen with his jump shot and just about everyone else the Spurs ran at him got beat to the cup off the dribble. The Nuggets executed George Karl’s game plan and the result was a 32-21 forth quarter and a sealed win to split the regular season 2-2 with the Spurs.

Part of being a maturing ball club is taking each game one at a time. The Nuggets are riding a high right now, but need to keep a clear focus on the big picture. There are thirteen more regular season games. Closing the show and locking up the third seed is only going to happen by taking care of business. The Nuggets host the Supersonics next and they lost to Denver at home the last time these two teams met. They will be looking for payback when they visit Pepsi Center on Friday night.
If your keeping track, I’m right on point for the last eight games the Nuggets have played. I’m saying right now that I expect the Nuggets to beat Seattle, convincingly. Show up Friday night Denver and make me nine for nine.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Congratulations Carmelo on West Coast Player of the Week

(FortCollins-CO) The NBA has finally recognized the outstanding play of Carmelo Anthony by awarding the Denver superstar with West Coast Player of the Week for March 13th –19th. During the week Carmelo led the Nuggets to a 3-1 record, (Errr that Memphis game), and sank his fourth game winner of the season against the Pacers. A nice gesture and thanks for the motivation NBA, but Denver still isn’t forgetting that All-Star selection snub…

‘Melo averaged a league best 31.8 points per game and was the second youngest player behind Lebron James to eclipse the 5,000 career point mark. He and Lebron both were drafted in the same class. In the aforementioned week, I think Carmelo’s most effective offensive showing was against the Hornets because not only did he score 28 points, but also he recorded seven assists with only one turnover in the Nuggets victory. Time now to give Bruce Bowen more than he bargained for on Wednesday night. Congratulations Camelo, you know that Denver appreciates watching you and now the whole league is starting to appreciate your style too!

Knee Update: Marcus Camby

(FortCollins-CO) Marcus Camby underwent a MRI on Monday to check the extent of the strain he put on his left knee. The MRI results were negative and Camby is listed as, "Questionable," against the Spurs on Wednesday night. Hopefully Marcus will be ready for Spurs because San Antonio is coming off a back-to-back game and eight of their losses have come as a result of playing the night before. A healthy Camby is crucial to the Nuggets chances of beating the defending world champions.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Historical Glimpses: Len Bias

(FortCollins-CO) With the NCAA tournament in full swing and providing upset after upset, I thought it was time that a Historical Glimpse takes a retrospective look on one of the worst collegiate tragedies in basketball history. With all the buzz about college player of the year and potential lottery picks it is important that we keep things in perspective and learn from history’s mistakes. This installment is by special request and it was with my pleasure that I provide my findings on a player that taught us all the ultimate lesson.

Len Bias was a college basketball player for the University of Maryland with unlimited potential. He was a specimen at 6’8” and had a body that appeared to be chiseled out of stone. He led the Terps in scoring back-to-back years in 1984 and 1985 with averages of 18.9 and 23.2. He was Maryland’s leading rebounder in the same years by snaring 6.8 in ’84 and 7.0 in ’85. He had the best field goal percentage in ’84 as well. Len Bias was as talented as anyone could remember a player being and had even drawn comparisons to Michael Jordan.

Fate would have had it that the Boston Celtics would have just won another NBA World Championship and would also capture the second overall pick in the 1986 draft. The luck of the Celtics was due to a trade made on October 10th, 1984 that General Manager Jan Volk orchestrated. The trade that included to dealing of guard Gerald Henderson to the Seattle Supersonics for their 1986 first round draft pick. The Celtics were thinking that this trade would free up some playing time for Danny Ainge and were secretly hoping for the Sonics to flop. Both outcomes went in favor of the Celtics and they selected Len Bias second overall in 1986.

Returning back to Maryland after meeting with the Celtics, Len and his father went their separate ways for the last time. Len returned back to his dormitory at the University of Maryland and was met by friends and well-wishers. After experimenting with cocaine at a party, Bias fell victim to cardiac arrhythmia that was brought on by an overdose. This tragic turn of events happened less than 48 hours after Bias was drafted by the Celtics and very well have changed the way NBA history unfolded for years to come.

Michael Wilbon of ESPN and The Washing Post covered the star at Maryland in his first two years and would also agree that the impact of the Bias’s tragedy changed the outcome of history. “His death changed the history of the NBA," Wilbon says. “Because then there are no Bad Boy Pistons, and who knows when the Bulls would have won? Bird and McHale would never have had to play all those minutes. The Celtics would have kept winning.” Needless to say the Celtics have never fully recovered and returned to their previous dominant ways.

What is even more illustrating of the unlimited potential that Bias possessed was the opinion of the great opposing coach of Duke University. Krzyzewski had this to say about Bias’s death. “It hurt our sport. Above and beyond the loss of life, we never got to see one of the truly great ones become great.”
Lofty words from respected individuals for a player regardless of era. I have often times wondered why the story of Len Bias isn’t more prominent in basketball history. There is so much to learn from this tragedy and hopefully current and future college stars are fluent in the story’s morals. While enjoying the plot twists and shuffles of the NCAA tournament this year, remember Len Bias for the player he was and the player he might have become when relishing in the success of your team's young star.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nuggets Play Complimentary and Win

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets concluded this seven game eastern road trip with a cruise control win over the Hornets, 109-94. This win made the road trip the most successful seven game excursion in franchise history and the Nugg Doctor predicted the 5-2 finish. What is much more important than the franchise record or my foresight is that the next 14 games include eight at Pepsi Center and they are all against Western Conference foes. Starting off quick out of the gates with the World Champion San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

In only the second return visit back to the city of New Orleans it was a sell out crowd and pleasing to see that the people of New Orleans still support their local team through so much adversity. This was my first real chance to sit and watch Rookie of the Year shoe-in Chris Paul and he didn’t disappoint. Paul finished the game with ten assists, eleven points, and only turned the ball over twice. Unfortunately for him and the Hornets’ efforts was that it was all in vain against a superior Nuggets team.

