Nuggets win by 40. Admittedly, the Bobcats are not the Spurs, but last night's performance was probably the finest display of team-ball that I have ever seen at the professional level. They played defense, they ran the ball, seven players in double figures, and most importantly, they shared the ball most unselfishly, with a season high of 30+ assists. Here's what Cub Martin had to say about the game, and he sums it up pretty well, with some bold added by me:
The “titanic” clash between two new look teams went down in Denver on Wednesday night. The revamped Nuggets were entering their fifth game with the new cast and their visitors from Charlotte sported a different look, as well. In addition to the Silas effect which took place around the holidays (hiring both Paul as Head and Steve as an assistant), the Bobcats came in with some new faces, no Gerald Wallace and a happy Stephen Jackson, now at home on the wing.
Owners of a 17-14 record since Larry Brown was replaced by Silas, the Bobcats seem to play with a new freedom and one that the assistant Silas noted was initially tricky for some of the players to adjust to. After playing in the structured world of Larry Brown’s Universe, the Bobcats now have the creative license and “freedom to fail,” which players all crave.
The younger Silas even painted a pre-game picture of some of DJ Augustin’s first games with the new staff. Out of habit, the guard was prone to look over to the bench at crunch time for a play call. Those visual requests are now met with a “go ahead; you call the play” reaction from the staff.
Again, a major change.
Of course, the transformation is even more drastic on the other bench as the “Go-Go Nuggets” have adopted a quicker pace and a new-found, team-wide attention to the defensive end of the court. In their first four games (obviously a limited sample size), the Nuggets are giving up 10 less points per game on average. While the “local jury” would probably prefer another month of wins before they return in droves (attendance has been down), there is a new “air of basketball” in the Post-Melo world. A deep team that shares the ball; has no true No. 1 option, but nine or 10 guys who can score 20 on any night. In a sense, the current Nuggets roster is a “Frankenstein” project for the rest of the League. As the big-market teams go “star heavy,” this one is going with a totally different approach.
To the action on the court!
In front of a library-esque crowd of just over 14,000, the Nuggets led from start to finish en route to a lopsided 120-80 win. The victory was their fourth in five games since the trade that sent Melo and Chauncey Billups to Gotham. Like Monday’s win over Atlanta, a new style of play was more than evident and spurred the home team’s impressive performance. The balance was in full effect, again with Wilson Chandler leading the way with 16 points, but seven guys scored in double figures (for the fifth straight), including Ty Lawson’s double-double of 14 and 10 assists. With a mixture of strong perimeter defense and crisp interior passing, the Nuggets jumped to an early lead and enjoyed a strong third-quarter run to turn a 10-point game into a 25-point one.
It was the first half, however, was where the home team set the tone and took complete control. Normally ‘round these parts, this style of winning is achieved by simply trying to outscore their opponent. On this night, the early scoring differential (that held solid through out the night) was a product of a strong detail to perimeter defense. Possession after possession, the Bobcats were forced into settling for long-range jump shots and if not for Matt Carroll’s torrid first-half, the game might have gotten out of hand much earlier. The presence of Wilson Chandler on the wing is the most glaring defensive difference. The newly acquired wing was able to push Jackson deeper on the wing and force him into tough shots. On the offensive end, the home team implemented a quick-swinging passing attack that led to many easy shots and a 63 percent first half shooting percentage. This combination of focus on both sides of the ball allowed the Nuggets to enjoy 62-46 halftime advantage.
For a fan base that has grown accustomed to watching the ball go continually through the hands of Carmelo Anthony, the team’s propensity for sharing the ball was clearly visible. Halftime buzz in the press room centered around the passing and the unselfish nature of this new Nugget incarnation. Those observations were cemented by the six Nugget players who had at least 8 halftime points.
With the win in the books, the Nuggets make the quick trip over the Continental Divide to Utah for a divisional game with equally revamped Jazz. The win puts the Nuggets at 36-26 (only the second time they have been 10-plus over .500 and just 2.5 games behind the Northwest Division leading OKC Thunder. It also puts the Nuggets securely into the fifth spot in the Western Conference Playoff push.
It is all smiles and cheers for now in Denver, but with seven of the next eight on the road against the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami, we’ll all know a little more about this team very soon.