(Boulder-CO) Tonight’s, 117-93, loss made me realize the Denver Nuggets are at a crossroads. This season can go two different directions at this precise juncture. Veer one way and the Nuggets have all the excuses they need to slide out of the playoff picture. Veer another and they could choose to make this year a springboard for bigger and better things to come in the future. Either way, the Hornets proved to me that they are indeed, “For real” by trouncing the Nuggets right from the word go.
In the first half, Denver was absolutely exploited by the crisper New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul was slicing the Nuggets interior defense to ribbons and finished the first half with eight points, nine assists, and six rebounds. Tyson Chandler was hanging all over the rim at nausea while grabbing ten rebounds, scoring eight points, and dishing out three assists. The Hornets tallied 17 assists on their 25 made baskets and badly embarrassed the Nuggets in rebounding 29-15.
In addition to the abysmal defensive effort the Nuggets put forth, they were once again sans Carmelo Anthony and looked befuddled on offense in the first half. Denver’s starters only managed to collectively score 31 points of which Kenyon Martin scored a team-high 16 of with Allen Iverson adding eleven. Marcus Camby didn’t score and only grabbed two rebounds (Seriously, only two boards are you kidding me?) with the other two Denver starters, LK and AC, combining for only four points.
Needless to say, the entire first half was a nightmare for the Denver Nuggets. New Orleans was ahead by 23 points, 63-40, and I could tell the Nuggets were just going to mail the second half in. It’s not a feeling that I like, but after listening to the first quarter on the way home from dinner and watching the entire second quarter once I arrived home. I knew why I was feeling queasy, and it wasn’t the Mongolian beef.
To start the third period, CP3 shook Anthony Carter so bad, numerous times, with consecutive crossovers before flipping a lay-up that Kenyon Martin would have to goaltend that it made me spill my drink. I’m talking about a move that made Carter yo-yo back-and-forth as if Paul was manipulating AC’s movements like a puppet. And like a basketball game puppeteer, Chris Paul played with the Nuggets for the entire rest of the game.
CP3 slid through the Denver zone defense like a breeze on a beach while setting up himself and his teammates for just about any shot they wanted. Even on plays when he screwed up, like the occasion he went up to dunk the ball off of a steal with some indecision and lost possession, he still managed to make the play by stealing the ball back from Kenyon Martin and diming Melvin Ely for an easy deuce. Honestly, CP3 was a treat to watch even if he was making the Nuggets look terrible by doing it.
In lieu of admitting that I have a full-blown man crush on Chris Paul, the guy literally single-handedly dismantled the Nuggets with a near triple-double stat line that reads 23 points, 17 assists, nine rebounds, two steals, and a block. And when you have a guy pass out that many assists it only means that the rest of his team got in on the scoring smorgasbord too. Paul and five other players scored in double figures thus leaving the rest of this game’s hideous Nuggets box score right here.
This loss now puts Denver, Portland, and Utah into a ménage à trois for first place in the Northwest Division. And to make things even more interesting, the Nuggets have two very winnable games against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Charlotte Bobcats up next before having to travel up to Portland to face the Trailblazers in a game that gives the victor a two-game swing in the divisional standings. The Nuggets could sure use these next two games to turn into wins before squaring off with the Trailblazers, so it is going to be imperative that Denver shakes off this pitiful effort before getting ready to take care of the Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
It’s just a loss, Denver. Shake it off and get back on the horse.