Carmelo Anthony continues to leave the opposition scratching their heads when he gets the ball. The young superstar is reigning jumpers from everywhere conceivable on the court, passing effectively, and working within an offense efficiently while being the focal point. ‘Melo finished the night with 28 points, seven assists, and three rebounds with enough help from teammates playing complimentary roles to dominate from start to finish. Kenyon Martin played well scoring 17 points in 21 minutes and grabbing three boards. Kenyon’s complimentary other half was Reggie Evans. Evans snatched and squeezed 16 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, and scored five.

For the guards, Andre Miller scored 17 points and dished out seven assists while only turning it over three times. Andre was also defensively conscience with three steals. Andre’s complimentary partner in crime was Greg Buckner. Buckner chipped in with 19 points and continues to fill the void around the three-point arch by finishing 5-12 from downtown. There was even a nice little surprise by the name of Howard Eisley filling in for the injured Earl Boykins. Eisley gave the Nuggets 17 solid minutes at point while Miller got a blow, scored himself five points, handed out three assists, and didn’t turn it over once. Perfect stats for a guy who didn’t even know if he would get any playing time on his second ten-day contract.

The next five games look like this: San Antonio, Seattle, Phoenix, Utah, and Minnesota. I’m going to predict that the Nuggets win, that’s right win, against the Spurs on Wednesday night. I think that with a well deserved rest, and the home crowd, that the Nuggets will put up a statement that they are for real come playoff time at the cost of the Spurs. The only game in the aforementioned five that I will also predict that the Nuggets will lose is Phoenix on the road. Utah is going to be a battle and Minnesota is always testy, but both teams will succumb to the Nuggets at Pepsi Center.
Hats off to the Denver Nuggets for going on the road and setting the tone for the rest of the remaining regular season. A new franchise road trip record was nice too, but records are easily forgotten. This break in the action is just what the Nuggets needed right now. It gives Camby time to get that knee back in shape, Kenyon a chance to rest that tendonitis in his knee, and Najera an extended rehab window. The Nuggets better have the big guns loaded and ready when San Antonio comes to town next week. Rally around these guys Denver; their potential is unlimited!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Battered and Beaten Nuggets Lose to Memphis

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets didn’t really have a legitimate shot to win in Memphis with all things considered. The roll call of injuries is just too long right now for Denver; Kenyon Martin has tendonitis, Marcus Camby has a twisted knee, Eduardo Najera still hasn’t fully recovered from surgery, Earl Boykins has a broken hand, and Linas Kleiza has a twisted ankle. The Nuggets were like a one legged man in a sack potato race in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Even with a valiant effort they lost big, 116-102.

Memphis was fortunate to have Mike Miller post a franchise record 41 points in this game. On paper, the Nuggets looked pretty good in the scoring column. Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points, Reuben Patterson scored 17, Andre Miller scored 13 points and dished six assists, and Reggie Evans scored ten while squeezing seven off the glass. The problem against Memphis was chemistry. The loss of Earl Boykins was grotesquely apparent in the area of tempo and collectivity. The Nuggets looked confused when anyone but Carmelo Anthony was holding the basketball. We didn’t have Earl pushing the fast break and consequentially when Andre Miller was on the bench the Nuggets went to pieces.

What did you expect with three gigantic pieces to the Nugget’s puzzle missing in action? I don’t think that this loss is a reason to become hysterical. Marcus Camby will be back. He merely tweaked that left knee and Marcus is a proven warrior. He has been playing at less than 100% all year and without a doubt will be back. He was sorely missed and as a result the Nuggets were bombarded on the offensive glass and gave up 11 second chance opportunities.

Kenyon Martin is still the biggest question mark right now for the Nuggets. How long does a professional athlete need to rest on tendonitis before he can play again? Is this a career ending problem? Is there something else going on that we don’t know about? Will Kenyon ever be effective again? These are all the questions that a circulating around the city of Denver right now. The last missing piece of the puzzle is Earl Boykins and the only answer to that is to hurry up and wait. Bones in the hand can take a long time to heal because of their small size. Hopefully Earl can come back quickly because we desperately need him come playoff time.

Up next is the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. If the Nuggets can shuffle the personnel and find some chemistry they have a great chance of pulling out the win. I predicted that the Nuggets would end up 5-2 on this eastern road trip, but what I didn’t foresee was the team imploding due to injury. It is up in the air right now whether or not Camby or Martin will play tonight, but a Kenyon Martin sighting is desperately in need. The Nuggets need Kenyon to play tonight in a major way because of weakness on the defensive boards. As previously mentioned there is no reason to become hysterical, but maybe just a little feeling of paranoia is warranted. It will be a surprise who suits and plays tonight. Keep your fingers crossed for the best.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Boykins 'Handed' Really Bad News

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets have suffered a tremendous blow to one of their best players off the bench. Earl Boykins has suffered a broken hand due to when he collided with an Indiana Pacer defender on Wednesday night. George Karl stated, "A broken hand is probably going to keep him out a minimum of four to five weeks. We'll have to use our depth to compensate for his loss." This hurts the Nuggets in a variety of ways. Boykins provides scoring, tempo, and passing. The rest of the team, especially DerMarr Johnson, is going to have to pick up the little mans slack. I'm going to be keeping a very close eye on this injury and any further developments in the story can be found right here on The Nugg Doctor.

Historical Glimpses: Daniel “The Horse” Issel

(FortCollins-CO) This edition of Historical Glimpses takes a look back at one of the Denver Nuggets greatest players. A hard nose throwback kind of guy who didn’t have the physical gifts that a lot of NBA stars have had, but Issel was the epitome of consistent. He consistently played, consistently won, and consistently was a force to be reckoned with.

