The Denver Nuggets victory over the San Antonio Spurs was so fucking awesome on Sunday night!
Okay, before I get ahead of myself here, it was only Game 1. In 2005 the Nuggets took Game 1 in San Antonio, only to get absolutely manhandled the rest of the way down the stretch. May I provide one reason why that will not be the case this time round?
The Nuggets have finally learned how to play together. Right after the Iverson trade went down in December, Carmelo was one game into a 15-game suspension and Denver's playoff chances - even at that early date - looked bad. But AI came in, stepped up and just played with a bunch of guys he didn't know. The Nuggets went 8-7 during Melo's suspension, even while getting rid of leading bench player Mighty Mite Earl Boykins and adding point guard Steve Blake, further disrupting any semblance of chemistry the Nuggets were having.
Then Carmelo and AI needed to figure out how to click on the floor at the same time. For the first 30 games the played .500 ball. With that much in-season change, it is nothing short of a miracle that they got their act together at all.
Iverson has provided it all, scoring lifts in times of drought, foul calls when we need them. Granted, he turns the ball over, but he is a very streaky player and can light up at any time, can take over games at any time. His leadership and poise has rubbed off on the rest of the team. In the month of April, the Nuggest have lost one game. Iverson's attitude is driving them through these playoffs.
Carmelo is listening and learning. They have come close to 60 points combined in games down the stretch. Watching Game 1, the Spurs just look a tad old and slow. The Nuggets are much faster. AI and Melo can slay the Spurs.
Marcus Camby played some unbelievable basketball down the stretch and SHOULD win the Defensive Player of the Year, but we'll see. His defense changes the game for the opposing offenses, and his rebounding is crucial.
And then there is the X-factor, the man whose performance the entire series may hinge on, Nuggets power forward Nene.
Nene is crucial because he provides the post defense on Tim Duncan, a Hall-of-Famer in waiting. In Game 1 he was just short of spectacular. If we can get that effort from him every game, again, we will slay the Spurs. Nene provides rebounding, especially offensive, and interior scoring, which helps get Duncan in foul trouble.
Ginobli just looks older and slower and Bruce Bowen cannot cover Carmelo any longer one-on-one. He has given him problems in the past, but Melo is too quick and too strong a finisher to the basket.
Prediction: Nuggets in 5.