It was looking a bit dicey at the end of the third quarter in Boston, playing the Celtics, but a quick 5-0 run all by Torrey Craig in 1.1 seconds was precisely the spurt of energy that propelled the Denver Nuggets the rest of the way to clinching a nine-point win, a sweep of the season series, and most importantly: a playoff berth. The first one in six years.
Michael Malone, during his post-game press conference after Tuesday night’s win against Minnesota, came right out and said, “I made the decision to shorten the rotation, only play 8 guys in the first quarter, and I’m going to continue to do that for the time being.” That rotation included the regular starters in Murray, Harris, Barton, Millsap, Jokic, and the 3 most crucial bench pieces with Morris, Beasley, and Plumlee.
It’s only been 7 games since Isaiah Thomas’ return and the honeymoon phase with fans and local media is already wearing off. I get it, he hasn’t played in 11 months and he’s going to have to find that groove again and work his way back and that’s all well and good, but not here and certainly not at this point in the season.
It all began when Will Barton landed awkwardly on a fastbreak layup and hurt his hip and core against the Phoenix Suns on October 20. Since then, a lingering hamstring injury to Gary Harris. A broken toe as well as ankle soreness for Paul Millsap. An ankle sprain for Jamal Murray and a controversial suspension of Nikola Jokic. Every starter has missed at least one game this season. Somehow, the incredible amount of depth the Denver Nuggets have has kept them in the top of the daunting Western Conference, but as the team begins the final stretch of the regular season, it’s time to get the opening night Starting Five back on the floor.
The year is 2011. The NBA world is still shaking after LeBron James decided to “Take his talents to South Beach” and team up with Dwyane Wade and eventually Chris Bosh to form a big 3 that would ultimately go on to win 2 NBA Finals in 4 years. It was also yet another year of Carmelo Anthony making it to the All-Star Game. He was a starter for the Western Conference as a representative of the Denver Nuggets. Little did Nuggets fans know that he would be traded to the New York Knicks just 3 days later. And little did Nuggets fans know that he would be the last player to represent the team in an All-Star Game for 8 years.
As a basketball fan, I’ve always found the NBA All-Star Weekend to be one of the more interesting times of the year. It allows me to watch the top talents of the league play without putting me in a position to seriously root for or against either team. It puts all of the league’s best players in a one-game situation where it’s the best of the best against the best of the best. It immortalizes otherwise-forgotten players such as Jason Kapono and Jeremy Evans through the Three-Point Contest and the Slam Dunk Contest. But perhaps the most important thing it does is recognize, in a semi-official capacity, who the best standout performers in the NBA are in any given season.
In my three-part series on Basketball throughout the world, I will take a look at all FIBA-recognized countries and the best players from those countries. In part one we looked at 101-213. In part two we looked at numbers 51-100 as we continued our countdown. Most of these players you will know from countries you’ve actually heard of. Hope you enjoyed reading this series as much as I enjoyed writing it.