It all started back at the University of Kentucky under the coaching of legend Adolph Rupp. Back in those days a freshman couldn’t play varsity ball, but the next three years would be concluded with SEC championships. When all was said and done, Issel had set 23 records at Kentucky (including becoming the all-time scoring leader) and was ready to make the jump to the pro ranks.

He would get his start with the local ABA Kentucky Colonels. He would play five years with Kentucky and one with Denver during his years in the alternate league. During that time he would capture Rookie of the Year in 1971, All-Star MVP in 1972, and win a championship with the Colonels in 1975. It was a now time for the Nuggets to be absolved by the NBA and Issel to take his game with them.

While continuing to play for the Nuggets for the rest of his career, Issel only missed 24 games in 15 pro seasons. Because of this feat and his blue-collar style of play it was only fitting that his nickname be, “The Horse.” Issel was a throwback guy. A guy that came to the gym everyday knowing that his only chance was to work twice as hard as the next guy with more talents and his work ethic to the game was a credit to that. Furthermore, and just as fitting, Issel owns a racehorse breeding ranch in Kentucky and is tightly linked to the sport.

Issel ranks seventh on the combined ABA/NBA career-scoring list with 27,482 points with a 22.6 point per game average. When he retired he was the all-time leading scoring in Nuggets history (Alex English surpassed him a few years later) and his name was littered all over the NBA record books. He is still the all-time rebounder (6,630) and leader in free throws made (4,214) in Nugget history. He was an NBA All-Star in 1977 and was the first Nugget to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1992. Prior to his entrance into Springfield, his jersey number 44 was retired to the rafters of McNichols Sports Arena on April 5th, 1985. He would later coach and broadcast for the Nuggets and remains one of Colorado’s most recognizable sports legends and personalities.

As a coach he is most commonly remembered for leading the eighth seeded Nuggets against the number one seed Seattle Supersonics and becoming the first eight seed to ever upset a number one in 1993. No one will ever forget Dikembe Mutombo clutching the ball over his head while lying on the floor after that historical win. And no one will ever forget Dan “The Horse” Issel either.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

‘Melo Magical in Nuggets Win

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets have now insured a winning record on this road trip with tonight’s victory over the Indiana Pacers. The Nuggets had four players in double figures, just missing five, and had what it took to drop the Pacers on their own floor. The Pacer’s were without Jermaine O’Neal and Peja Stojakovic’s last second prayers were not answered. Carmelo Anthony’s ability to pull the last second trigger is now without question more than just coincidental.

The Denver Nuggets played a tremendous first half and were in the driver seat going into the halftime, 61-47. The defensive agenda was being accomplished, offensive transition was abundant, and bench support was all in effect for the Nuggets in the first 24 minutes. Luckily, the Nuggets had the lead they did because they were flat outplayed in the second half. Indiana came back out for the third quarter and trumped the Nuggets 27-21. The fourth saw more of the Nuggets going stagnate on offense. Indiana started controlling transition and was getting better looks at the basket than the Nuggets. By the time that there was only 18 seconds left in the game, the Nuggets found themselves tied, and with a chance to win or go to overtime in a worst case scenario…

It was no secret to anyone in Canseco Field House that Carmelo Anthony was going to be the man that the Nuggets needed to bail them out. So with Andre Miller holding the ball until eight seconds and ticking, the ball went into Anthony on the right wing. A couple of jab steps, a two handed clear, and a few dribbles foreshadowed ‘Melo pulling up and draining a seventeen footer to put the Nuggets up 101-99. With two seconds, the last chance catch and shoot by Peja rimmed out and the Nugget’s superstar concluded his seventh game winner in 12 career attempts, and the night, with 31 points.

He wasn’t alone tonight by any means. Marcus Camby continues to be an all purpose contributor for the Nuggets. Camby would finish the game with ten points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks, and three assists. He was helped out by Reggie Evans gladly pitching in seven points and nine rebounds, just missing his own double double. Mr. Reliable AKA Andre Miller was also instrumental with 21 points (including numerous strong drives to the rack), nine assists, three steals, and six rebounds.

If the Nuggets would have just played both halves they wouldn’t have had to be in this position, but there were things learned and positives established in this game. For starters, the Nuggets pulled out a clutch win on the road against a good Pacer squad. This win could very well have shown this team that they have what it takes to finish close games. The Nuggets also know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Anthony is absolutely capable of cashing the big shot. What needs to be learned from this game is, that while they got the win, playing sporadically in the playoffs isn’t going to cut it. The playoff intensity alone will seal the death of the Nuggets if they don’t play four quarters.

So at 4-1 and with two more games on this road trip the Nuggets are prime to over achieve what I predicted was going to be a 5-2 record on this seven game voyage. They can ill-afford to overlook Memphis or the Hornets. Memphis will be looking for payback and the Hornets are a team that can straight up compete. One more back-to-back weekend gentlemen, then its home sweet home. The city of Denver should be buzzing by the time you return because the playoffs are right around the corner and you guys are looking promising. Good win Nuggets, now battle tough Friday night.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Now Leaving New York, Next Stop Indiana

(FortCollins-CO) In the city that most people consider being the Mecca of basketball and the biggest stage in the world, the Denver Nuggets put on a skills clinic for the New York Knicks. The Nuggets left no doubt on stage at Madison Square Garden that they were not only going to win the game, but were going to show the Knicks what team chemistry is all about. The Nuggets had five players in double figures, just missing seven with Greg Buckner and Reggie Evans scoring nine and seven respectively. The final in this win was 108-96, all Nuggets all the time.

