Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves was supposed to be a cake-walk as the Denver Nuggets came one step closer to being a complete squad, but the Nuggets were once again forced to play without some of their top players.
Carmelo Anthony is still on hiatus as he deals with the death of sister, the team held Kenyon Martin on the second game of the back-to-back, Al Harrington sat out due to dislocating his thumb and Nene sat out due to a sore hamstring.
And so the Nuggets starting lineup against the T-Wolves looked like this: Melvin Ely at Center, Shelden Williams at Power Forward, JR Smith at Small Forward, Arron Afflalo at Shooting Guard and Chauncey Billups at Point Guard. A starting lineup that nobody would have ever imagined.
The injuries also meant that seldom used Gary Forbes and Renaldo Balkman also would see time for the Nuggets depleted squad.
- Chauncey Billups, aka Mr. Big Shot continued his hot streak, scoring a game high 37 points and hitting on all six of his trifectors. Including a trey with 3 minutes left in the game to give the Nuggets the lead for good.
- Arron Afflalo: Afflalo may never be a go-to guy every night but when called upon this season Triple-A has responded. Afflalo scored 17 points and played good defense on Michael Beasley down the stretch, forcing the former K-State star to go weak hand late in the game.
- Renaldo Balkman: Kool played his first meaningful game in almost two years and once again gave Nuggets fans a reason to ask for him to get more playing time. Kool finished the contest with 10 points and beat his man down the court after every play.
- Chris Andersen: The Birdman has never been known for his savvy play on the court, instead he falls back on his athleticism. However, Andersen used some of his veteran prowess late in the game to draw late fouls on Timberwolves star Kevin Love. Andersen had admirable numbers with 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
- Ty Lawson: Lawson rebounded from a subpar game the night before, and even a so-so first half to attack Minnesota’s defense with drive after drive which in turn lead to either a basket or a trip to the charity stripe. The second-year speester finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.
- Shelden Williams: The Landlord scored eight points, but also had four steals as he was once again called upon to step into a larger role.
- Melvin Ely: The former Fresno State center is constantly lost in the shuffle among the Nuggets big man, he will always play second and third fiddle to the other bigs and could be waived if Denver adds more players in a trade or free agency. However, Ely continues to step up when his number is called. He grabbed five offensive rebounds and attacked the glass all night, which helped the cold shooting Nuggets stay in the game early.
- JR Smith: Smith didn’t play bad, but he once again struggled shooting the ball and really should be coming off the bench with Anthony out. Smith has made only 23 of 67 shots and missed 24 of 32 from behind the arc while he has started. And Wednesday night he needed to attempt 16 shots to score 12 points. While Smith didn’t play bad defensively, it is his offensive scoring spark that makes him the money.
- Gary Forbes: Forbes missed all four of his shots in the game and both of his 3-point attempts as well.