The Denver Nuggets are riding a roller coaster – mainly just an increase in altitude (get it?) – the past two months; going from a 17-15 team to a 33-18 team.
A team that’s fighting for the third seed as other Western Conference teams meander from winning; Denver is making strides.
Denver has gone 22-6 since December 13, 2012; 16-3 – a league best – since January 1, 2013; a team that has buckled down with their former defenseless ways and turned it on. It’s not just defense, but their offense is going smoothly with a high percentage of fast-break points, paint points, and they seem to have a handle on perimeter shooting and free-throw shooting.
To say Denver is just “improved” is a slight to what they have accomplished on both ends of the floor. In their 9 consecutive wins they have an OffRtg of 112.5 and a DefRtg of 99.0 (!!). Through those nine games, they’ve averaged 114.6 points on 50.1% FG, 38.2% 3P, 73.6% FT, and then there’s the clutch.
To those whom may only view the Denver Nuggets when they’re only on national television and thus haven’t observed their transformation over the past seven weeks have stuck to old narratives of Denver not being clutch.
In circumstances where Denver is behind or tied in the final five minutes:
During their nine game winning streak? They had three instances like this and, obviously, won all three instances.
Past 15 games? They went 6-1 – dang, Washington Wizards – shooting 50.2% from the field and 42.9% from downtown. The Offensive and Defensive ratings are even more shock-worthy; OffRtg of 139.3 and a DefRtg of 62.7 (!!!!!!!!).
Compared to their 11-13 record for the whole season, yes, Denver has improved their performance in the clutch.
So, is it time to buy into the Nuggets?
To the scattering of cynics out there, get out your pocketbook, take out a check and endorse it to the ‘Denver Nuggets’ with “I’m Buying In” in the memo line because this team is making amazing strides.
It’s not just home cooking, but they started a four-game road trip Saturday night which includes the dreaded 4 games in 5 days, and despite their lackluster defense through the first 18 minutes of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver was able to tighten down defensively, limit Kyrie Irving’s effectiveness, and despite 20 turnovers, won a possible “trap” game.
Turning the ball over was an issue during this game, a huge issue that won’t fly against the Boston Celtics at The Garden, especially with Denver on a second-leg of a back-to-back. However, Denver negated the heavy amount of turnovers with being relentless on cleaning the glass, and from their offense. Denver was sloppy on covering the perimeter defensively, as well as having that interior presence, but that’s truly the only massive gripe mainly because it will amount to easy buckets for Boston.
Danilo Gallinari was absolutely phenomenal this game with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals; his shooting was on the positive side, but it was his aggressiveness and tenacity on the other end that caught my eye. Kenneth Faried was insatiable, again, on the offense and his energy is more effective than any metric could possibly quantify.
Andre Iguodala had this well-blended all-around game which further cements my belief that many in Denver, Colorado truly underappreciate him. He posted 14 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, a block, and a steal. Iguodala was Denver’s playmaker this game including assisting on a few dunks from Wilson Chandler and Faried, not to mention his wonderful defense on Irving. JaVale McGee was outstanding this game blocking and altering shots, and being an intimidating presence in the paint.
Andre Miller, whose surly, but honest, quotes ruffled the feathers of some, allowed his play on the court do the true talking; his impact was truly effective in the second half with his incredible passing acumen. Ty Lawson came out of the game very sluggish and appearing like the Lawson of November, but he did come out in the second half more aggressive in pushing the pace of the game. Lawson, and that pace pushing, driving, overall aggressiveness, will be vital in the three remaining games of this road trip.
Denver started the 4-in-5 in a positive manner, but will have to dig in on Sunday to beat a confident Celtics squad at home.