The first quarter saw the start of Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Rueben Patterson, Carmelo Anthony, and Kenyon Martin. It didn’t take long to see that Kenyon Martin was on another wavelength early and would take his familiar seat on the bench with an inflamed ego, whoops I mean, knee… Enter Reggie Evans and the chemistry for the Nuggets. Evans gives the Nuggets 30 solid minutes, seven points, eight rebounds, two steals, and an assist. He works like a dog with a smile on his face and I love it. His smile, attitude, and work ethic are contagious like bird flu and he makes the Nuggets play with lift and swagger.

The game was a little tighter than expected with the Knicks playing a respectable half and the Nuggets were only up by five at the intermission. Once the third quarter started though, watch out New York. The Nuggets must have got the pep talk of the year in the locker room because they showed out Madison Square to tremendous defense, electric scoring, and all around desire to rock the Knicks to sleep. Denver only allowed the Knicks 15 points in the quarter and Carmelo was hitting jumpers in everyone’s face like they disrespected his mother. Pulling up, rocking with his back to the basket, and driving to the cup to finish with the yak, Carmelo Anthony had the Garden oohing and awing like a magic show was going on. No one could guard him and he finished with a game high 35 points and five assists.

Marcus Camby was the defensive anchor. The Nugget big man finished the game with ten points, five blocks, and 18 rebounds. I bet the Knicks are really upset they let him go. Marcus is like a fine wine, maturing in his tenth year and putting up All-Star caliber numbers. Andre Miller was no slouch either. The point guard finished with 16 points and eight assists while having to guard Stephon Marbury or Steve Francis for much of the evening. The three other men that deserve kudos are the, “littlest big man in the game” Earl Boykins, Greg Buckner, and Eduardo Najera. Earl was an instant shot in the arm for the Nuggets by contributing 15 points and three assists and Najera looked good tossing in ten points and countless hustle points. Greg Buckner is filling the void nicely around the three-point line by hitting three of eight attempts.
There are two other points to put exclamation marks next to in the chart. First, the Nuggets have now broken a three game winless drought at Madison Square Garden. Second, and more importantly, is Carmelo has now scored 30 or more points in nine of the last 17 games. The young superstar is continuing to grow and is peaking at the most opportune time. If the Nuggets are to make waves in the Western Conference playoffs they are going to need him to rise to the top of his game and be that go-to guy in the clutch.
Next on this east coast road trip is the Indiana Pacers. This could be the toughest team on this voyage so the Nuggets need to get some rest, get some treatment for the bumps and the bruises, and make sure this eastern odyssey gets finished out in style. It all starts with Indiana boys, lets see you come together.

Historical Glimpses: Lafayette “Fat” Lever

(FortCollins-CO) It was high time that the Nugg Doctor provides a Historical Glimpse into one of the greatest Nuggets of all-time. The obvious choice was Alex English, but the not so apparent nominee that is just as deserving is Lafayette “Fat” Lever. Lever received this nickname from his brother who found it much easier to pronounce than his full name of Lafayette. Lever certainly didn’t have a weight problem at a mere 180 pounds soaking wet. Lever was a personal favorite of mine, and many, while he was a Denver Nugget. With an alias like “Fat” how could you not love this guy?

A friend of mine’s father at Arizona State University recruited Lafayette Lever. I remember him saying that Fat was an incredible talent and one of the best rebounding players at 6’3” he had ever seen. With that kind of insight, and the statistical resume backing it up, it makes you realize just how great Lever was. The NBA realized his potential too. Lever was drafted in the 1982 draft by the Portland Trailblazers with the eleventh pick overall. Lever would only play two seasons in the Pacific Northwest before a deal that involved Kiki Vandeveghe and two draft picks sent him to the Denver Nuggets. It was with the Denver Nuggets that Lafayette would set his career on fire and become a household name in the city of Denver.

While sporting what could be the best uniforms in all of pro sports history, Lafayette would treat the city of Denver to the closest thing to Oscar Robertson Colorado has ever seen. Lever’s best season statistically came extremely close to averaging a triple double. In 1989 Fat would average19.8 points a game, squeeze 9.3 rebounds, and slide 7.9 assists to his teammates. Even more telling of the talent that Fat embodied is the fifth spot on the NBA all-time triple double list that he is currently sitting in with 46. He is up there with some pretty illustrious names; Bird, Robertson, Magic, and Chamberlain are all Hall of Fame players, but will Fat Lever ever be enshrined?

Hall or no Hall, Fat Lever will always be remembered by Nuggets fans. He is the Nuggets all-time leader in steals (1,167), second in assists (3,566), and sixth in scoring (8,081). One record that he is sure to hold on to for quite a long time is the number of triple doubles by a Nugget. Second to Lever’s 46 career triple doubles is Dikembe Mutombo with eight, and the rest of the Nuggets combined only total 21. Lever’s all-time averages read a little something like this: 13.9 points, 6.2 assists, and six rebounds. Fat was a two time NBA All-Star and is a Nugget legend. He played eleven seasons in the NBA in total finishing his career with the Dallas Mavericks, but he will always be remembered as a Nugget.

Now you have the skinny on one of the “Fat-test” Nuggets ever. I hope that Lafayette Lever one day ends up enshrined in Springfield, Massachusetts. If he doesn’t, it’s a shame because he was one of the most complete, and underrated, players of the 1980’s and certainly deserves to be there. He was the consummate professional and for these reasons is this installment of Historical Glimpses.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Luck of the Leprechaun or Same Old Achilles Heel?

(FortCollins-CO) Call it a lucky win for the most fortunate of all professional sports team, but I think that the Boston Celtics were just effective at exploiting the Nuggets Achilles heel. Which ever side you choose to endorse, the Nuggets lost to the Celtics 106-101. This is the first loss on this seven game eastern road trip and hopefully will be the Nugget’s last.

The first half showcased arguably the two best small forwards in the NBA doing what they do best, score. Carmelo Anthony put on a show by starting the game making eleven for eleven from the field before missing a half court shot at the buzzer of the second quarter. He would finish the first half with 26 points. Paul Pierce was equally impressive by putting up 20 going into intermission. The Nuggets had the lead at this point 58-56.

