After one of the biggest wins of the season two nights ago against the San Antonio Spurs, the Denver Nuggets knew that a loss against the lowly Washington Wizards would take away all the good that came from that victory.
The Wizards have proven to be inept on the road this season, with only one win away from home so far. And the Nuggets got on them early and take away any hope from the young visitors.
Down one partway through the first quarter, the Nuggets, led by Chris “Birdman” Anderson, went on a run with the signature play coming on a huge put-back dunk by Anderson off of a missed three point attempt.
Add in two blocks in two Washington possessions for Anderson, and Denver (44-29) took all momentum as they finished the quarter on a 15-0 run.
By halftime the Nuggets lead had grown to 19. A sloppy third quarter let the Wizards (17-54) close the gap to 15, but Denver restored order in the fourth and finished off yet another dominating home win by the score of 114-94.
“It wasn’t our best effort, but the big thing going into the game was not to take a step backwards and I don’t think we did that,” coach George Karl said. “I thought we at least sustained some of the positive stuff we’ve been doing.”
One positive thing is the outstanding depth of the new look Nuggets.
Two usual starters – Wilson Chandler and Aaron Afflalo – were out, but Denver didn’t miss a beat. There may not be a dominant single-scorer without Carmelo Anthony, but the group effort is outstanding.
The Nuggets had six scorers in double figures, and were led in scoring by four players. Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Al Harrington and Anderson all finished with 17 points. All 11 players that saw time, scored.
“(Our depth) makes it a lot tougher for defenses because they don’t know who to guard and they don’t know what to do on defense because we have so many weapons,” said Gallinari.
The most vital player was Anderson. After not playing in the second half against the Spurs on Wednesday, he was flying around the court making the type of plays that make him a fan-favorite.
The Birdman, as he’s affectionately known as by the Denver faithful, added 11 rebounds and five blocks to his 17 points.
The win was the ninth straight home victory for the Nuggets, who are now an impressive 12-4 since the Carmelo trade.
It used to be that Denver played down to the level of its opponents, and games such as this one would be maddening affairs.
“In the past we would drop a game like this or make it a tougher game than it should be,” Lawson said. “So we wanted to come out strong and take it to them first. And that’s what we did.”
The transformation taking place has made this team masters at the art of the blowout. In the 12 wins that have come after the trade, the Nuggets average margin of victory is just under 17.
And the porous Washington defense was more than helpful in the blowout. The Nuggets shot just under 50 percent on the night and recorded 29 assists on 37 made baskets.
The Wizards had the look of a young team that is a ways away from learning how to win on the road. John Wall showed flashes, but proved that his midrange game still needs plenty of work. And JaVale McGee and Nick Young put up plenty of wild shots. The two combined take 28 shots, making only nine of them.
But this game was all about the Nuggets doing what they needed to do to beat a weak opponent and hold serve in the playoff race.
Denver stays in fourth-place with the win, four games behind Oklahoma City and a-game-and-a-half ahead of Portland after all three teams won on Friday.