1. Denver got a big win last night using their depth and with surprisingly sharp defense. the Nuggets sport a plethora of capable scorers and this was in full display here as they placed six in double figures. However, the hot guy last night was a bit of a departure from the norm. In 29 minutes off of the bench Emmanuel Mudiay led the Golddiggers with 21 points on 8 of 10 from the field to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Mudiay’s tenure in Denver has been less than ideal. His time starting at the point was so tumultuous that Jameer Nelson was needed to lend some sort of competency to the role and over the summer he lost this job to second year dynamo Jamal Murray. But last night he looked poised, confident and like a player that is PISSED to be relegated to the bench. He made tough play after tough play, snaking into the lane and finding success against hardened defenders like Stephen “Big Funaki” Adams and Patrick “PatPat” Patterson. This provided a glimpse into what the front office brass was expecting when they selected him with the 7th pick in the 2015 draft. And if he continues this it will make for a pretty interesting situation in the Mile High City.
2. The Nuggets are the best when the love is being spread around and this was apparent last night. Along with the six scorers in double figures they assisted 27 times on 38 field goals. Paul Milsap looked good with a 17-7-5 line and the Snow Brothers did a bang up job with Mason Plumlee tossing in 13 on 5 of 9 from the field and Nikola Jokic getting a 15 and 11 double double. Will “The Mechanic” Barton added 13 while going a perfect 7 for 7 from the line while Gary Harris and Jamal Murray chipped in 10 and 9 respectively. This is how you beat a really good defensive team like the Thunder.
Playing a bit of defense also doesn’t hurt. Milsap along with being active on the offensive end put the D in Denver with a monstrous six block. In today’s NBA the dual big approach is rather risky but they were able to make it work with the Snow Brothers especially Plumlee who was a constant irritant. Other than that it was just guys flying around playing tight help defense, not fouling (only 15 for the game) and not giving up on plays or getting caught in compromising situations. This was a great display of team defending being played with multiple minus defenders.
3. Let’s get this out of the way Carmelo Anthony balled y’all. For as tough as the Denver D was last night Melo was having none of it as evidenced by the his 28 points and 10 rebounds on 50% shooting and 6 of 10 from deep. His performance confirmed what many of us have been thinking for some time now, Melo is a damned good power forward. And it was almost enough……almost.
Russell Westbrook was not good last night. There’s no way around it, bad Russy made an appearance. His 13 points on 6 of 22 shooting was bad enough now factor in that he only had three free throw attempts (the whistle was not his friend) and of those three he missed all of them and you have the very rare completely forgettable Westbrook showing. Outside of a very efficient 12 points by Ray “Fat Felt” Felton no one else really got into the groove. Paul George chipped in 13 and 8 with 4 steals and Jerian Grant was a bright spot off of the bench scoring 11 and canning a pair of triples as he continues to develop into the stretch big the Thunder brass envisioning.
But it really all boils down to this. There is still a LOT to work through for this team. The pieces are there. Hell they’re the 2nd rated defense in the league with three players scoring at least 20 points per contest so some things are working. But just not enough to have this team where they really should be. Rotation guys need to step up in their roles especially offensively and honestly there needs to be more cohesion amongst their new big 3. We haven’t began to see the best this team has to offer. Unfortunately for them being in the best conference and in arguably the most competitive division in the association will not allow them much time to find their better selves.