If there was a telling sign that the Nuggets were in a battle it was that Andre Miller only handed out four assists while turning it over five times. It should also be mentioned that the rest of the Nuggets turned it over 13 times on top of Andre’s misjudgments. With turnovers plaguing the Nuggets, it was hard to get the fast break going with any continuity.

The game was tied at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Nuggets were fighting tooth and nail, but were shooting themselves in the foot too often to pull out this win. In the final minutes of the game the Nuggets would squander the fruits of good defense by committing errant passes and not being calm and collected once a stop was produced. More specifically the Nuggets Achilles heel got the best of them.

The Achilles heel that I’m speaking of is Kenyon Martin. While Martin isn’t solely responsible for this loss, no one played perfect; he did have two critical lapses down the stretch that could have dictated a more favorable outcome for the Nuggets. First, after playing good defense in the post he watched a loose ball carom off the rim in front of his face and failed to snatch the board as if his hands were in his pockets. Second, and more devastating to the Nuggets potential victory, he once again played excellent defense, grabbed the rebound, but made a poor decision outleting the ball and threw it away to Boston. The Nuggets were only down by one point when the unfortunate aforementioned happened, and after Paul Pierce banked in a lucky 25 footer the game was sealed.

I’m ok with the loss and knew that the Nuggets weren’t going to win the rest of their games, but this one stings because the Nuggets could have executed down the stretch and potentially won this game. The other detail that bothers me in hindsight is that Reggie Evans only played nine minutes. What a travesty that a guy who has been laying it all on the line and giving the Nuggets everything he’s got can go from major contributor to barely seeing the floor.

I hope that George Karl examines the playing time appropriation and gives Reggie back the minutes that he was getting while Kenyon was sitting. Think I’m just down on Kenyon and should get off his back? Just tell Reggie Evans the reason why he got the bench for a guy that only scored five points and grabbed five rebounds in 25 minutes. I’m sure he will understand… In the mean time, the Nuggets need to do everything possible to make sure that the struggling New York Knicks do not extend this losing trend any further. Bounce back time Denver, show out at Madison Square.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Continue the Streak at Whatever Costs

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets found a way to get the win last night against the Toronto Raptors, 108-97. Going into the game, Denver wasn’t going to be able to count on Kenyon Martin (surprise, surprise) or Marcus Camby. Kenyon is still nursing a sore knee and Marcus was complaining of a tender Achilles tendon from the previous game. The only difference in the two big men is Marcus still suited up just in case the Nuggets needed him. Martin doesn’t even make himself available.

With the Kenyon saga still continuing, I think that the Nuggets are just beyond it as a team and are willing to do whatever it takes to get wins instead pointing fingers for losses. Against the Raptors, the team cohesiveness and amount of dedication to the fundamentals was an ideal example of what I’m talking about. With Carmelo leaving the game in the third quarter with a ginger hamstring, the ideals that I’m talking about had even more of chance to shine.

The Denver Nuggets pulled together as a unit and realized that even with the three biggest names on the team not available. The win was still attainable. Carmelo gave the Nuggets 14 points before his early departure, but it was the rest of the Nuggets that picked up the slack down the stretch. Reggie Evans was the defensive giant that the game necessitated. Evans pulled down 20 rebounds, defended Chris Bosh, and didn’t even need to score a single point to be effective. He gave the Nuggets exactly what they needed in the absence of Marcus Camby. Andre Miller gave the Nuggets a team high 23 points and eight assists. He continues to be the glue that holds this team together and is the catalyst for almost everything that the Nuggets get accomplished on offense. No surprise that he is amongst the league’s iron men in consecutive games played. In the department of energy, the Nuggets can comfortably rely on Rueben Patterson nightly. Rueben also contributed 15 points to sidle nicely with his intangibles.

These are just the obvious things that I can point to in this victory. The not so obvious are the increasingly consistent contributions that the so called, “Unsung heroes,” of this team are bringing to the pot luck of flavors that is becoming the Denver Nuggets. Greg Buckner has not only shown us that he is the defensive minded stopper that the Nuggets need him to be, but also hit five of eight three pointers. Buckner finished the night with 17 points. Earl Boykins was also phenomenal. The little man comes in and give the Nuggets 27 minutes, energy, tempo, 18 points including four three pointers (some at critical times late in the shot clock), and only turns the ball over once. You can’t ask for much more than that. Then, factor in DerMarr Johnson as a solid contributor and you have a bench that can come in and not only hold the fort, but can be an extension of your starting five while the big guns get a blow. Or in this case, be your big guns when your heavy artillery is on the shelf.

Carmelo’s hamstring is reportidly not going to keep him out of the game against Boston. I’ll also bet that Camby will be back in the line up too. So this leaves us with the topic of Kenyon Martin. Do we even need Kenyon Martin? We have won four straight without him, team chemistry is at an all-time high, and why mess with success? I feel that he is only going to take minutes away from Reggie Evans at this juncture in the season. Evans is a guy who is playing for longevity in this league. It is a contract year for him and he is playing like it. Kenyon has guaranteed money and is playing subsequently with no motivation.

I don’t want to see this team suffer because of one man’s ego. If Kenyon wants to play make him earn it like the rest of these guys. Make him come off the bench and prove to George Karl, his teammates, and the city of Denver that he wants it. If he doesn’t, than keep that knee off the floor so we can trade him in the off season. The Nuggets are getting it done. The question is does Kmart want to be part of it? The Nuggets have now won four straight including the first back-to-back road victories of the year. Make it five by shutting down the red hot Paul Pierce in Boston. One game at a time, Nuggies, one game at a time.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Nuggets Pull Out Gutsy Win

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets have started off the longest road trip of their season with a tremendous come from behind win in Philadelphia. Being down as many as fifteen points with just six minutes to go in the third quarter it would have appeared that the Nuggets were going to lose this one to Allen Iverson and the Sixers, but the Nuggets had other plans. That alternate ending was to shut down the Sixers in the fourth quarter and pull out what I think was the most gutsy team effort of the season.

