Nuggets continue to share the wealth in latest victory
This democracy thing might just catch on.
Without a textbook superstar, the Nuggets have embraced the concept of sharing to the point that it should be used as a how-to guide for kindergarten curriculums nationwide.
Playing in front of a sellout crowd at the Pepsi Center for the first time since their blockbuster trade, the Nuggets had eight players score in double-figures Saturday night and they finished with 33 assists in a 131-101 rout of the Detroit Pistons.
Nene scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in just 26 minutes, while Ty Lawson added 15 points and 11 assists as Denver (39-27) improved to 7-2 since the Feb. 22 trade that sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to New York.
“Everybody feels good,” Lawson said. “Everybody’s swag is high when you touch the ball and score. You see our locker room – everybody’s happy. Everybody’s feeling good right now, so just keep it going and keep getting wins like this.”
With Lawson and fellow point guard Raymond Felton leading the way, the Nuggets are averaging 25.4 assists in their past nine games, compared to 21.2 before the trade. Even power forward Kenyon Martin is flashing his playmaking skills; he had six assists against Detroit, giving him at least five assists in five of his past nine games.
“Everyone is passing the rock, including K-Mart,” forward Chris Andersen said. “It makes it fun, and we are unstoppable when we pass like that.”
While the NBA’s top-scoring offense was rolling again Saturday night, the defense was uncharacteristically soft in the first half.
The Pistons, near the bottom of the league in scoring, shot .556 from the field in the first half and trailed 66-60 at the break.
Needless to say, team captain Martin and Nuggets coach George Karl had a few choice words in the Denver locker room at halftime.
“I told the guys at halftime, 60 points is too much,” Martin said. “Entirely too much.”
The message found its mark. Playing more aggressive on the perimeter in the third quarter, Denver forced Detroit’s shooters to put the ball on the floor, and the Pistons scored only 14 points on 7-for-22 shooting.
“We knew they played last night. We just tried to keep pressuring them,” Nuggets forward Al Harrington said. “We knew that if our defense was up to par, in the second half it would start to wear on them.”
After Detroit pulled even with 6:46 left in the third quarter, Denver went on a 21-2 scoring run that set the stage for the J.R. Smith show in the fourth.
Smith is the only player in NBA history to make at least 10 three-pointers in a single game twice, and he nearly did it again against the Pistons. He tied the franchise record he shares with John Roche by hitting seven threes in the fourth quarter and finished 9-for-16 from beyond the arc.
“Everything was falling,” said Smith, who scored 21 of his 31 points in the game’s final eight minutes. “The guys are doing a great job of finding me on the court. Catching and shooting was my main focus, and I accomplished it.”
Smith and the Nuggets now turn their attention to an important road trip that starts Monday in New Orleans and includes stops in Atlanta, Orlando and Miami. All four teams are at least 10 games over .500.
“This is going to be a test,” Lawson said. “This is where we see how good we really are. I think we’re up for the challenge. We’re ready.”
The Nuggets have shown signs of improvement on the road. One week after winning at Utah, they snapped a 12-game losing streak in Phoenix, matching their win total from their previous eight road games combined.
“We have some good, tough games ahead of us,” Andersen said. “The way we are playing and the style we are playing and the pace we are going with, it’s going to make it hard for us to be beat.”
ETC: The Nuggets finished with a franchise-record 18 three-pointers on a franchise-record 37 attempts. They went 8-for-18 in the fourth quarter alone … Andersen (14 points) scored in double figures for the seventh time this season and the fourth time in the past fives games … Shooting guard Arron Affalo (strained left hamstring) missed his second straight game, while forward Danilo Gallinari (broken toe) sat out for the sixth game in a row. Karl hopes to have both players back sometime during the road trip.