Chauncey Billups may have been more valuable than Carmelo Anthony in their first game for the Knicks since the blockbuster Melo trade -- but Anthony got all the love. And the new Nuggets acquisitions, including Juggernaut-tattoo-wearing Wilson Chandler? They debuted versus the Boston Celtics last night and played a frantic brand of basketball that avoided me-first showboating -- and beat the Celtics doing it.
Granted, the Celtics were so undermanned following a day of (marginally inexplicable) trades to beat yesterday's deadline that D-league call-up Chris Johnson played significant minutes. And early on, the Nuggets' play wasn't pretty. Danilo Gallinari's first several jumpers suggested that he couldn't hit the side of an aircraft carrier, and Raymond Felton sometimes let his legs speed past his brain. No wonder the Nugs had just 37 points at halftime.
And yet, the combination of old Nuggets and new exuded an energy we haven't seen from the squad in a long, long time -- and, as a bonus, they appeared to be just as interested in playing defense as offense. Apparently, they heard coach George Karl when he said the absence of no-D Anthony opened up opportunities for improvement on both sides of the game.
Oh yeah: Wilson Chandler had one of those nights, scoring sixteen points on five of nine shooting. His production helped Denver pull away from the obviously gassed Bostonites in the second half.
Chandler can't be counted on for this level of basket-filling night in and night out. He's a lot like J.R. Smith: Some nights, he lives up to the word "Unstoppable" that's tattooed across his back. Other nights, he's an ocean-misser. But what was bracing about last night's performance was the willingness of everyone in Denver colors to share the ball and the effort, rather than sitting back and watching one person -- read, Melo -- determine the shape and pace of a possession.
Scoring could be a problem for these Nuggets, but depth won't be -- and if they play like they have something to prove for the rest of the season, this team may surprise some people. Just like it surprised the Celtics last night.
More from our Sports archive: "Chauncey Billups gets apology from Nuggets, Josh Kroenke -- but will fans accept it?"
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