The typical breakdown was there for the Nuggets. On offense, Carmelo was the anchor scoring 29 points and squeezing ten rebounds along the way. Andre Miller was one point away, nine points in total, from a double double by sliding twelve assists to his friends. Marcus Camby joined Melo in the double double club by scoring 13 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Camby also swatted five shots, including the game saver. Rueben Patterson was also big on the offensive end by coming up with 20 points in 29 minutes.

On defense, it needs to be mentioned that Greg Buckner and DerMarr Johnson were instrumental in nuetralizing Allen Iverson down the stretch of the game. AI would end the game with a game high 38 points, but in perspective, had to shoot the ball 32 times. DerMarr also rejected a shot by Iverson that would have potentially tied the game with only eight seconds left in the contest. On the following play, Marcus would host the block party by pinning the ball on the glass and coming down with the rebound to preserve the win for the Nuggets. The final score after Carmelo sealed the deal with two free throws would be 97-93, all Nuggets baby!

Next on the menu for the Nuggets is Toronto. The Raptors are a team this year with a couple of bright spots, but nothing spectacular. Chris Bosh should be handled by Camby with relative effectiveness and rookie Charlie Villanueva is the only other player you need to watch out for. The Raptors are 21-40 on the year and should be another win for the Nuggets.

The Nuggets could have easily mailed this one in last night, but they chose not to. By pinning down the defensive end for the final twelve minutes, they were able to overcome a lack luster second quarter and get the win. This type of win is more than just a stat in the W column. This type of win brings the Nuggets together with a cohesiveness that stays with a team for games to come. It is one thing to blow a team out and win; it is another to have to tear it away from the clutches of the home team on the road. The Nuggets have now won three straight. Make it four against the Raptors and let the buzz begin.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Historical Glimpses: Nathaniel “Tiny” Archibald

(FortCollins-CO) Who knew that a 6’1” native from New York with a nickname of “Tiny” would hold one of the most illustrious records in all of pro basketball lore? Nate Archibald’s legend is one of the strangest anomalies in professional sports and that is why I have chosen to dedicate this installment of Historical Glimpses to the little man out of University of Texas at El Paso.

In a game that has been dominated by giants of mammoth proportion and tremendous strength, Nate Archibald did his dominating with neither of the two. From early on in his basketball career Tiny heard words of discouragement that a man of his size would never be able to compete at the highest levels. He would have to start his college career at Arizona Western Junior College and work his way through the entire bunch of nay Sayers with his college career ending at the aforementioned UTEP.

After college basketball at UTEP, Nate would be drafted 19th in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals. He would immediately have an impact in his rookie year. Tiny would average 16 points, 5.5 assists, and three rebounds, but this was merely a foreshadowing of things to come. His sophomore season would be his coming out party as the best little man to grace the league since Hal Greer. That second year he would raise his numbers to 28.2 points, 9.2 assists, and nearly three boards. Not only had his numbers seen a dramatic change, the Royals would move to Kansas City the following year and Nate would treat the league to a feat that has never been matched in nearly forty years.

In the 1972-73 season Tiny would not only lead the league in scoring at a mark of 34 points per contest, but he would also be tops in the game in assists at 11.4 a night. If you have been reading the Nugg Doctor lately you might remember a breakdown I did regarding the best player in the league by a statistical breakdown and a value scale. Allen Iverson won the title right before All-Star break by edging out Lebron James with a better turnover to assist ratio and a total score of 48.5. By that same breakdown, (and I encourage you to check the archives for that article), Archibald would have scored a 57.5! That is nearly 20% more of a contribution to his team every night in the three major categories of scoring, rebounding, and assists. This feat was phenomenal and no player in NBA history has come remotely close to duplicating it.

Even with the proof in the pudding, Nate was still hearing jeers that he couldn’t lead a team to the promise land of a NBA title. His critics were saying he was too dominating of the ball, couldn’t get his teammates involved, (which I’ll never understand seeing how he led the league in assists), and was a hindrance on defense. All of this negativity fueled the little man to what could have been the capstone in his outstanding career. In 1981 he led the Boston Celtics to the world championship while scoring 13.8 points a game, dishing 7.7 assists, and clearing two boards. At this point, all his critics had nothing left to say. Tiny had accomplished everything there was to accomplish.

He would end his career having played for the Cincinnati and KC-Omaha Royals and Kings, New York Nets, Boston Celtics, and the Milwaukee Bucks. He played 13 seasons in the NBA. Graced the NBA first team in 73, 75, and 76. He was elected an All-Star six times and won MVP of the game in 1981. His jersey number 1 will never be worn again by a Sacramento King, and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990. All these accolades are merely addition to the crown jewel that was the 1972-73 season. Will a player ever lead the league in scoring and assists again? Only time will tell the truth on that. In the mean time we will always have the memory that not only is such a feat possible, but it was accomplished by the “Tiny-est” of all the NBA giants.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Memphis Gets Handled By Denver With Ease

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets jumped all over the Memphis Grizzlies like a hobo on a ham sandwich tonight. Denver won the jump ball and never looked back by bombarding the Grizzlies with pestering defense, clearing the defensive glass, and running them into the ground. The Nuggets 115-101 handily won the game. Both Andre Miller and Earl Boykins recorded double doubles in points and assists, and Carmelo scored a game high 35 points in 34 minutes. I like this potential playoff match-up. Memphis has yet to come to Pepsi Center and win. This loss makes them 0-14 in Denver.

