Now we have a third NBA team that sets a new franchise record for consecutive wins, as the Denver Nuggets make it 13 in a row, with their point guard combination of Ty Lawson and Andre Miller being on their best behavior and form, a little bit too much to handle for the supposed favorites every time they’re on the floor, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He’s a coach and a teacher and a veteran, and he does it every day in a very classy way, a very quiet way. And then he can do what he did tonight, where he can take the most talented team maybe in the NBA and be the best player on the court for the last 6 minutes of the game.
Andre Miller is down to 25.5 minutes a night this season, the lowest of his NBA career since his rookie season, which is quite reasonable considering he’s into his 14th year in the league. Still, there are quite a few teams that would love to have him as their starting point guard, with Miller making the most of his 23 minutes on the floor, scoring 20 points, adding 7 rebounds and 9 assists, 13 of those points coming in the fourth quarter. Ty Lawson led the team with 25 points, as their high-octane approach to basketball gave them another impressive performance in the paint.
Remember that we talked about no team in the NBA being better than the Nuggets in the paint? Well, they outscored their average by 15 points, scoring 72 points in the paint against the Thunder, who couldn’t really keep up with the hottest team in the NBA next to the Heat, winning in one of the toughest arenas in the league with their brand of exhausting basketball despite being on a back-to-back game sequence, also being fantastic on the glass with 52 rebounds (compared to the Thunder’s 45), grabbing 17 on offense.
They’ve now outscored their opponents 50 consecutive games in the paint, the next longest streak of outscoring opponents in the paint is 21 games, done by the San Antonio Spurs in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. They’ve been outscored in inside scoring only twice this season. Talk about streaks, this the 1st time in NBA history two different teams have active 13+ game winning streaks, with the Nuggets now owning the third longest winning streak of the season, following the Clippers’ 17 and the Heat’s talked about 23.
And the Thunder? When they struggle, they simply try to shoot their way out of trouble. The Nuggets do present a blueprint in stopping OKC, but they have a kind of basketball and personnel not a lot of teams can copy and paste; Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 59 points while shooting 20-44 from the field, but without a team effort it wasn’t enough. Only three players had points for them off the bench, and while they outscored the Nuggets’ bench, they simply had too many players on the floor during the night without any kind of offensive affiliation to them, as Ronnie Brewer and Derek Fisher both finished with 0 points, while Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka struggled fitting in to the fast paced game.
The Nuggets can outrun anyone with their brand of small ball, aided by the inside presence of Koufos and McGee. It’s hard to give them the belief we have in others to somehow win the West, but if they manage to dictate this kind of pace in the playoffs, not to mention get home court advantage for at least one round (tied for best home-record in the league), maybe the dark horse label will eventually fulfill itself.