For starters, we now know that the Nuggets defense is vastly improved from last season. Denver once again denied their opposition a 20+ scorer and before the Bulls were able to salvage some dignity in the fourth quarter the Nuggets had equaled or outscored their opponents in the last 17 straight quarters. Denver also held its fourth team in a row, tonight albeit just barely, to 40% or below from the field by keeping Chicago to exactly 40% shooting. Plus, the Nuggets once again out blocked their opponents, 7-5, thanks primarily to Marcus Camby’s five rejections, but it is the way the Nuggets are playing D as a team that really has me excited. Guys like J.R. Smith are really focused on playing team defense; meaning that when another Nugget gets beat they are stepping up for each other and making teams beat them as a cohesive unit rather than all that one-on-one stuff that lacked overall teammate support from previous years.
We also now know that the Nuggets are much better at sharing the ball compared to years past. Denver passed for 26 assists tonight with nearly everybody getting into the sharing spirit. Maybe it’s the holidays, but anytime a team like the Nuggets continues to have the passing game going the way Denver currently does it indicates that they are getting out on the break, making the extra pass, and are playing for each other instead of just with each other. Need more proof? The Nuggets are currently third in the NBA at a clip of 24.9 dimes per game and have the league’s most potent offense.
But what I like more than anything else is how all of Denver’s stars are still shining bright without a single Nugget hogging up the spotlight. Marcus Camby continues to do his dirty work and finished tonight with the gaudy stat line of 20 rebounds, twelve points, five blocks, five assists, and a steal while not even playing in the fourth quarter. Carmelo continues his fantastic all-around play and finished with a game-high 26 points, four assists, and two rebounds. This included putting Andres Nocioni in the spin cycle on the left side block and slamming it in his grill before unlacing his signature shoes and resting the entire fourth period. And Allen Iverson added 22 “quiet” points, six assists, and three steals before he too rested for the majority of the final period; thus translating into a very well-rested starting crew that has to travel tonight to play the Clippers tomorrow on the tail end of back-to-back games.
So, what are your feelings? Have these last six games been 24 Karat Au worth taking to the bank or could we just be witnessing an extended stretch of Pyrite? Be sure to leave your insights in the comments section.