The Denver Nuggets only allowed the Memphis Grizzlies 17 first quarter points and followed that defensive effort up by only allowing 23 in the second. They were comfortably in the lead going into half 57-40. Pau Gasol was frustrated all night long by Francisco Elson, Marcus Camby, and believe it or not, Rueben Patterson. Gasol would finish the game with only ten points and one rebound.

The reserves would extend the lead to nearly thirty points by the end of the third quarter and with the starters resting to start the fourth Memphis was led back to within fifteen with five minutes left in the game. One time Nugget Bobby Jackson and rookie high-flyer Hakim Warrick sparked the Grizzlies, but it was too little too late. Jackson would end the game with a team high 22 points while Hakim contributed 14 points in 18 minutes. These numbers may have indicated a defensive breakdown but with the game so far out of reach, and the starters waiting to finish it out, there was no need to panic. It was good for the starting five to sit and let the bench players log some minutes with the looming seven game eastern road trip starting later this week against Philadelphia.

Denver is starting to cash in on a consistent rhythm of playable personnel. Rueben Patterson is filling the void nicely at shooting guard, and is not taking away from Carmelo’s flow to the game. Having Reggie Evans coming off the bench and providing consistent rebounding and an interior presence is also catapulting the Nuggets. Adding Earl Boykins and Greg Buckner is just sprinkles on an already sweet situation. It is scary for would be opponents to think about the possibilities this team is capable of with a healthy Kenyon Martin in the starting line up soon

The momentum right now is heavily in the Nuggets favor. This is the first time all season long that they are five games above .500, and three of the next four road games are against teams with losing records. This road trip is going to be the defining chapter to the regular season for the Nuggets. If they can win five of the next seven games on this eastern odyssey they can look forward to being eight games above .500, and have a comfortable lead in the Northwest Division with only 14 games left in the regular season. Of these 14 games, eight are at home in Denver.

The regular season workload is laid out in front of you Denver. The path is clear. The objective is stated. Finish out this regular season strong, build on this budding chemistry, and get ready for the playoffs. The city of Denver is ready and waiting. Please Nuggets, don’t let us down.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Bench Steps Up in Nuggets Win

(FortCollins-CO) When Denver gets an effort from the number of players like in the win against Orlando. They are extremely pleasurable to watch and potentially could make tsunami-sized waves in the playoffs. The starters took care of business early setting the tone for the bench players to follow. The result was a 110-94 win against the Orlando Magic.

Carmelo Anthony, Rueben Patterson, and Andre Miller anchored the Denver Nuggets in the win. Anthony clocked in at 24 points and four assists. Rueben Patterson chimed in with 21 points, eight assists, and five rebounds (three on the offensive end). This was Rueben’s best showing as a Nugget thus far. And quite possibly the most important component to the Nuggets was Andre Miller showing up in a big way. Bouncing back from what was his lowest assist total of the season against the Rockets, Miller dished the rock seven times for direct scores, and never turned it over. He also added five rebounds, a steal, and seven points.

We all knew that the starters were going to be fired up after a regrettable effort against the Rockets on Friday night. What we didn’t know was how the bench was going to react when called upon for the Magic. In one word, the bench was ‘Tremendous.’ Earl Boykins, Reggie Evans, and Greg Buckner arose from the bottom of the milking pail and showed they were the cream that George Karl can rely on. That makes the Nuggets eight deep, nine if you factor in that Kenyon didn’t suit up because of his sore knee. All this in reaction to the loss on Friday, or possibly the Nuggets are reading the Nugg Doctor…

In any event the results from the reserves were phenomenal. Earl broke free from a shooting slump almost a week old and scored 21 points while pushing the ball up the court and getting the Nuggets in a fast break style game. Reggie Evans is quickly becoming the brightest spot in last week’s trade by consistently crashing the boards on both ends, no disrespect Rueben, and continuing to score more points efficiently. He finished with a double double, 12 points and ten rebounds.

After taking an overview of this game it was apparent that two things are going to be the pivotal points in the Nugget's season. First, and most importantly, is tempo. When the Nuggets get out in the open floor, move the ball, and attack the basket they are magnificent to watch. All of the Nuggets are adept at making the extra pass and it really gets everyone involved. This involvement transfers over to the team defensive strategy and intensity. Second, the play of the reserves is critical in every game. Without guys like Earl, Reggie, Buckner, and even Eduardo Najera answering the call during the second and the beginning of the fourth quarters. The Nugget starters just don’t have enough juice in the tank to get it done. This makes the bench just as important as the starting five. They may not put up all the numbers and make all the highlight reels, but they are the yin to the starter’s yang. Let us hope that George Karl realizes this and gives these guys consistent minutes in the forthcoming games and develops regiment that the Nuggets can start to rely on.

The Nuggets have one more game at Pepsi Center against the Memphis Grizzlies before embarking on a seven game road trip to the east coast. It will be important to put another win in their back pocket before this eastern odyssey.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Mr. Hyde Shows Again

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets are becoming victims of schizophrenic play at an alarming rate. Only scoring 78 points, 22% fewer than your accustomed to, is going to make getting a win in the NBA extremely tough. Especially, when you give up a hundred points night-in and night-out. Denver has now lost to the team with the worst home record in the league and a team that they have beaten twice already this year in one dismal showing. They have also beaten the three best teams, by record, in the league. So what gives with the 89-78 loss to Houston? That is the question I should be provoking and hopefully will attempt to solve by the end of this posting (as if it is that easy…)

The only Nugget to play effectively tonight was Carmelo Anthony. The young superstar notched 34 points, four rebounds, and four steals. It was obvious that all the other Nuggets were experiencing a touch of Mr. Hyde for whatever reason. Kenyon only scored five while squeezing six. Rueben Patterson contributed immense amounts of effort, but didn’t put up numbers where it all adds up. He ended the game by only scoring six points but pulled down five offensive rebounds, many on his own drives to the basket.

