Daily Nugget: Remembering Nick Van Exel’s heroics vs. Charlotte Hornets
Believe it or not, the Nuggets and Hornets are tied for their all-time season series with 29 wins apiece. Although there isn’t any regional or conference rivalry between the two teams, it is a matchup that has been competitive since the two teams played their first game on March 8, 1989.
One of the best games between the two teams came at the turn of the century at Pepsi Center during the arena’s inaugural season. Back then, Charlotte hadn't lost to Denver for six years, beating the team eight-straight times. That all changed thanks to Nick Van Exel on Jan. 8, 2000.
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On Dec. 10, 1999, the Nuggets lost a tightly-contested game against the Hornets in Charlotte. Nick the Quick, as Nuggets fans would call him, wouldn’t let a repeat happen in the Mile High City. The then-28-year-old went off for 32 points, eight assists and two steals to spark a 97-92 win over Charlotte. The Hornets led for most of the game, but a 26-16 fourth quarter was the difference. Van Exel’s three over Baron Davis iced the game with 9.2 seconds left.
"I knew what I was going to do from the get-go. I knew I was going to set them up with the step-back,” Van Exel told the Denver Post’s Marc Spears.
Van Exel proceeded to celebrate by throwing punches at an invisible sparring partner, suggesting he got a knockout decision against Denver’s opponent.
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Paul Silas, the Hornets coach at the time, said, "When Nick is on fire like he was tonight, they can beat anybody."
The Nuggets would go two games over .500 for the only second time that season. Although the team would finish the 1999-2000 campaign at 35-47, there were some memorable performances from Van Exel, Antonio McDyess, and Raef LaFrentz throughout the year. Their win against Charlotte stands out as one of them.