Of late, Carmelo Anthony has been bitching about being booed in Sports Illustrated and on Twitter -- so when I scored tickets to Sunday's game versus Indiana, I was curious to check out the situation firsthand. And last night, at least, there were far more cheers than jeers.
Although it didn't start out that way.
The player introductions offered the first opportunity for the crowd at the two-thirds-full Pepsi Center to voice their displeasure with the season-long contract headache from which the Nuggets have suffered. But the Nugs' great public-address announcer, Kyle Speller (love his kiss-cam commentary), came up with a clever way to disguise any potential booing, by elongating Anthony's first name -- "Car-mel-OOOOOOOO" -- to match the vowel sound likely to be chosen by disappointed attendees. As a result, I didn't hear any boos, and the people around me clapped and cheered, albeit with maybe a little less enthusiasm than they might have under less stressful circumstances.
Then came the game itself, and at the outset, the Nuggets seemed totally unfocused, as they sometimes do when matched against a clearly inferior squad like the Pacers, whose young talent -- including Darren Collison, Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert -- has yet to truly blossom. Nenê was initially the worst offender, clanking several shots that could be measured in inches, not feet. (He wound up having a pretty strong game, even though he fouled out with six minutes to go.) But Melo couldn't find his range, either, and when he went to the line and missed his first free throw attempt, a small but noteworthy flock of boo birds opened up their throats.
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Within moments, the shooting improved, but the defense didn't: The Pacers scored thirty points in the first quarter due largely to lazy D. But as the game wore on, the Nuggets superior talent took its toll on the Indianans, and that was especially true of Melo. He drained one three-pointer after another -- so many, in fact, that by game's end, Nuggets dancers ran out of giveaways when Speller chanted, "Tees for threes!" But no one complained. Indeed, the whoops for Anthony got louder and louder with each long-distance bomb that hit its target. But no reaction was louder than when Melo chased a ball into his own bench -- an example of hustle that instantly endeared him to the faithful.
Anthony wound up with 36 points, and his total would have been much higher had he not sat most of the fourth quarter out of mercy. His performance was another reminder of what a prolific talent he is and how much fans will miss him when (not if) he leaves. But on Sunday, the vast majority of those present weren't fixated on blaming him for his upcoming departure. Instead, they celebrated his skills -- as well they should have.
More from our Sports archive: "Carmelo Anthony trade: Chauncey Billups likely to stay, Nugs will probably get squat for Melo."