The bench only contributed 15 points, which could be the result of the shuffling act placed upon George Karl. The proper players are going to take some time to calibrate. Who is going to develop chemistry with who is also going to be a maturation process. The only thing that the Nuggets have in their favor, as far as personnel is concerned, is the starting five. There is so much to be answered, and only time will tell.

The one person that has to find immediately remedy to this bipolar disorder is Andre Miller. The most unsung hero of this team is also quite possibly the grease that makes the Nugget engine run. Tonight Andre only handed out three dimes while turning it over twice as much. This is indication that the Nuggets never got the fast break kick started. In retrospective, it is becoming increasingly more clear to the why the Nuggets lost this game.

Andre may be the most clear individual to point the finger at for this game, but let me suggest that the problem tonight is much more complex than that. I am going to say that the problem isn’t much of a problem at all, but merely an issue that has been plaguing the Nuggets in the majority of their losses this season. I feel that what is ailing the Nugget’s is reserve chemistry, and this is a direct result of the inconsistent bench personnel that sees playing time on too consistent of a basis.

The Nuggets need to find a reliable seven to nine players and give them consistent playing time. The questioning of who is going to be in the game during the stretches where players earn their paychecks needs to come to an end. The cream needs to rise of the top, of the bench that is. The guys that are going to give this team everything they got in the minutes they are counted on for need to surface and stay right on the hip of George Karl when the starters need a blow.

Orlando is going to be ready to play when they show up tomorrow night. They are without Steve Francis and are going to let it all hang out. The front line of the Denver Nuggets is going to have their hands full with the league’s leading glass cleaner and youngest emerging superstar in Dwight Howard. The Nugget bench needs to answer the call of duty tomorrow night. The Nuggets can’t afford to get complacent with one big win because Utah is going to be watching and a consequential slide could be detrimental to the looming playoff picture. Snap back to save the weekend Nuggets, your playoff position depends on it.

Nuggets Booster Bench With Eisley

(FortCollins-CO) The Denver Nuggets have announced the signing of point guard Howard Eisley to a ten-day contract on Friday, March 3rd, 2006. Eisley has played sparingly for the Los Angeles Clippers this season. Eisley is a NBA journeyman who has played for Utah, Minnesota, San Antonio, Dallas, New York, and Phoenix.

The mid-season moves to solidify the Denver Nuggets at both shooting and point guard indicate that General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe is expecting the Nuggets to have an extended post-season.

As mentioned earlier in this article, Eisley has only been signed to a ten-day contract. Including tonight, Eisley will be with the Nuggets through Saturday, March 18th, 2006 when the Nuggets face off against the New Orleans/ Oklahoma City Hornets.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Cohesive Denver Slays Detroit

(FortCollins-CO) This was the Denver Nuggets best game in recent history. The Denver Nuggets had energy on Wednesday night that was unmistakable, undeniable, and unbelievable. As soon as I saw that Rueben Patterson was gracing the starting line-up. I knew we were in for a treat against the Pistons. My hunch from Monday’s embarrassing loss to the Bucks was perfectly calibrated, and so were the Nuggets. They handed the Pistons their tenth loss of the season to the tune of 98-87.

I think that you can point to one distinguishing moment in the game where the Nuggets sent home a statement to the Pistons. That statement was you guys aren’t coming into our house and embarrassing us in front of our hometown supporters. Reuben Patterson stepped right up in Richard Hamilton’s face in playground fashion and set the tone for intensity that the Nuggets fed on all night. Maybe it was the booing that they heard after Monday’s loss. Maybe it was George Karl putting the Nuggets through an intense practice on Tuesday. Maybe it was the Nuggets looking each other in the eyes and deciding that the kind of effort that was given on Monday night would never happen again. Whatever it was, it worked to perfection.

All Nugget starters scored in double figures. Three Nuggets recorded double-doubles. The Nuggets were anchored on defense by the Herculean effort of Marcus Camby grabbing 20 rebounds, rejecting five shots, and scoring 12 points. Kenyon Martin had the best game I have ever seen him play in a Nuggets uniform. Martin scored 28 points, snared twelve rebounds, and propelled the Nuggets down the stretch with his two blue-light-special three point shots. Carmelo Anthony was also spectacular by contributing six assists, seven rebounds, and 25 points.

Andre Miller and Rueben Patterson rounded out the other two starting positions and both were the keys to this victory. Miller gets my game MVP because of his eleven assists. Miller was effectively distributing the ball on the Nugget’s fast break and this subsequently got all the Denver Nuggets involved in the win. He only notched two turnovers all night and these two things in combination with the defensive intensity of the rest of the team were paramount in the Nuggets chemistry and victory. Rueben Patterson did everything that needed to be done. Simply stated in the aforementioned paragraphs, Rueben ignited the Nuggets swagger by stepping up in Rip Hamilton’s grill and sending home the early message that the Nuggets weren’t impressed by anything the Pistons brought to town. He gave the Nuggets 13 points while squeezing seven rebounds and broke the curse of the three-point line by hitting his only attempt. If he only could of converted early in the game on all the lay-ups that eluded him. He would of played the perfect game.

So what is next for the Nuggets? Hopefully the answer to that is a long winning streak at the cost of Houston on their home court on Friday. The Nuggets should be able to take this momentum and parlay that into two back-to-back victories against the previously mentioned and Orlando at home on Saturday night. Monday's forgettable loss to Milwaukee needs to be just that, FORGOTTEN. The Nuggets now have a sense of what they are truly capable of when they play together as a team on both ends of the floor. It’s time to separate ourselves from the rest of the pack and get people buzzing about what this team could do down the stretch as a legitimate contender in the grand scheme of things. The Nuggets have now beaten the likes of Miami, San Antonio, Dallas, and the Pistons. I sense a team that could be under the radar in the NBA playoffs. Winning the division and taking the third seed in the western conference will give the Nuggets a perfect vantage point to strike. Bravo Nuggets, and encore!