Just days after firing head coach Brian Shaw, the Denver Nuggets have completely flipped the switch. Ever since Melvin Hunt was named interim head coach, the Nuggets have gone a perfect 2-0. Yes, it’s just a little sample size, but the effort and energy they have shown is incredible compared to when Shaw was at the helm. Denver clearly quit on the second-year head coach, which ticked off Indiana Pacers power forward David West and now Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Garnett.
Garnett took the press after Minnesota fell to the Nuggets at the Target Center Wednesday night, 100-85. (CBS Sports)
"“To be honest, they quit on Brian Shaw and I thought they’ll quit again,” Garnett said. “A quitter is a quitter. That was my take on that.”"
In all fairness, I totally agree with what Garnett had to say. Denver flat-out hung their coach out to dry – not acceptable. However, the team is rallying behind assistant, now interim head coach, Melvin Hunt. Hunt is essentially a players coach, one who will let the offense do what they want, as long as they get the job done on the defensive end. It’s paying off.
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Denver is playing with a lot of energy and togetherness, which is showing up in the defensive column. During Hunt’s first two games as Denver’s head coach, the Nuggets have held the opposition (Bucks, Wolves) to just 90 points per contest. Yes, small sample size yet again, but the team is ranked 26th in the league in points allowed, giving up nearly 104.1 points per game.
Not to mention, the reemergence of Danilo Gallinari also helps. Gallinari was incognito for most of the season, averaging just 9.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.0 assists, but has picked it up of late. The 6-foot-10 forward has been efficient of late, regaining form if you will. Gallo is averaging 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.0 steals over Denver’s last five games. That’s the Danilo Gallinari we have been waiting to see. Gallo scored a season-high 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
How about the addition of Will Barton as well? Most fans thought the second-year pro out of Memphis was just a throw in regarding the Arron Afflalo deal to Portland, but he has played with energy both offensively and defensively (that stuff is contagious folks). Over Barton’s last five games, the shooting guard has averaged 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per contest. Barton recorded a double-double Sunday afternoon in Denver’s 99-92 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, adding 16 points and 10 rebounds.
It’s a little too late for the Nuggets to be playing with the urge to win, but it’s nice to see and hopefully they can carry it over into the following season. Melvin Hunt has done a great job with the group over two games as they seem more focused and into the game. Most of us, including myself, want to see Denver lose out, but let’s see where Denver goes from here. The guys are having fun now, that’s all that matters.