Thursday, March 6, 2008
What's A Nuggets Fan to Believe?
(Boulder-CO) Last night's game left me with a feeling of confusion unparalleled up to this point in the season. Here the Nuggets are on the outside looking into the crowded Western Conference playoff picture, they have been taking some bad losses, the whole situation is filled with enough pressure to make George Karl open another bag of cough drops, and the Nuggets find a way to put together quite possibly the best game of the year so far in a, 126-113, win against the Phoenix Suns.
So I ask you, Nuggets Nation: What's a Nuggets fan to believe? Are the Suns really struggling that bad to adapt after losing their best transition player for an aging, chubby, and easily winded Shaquille O'Neal or are the Nuggets really capable of playing like this on more than a once every-other week basis to become playoff bound?
Let's look at what this team can do when they all show up as a team by taking care of the their individual responsibilities. For Starters, let me say this was Allen Iverson's best game of the year so far. The Answer scored a team-high 31 points and dished out 12 dandy assists while not turning over the rock a single time. Anytime the Nuggets can get a double-double performance out of AI they are going to be tough to beat, and if he can do so with zero turnovers I can almost guarantee victory against any team in the league. Last night, AI was the best point guard in the league. His backcourt mate, Anthony Carter, also filled his role perfectly. AC scored 11 points on an efficient 3-5 from the land of plenty while handing out 11 assists to just two turnovers. Once again, AC was the oil that made the Nuggets engine run and with that kind of assist to turnover ratio the Nuggets avoided becoming their own worst enemy.
The starting front line also came together like a unit. Carmelo Anthony pulled out a menagerie of offensive weapons to finish with 30 points, 13 rebounds (six offensive), and two blocks. You can't tell me that when Carmelo Anthony hits the offensive glass that the Nuggets aren't a completely different team because when Carmelo becomes a rebounder, he becomes offensive. And when the offense is opposite the side of Carmelo, he becomes the most dangerous player on the floor if the ball is shot.
Kenyon Martin scored an efficient 17 points on 7-12 from the field. K-Mart also played very strong defense on Amare Stoudemire visibly bothering him with his quick hands. The Captain also played a very quality, while statistically conservative, game consisting of nine points, eight rebounds, four blocks, and four assists. It may not have been the most impressive game the captain has played this year, statistically speaking, but he was far more vocal than he has been in recent memory and acted like the glue holding all these individual efforts together.
Then you add in J.R. Smith.
When he plays up to his potential and beyond his years he can single handedly make the Nuggets go from a good team to a dynamic one.
Lately, especially with Linas being ginger on that twisted ankle, Smith has been Karl's first player off the bench. Sometimes J.R. leaves Karl reaching for yet another cough drop as he scowls at the often poor game decisions of Smith. But, in a select few occasions, J.R. plays outstanding basketball like in last night's performance of 20 points in 21 minutes, including 6 of 8 from downtown.
Now, when the Nuggets play like a team, as I have just dissected, they have shown they are capable of beating anyone in this league. That includes the Spurs, Suns, Mavericks, Rockets, and Jazz. All of which the Nuggets have beaten at least once so far this season, and all of which could be a potential first round match-up come mid April.
For now, one game at a time. The Nuggets have a true test of their cohesiveness tomorrow night against the Spurs at Pepsi Center. A game that will surely test the glue that this team is held together by.