March 10, 2013
When you think of the best teams in the league who have consistently dominated opponents on their home floor all season long, the Denver Nuggets probably aren't at the top of your list.
But they should be.
After thrashing the Clippers on Thursday by a final of 107-92, the Nuggets are now 27-3 at home, tied with the Miami Heat for the best home record in the league, and with two more wins and the same number of losses at home as the one-seed in the West, the San Antonio Spurs.
For years, more than one head coach has lamented the difficulty of playing the second night of a back-to-back in Denver, for a handful of reasons — the odd time zone, the unusually long distance from the airport to the downtown area, and playing at mile-high altitude are all among them.
Coaches should start including this Nuggets squad in those predetermined reasons for failure, and maybe move it to the top of the list.
Denver isn't playing near the top of the Western Conference as some had somewhat foolishly predicted to start the season, but the team is formidable nonetheless, due in part to the fact that you never know who is going to step up and beat you on a nightly basis. The Nuggets have talent sprinkled throughout their roster, but no "superstar" that you can point to as someone to slow in order to guarantee victory.
That's just fine with them.
On this night against the Clippers, George Karl went nine deep into his rotation, and seven of his players finished in double figures scoring. Ty Lawson was the elite performer late, finishing with 21 points, six rebounds, and 11 assists — four more rebounds than Blake Griffin grabbed in 31 minutes of action.
The Nuggets have crushed teams on the second night of back-to-backs all season long, and often times, it takes just a single run to gain that separation in order for them to keep their opponent at bay for the rest of the night. That came in the third quarter of this one, when Denver put together a 10-0 run in just 1:30 of game time to put things out of reach.
With the Nuggets leading 67-64 and about five and a half minutes remaining in the third, they simply kicked it into a gear the Clippers could not match. Consecutive three-pointers from Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari pushed the lead to nine, and Lawson got to the rim for a bucket that put Denver up double digits. The run was capped off by an alley-oop from Lawson to Gallinari that sent the lead to 13, and the Clippers never got closer than eight the rest of the way, while the Nuggets' lead reached as high as 18 points in the game's final few minutes.
The Clippers may very well chalk this one up to a schedule-maker's loss, having played the previous night and being tied at halftime in Denver before fading over the game's final 24 minutes. But the Nuggets are for real, especially at home, and after winning their seventh straight overall and running their home record to a mark that has them tied with the defending champs for the league's best, it's hard to argue with that assessment.