Even the most optimistic among us probably didn't think the Nuggets would win four of five following the Carmelo Anthony trade, let alone that the latest margin of victory (versus the Bobcats) would be forty points.
But that's reality: Denver is playing its best basketball of the season with Melo half a continent away. Had he been dragging them down this season?
Clearly, Anthony is an elite player, as he showed again in the New York Knicks' latest victory, over New Orleans. But even his boosters concede that his offensive instincts often lean toward one-on-one (or one-on-five) play as opposed to sharing the basketball with the other guys in uniforms like his. Moreover, the season-long uncertainty about when he would finally be dealt naturally produced inconsistent performances. Great one night, dismal the next.
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With the deed done, however, the Nuggets have evolved into an egalitarian enterprise in which no star shines brighter than the rest and success is only possible if everyone works together. For proof, look no further than last night's box score. The Nugs managed to chalk up 120 points without anyone registering twenty points. Leading the way was Wilson Chandler with sixteen, followed by a quartet contributing fourteen: Nenê, J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen (really) and Ty Lawson, who shook off the flu bug to dish out ten assists, too -- his first NBA double double, as the Denver Post points out.
Of course, the real test begins with tonight's game in Utah, beginning a stretch in which seven of eight games through March 19 are on the road. If the Nuggets manage to win half of these matchups -- and that'll be tough, since opponents include Orlando, Phoenix and Miami -- we can start talking about the playoffs with the sort of confidence plenty of fans couldn't imagine just a week ago.
More from our Sports archive: "Raymond Felton gives Ty Lawson run for his money in Nuggets win over Atlanta Hawks."