It hasn’t been an easy season for the Denver Nuggets. Starting with 17 of their first 23 games on the road, the Nuggets have struggled, admirably, but frustratingly at trying to assimilate newcomer Andre Iguodala, develop Javale McGee/Kenneth Faried/Everybody but Old Man Andre Miller, and live without the steadying influence of both Al Harrington and Aaron Afflalo. It hasn’t been pretty as the Nuggets have slogged through their schedule to a 13-12 start, but that hasn’t been for lack of effort.
The Nuggets can win in two ways, either in a close win or a blowout, and both have been hard to come by for this team. Close wins have been fumbled away by poor execution in the last quarter, and especially the last play, while blowouts have turned into close games when the Nuggets take their foot off the gas and get comfortable. Luckily for the these Nuggs and their fans, both were on display in the past two different, but reassuring wins.
The first win against Memphis was the definition of a dogfight. Both teams played down to an in-and-out Rudy Gay 3 pointer in the final seconds that capped the game for the Nuggets 99-94. Coming against a) One of the premier teams in the West and b) an experienced and dominant frontcourt (Z-Bo, Baby Gasol), the Nuggets were everything they needed to be, with Javale McGee displaying his dominant blocking powers and with (surprise!) an efficient Andre Iguodala (20 points, 8-11, 7 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds). Additionally, the defense of the Nuggets sealed the game with the Lawson stripping the ball from Rudy Gay with the lead late in the game (95-94).
Instead of resting on their laurels from this game, however, the Nuggets played even better against the struggling Sacramento Kings in their next game (122-97). Blowouts are hard to come by for this team as of late, and to rest the starter prior to tomorrow’s game against the Spurs, you’ve got to hand it to the team. While Nuggets faithful should remain patient with this team, they can look at these past two wins with optimism. The Nuggets have been taking smart shots, playing suffocating defense and remaining not only active, but efficient in their play. Against an always tough San Antonio squad, this Nuggets team will need to maintain all three. While Denver’s consistency is still in question, there are indications of growth all over this team (even Quincy Miller logged his first minutes). So for all the pessimists out there, cheer up! The schedule is softening, this team is improving and the league has pushed the Nuggets under the radar, which is perhaps where they’ll thrive the most.