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Rocky Mountain High

 

For my inaugural article, I want to speak about a team that seems to be largely overlooked by NBA fans when mentioned in championship conversation. The Lakers, Mavericks, and Spurs were the Western Conference staples of the last decade, but now that new decade has begun, a new elite has emerged to join this trio, the Denver Nuggets. I am the first to admit that I have overlooked this team as well. Last year, nobody expected them to reach the Western Conference Finals, and the conference is even deeper this year. Despite their consistent playoff exits, the Utah Jazz look more focused than ever this year, while the Portland Trailblazers are perhaps the most resilient team in the league, and the Phoenix Suns have been the most surprising team of the season. Meanwhile, teams like the Hornets, Thunder, Rockets, and Grizzlies are all in the playoff hunt. However, while all of these Western Conference teams are playing great basketball, the lights have shined brightest, as of late, on the Denver Nuggets.

 

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Just to summarize what this team has done in the last month, the Nuggets have won 14 of their last 18 games, including a stretch of nine straight wins in January. With the injury to Chris Paul of the Hornets, the Nuggets now have two all-stars in Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. In January, they defeated the Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena in Utah, a very tough place to win games. They defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers when the Cavs were healthy and another Eastern Conference elite, the Orlando Magic. They defeated the Jazz a second time, while also defeating quality teams like the Hornets, Bobcats, and Rockets (in Houston). Then, last Sunday on ABC, without their best player, Anthony, they obtained yet another road victory against the San Antonio Spurs. Kenyon Martin led the Nuggets with 27 points in this win, with Billups backing him up with 25 points and 11 assists. So far in February, the Nuggets are 2-1, with their most recent win being another one on the road in Los Angeles against a fully healthy Lakers squad. Yes, I know Kobe Bryant is battling various ailments, but the fact that he still played means that the Lakers had all their best players on the floor, and the Nuggets went in without Carmelo and scored a 13-point victory.

The following week will really be a test of the power of the Denver Nuggets. They have already proven themselves as a very deep and capable team with their road wins over the Jazz, Spurs, and Lakers, but they have three tough games coming up before the all-star break. Tonight, they are in Utah once again to try and do the near impossible and defeat the Jazz twice on their stomping grounds. Then, they will host the Mavericks and Spurs to finish out the first half of the season. However, their first game back from the break will be a road game against the Cavaliers, and then they will host the Celtics and visit the Lakers back-to-back weeks on ABC on February 21 and February 28.



 

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So what exactly does all of this mean? Plain and simply, it means that Denver fans have a lot to be excited about with this Nuggets team. They are currently second in the Western Conference, just like they finished last year, but they are even better and deeper this season. They are playing great basketball without their top scorer, and every one of their players is stepping up and proving the team's depth. They have two all-stars leading the way with an outstanding supporting cast of Martin, Nene, J.R. Smith, Aaron Afflalo, Chris Andersen, Ty Lawson, and others. This team can simply compete with any other team in the league, and they do it on a nightly basis. They are on a mission to win it all, and that is something a lot of people doubt, but the Nuggets are answering the doubters powerfully so far this season. Come playoff time, Denver will be a very scary team for their opponents, even the Lakers. They are looking to avenge a tough Western Conference Finals exit from 2009, and this season they are a year more experienced and a year stronger. If they can post wins up on the schedule without Carmelo Anthony in the following week, take serious notice. Seriously.

 

By: Steven Barile
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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