I gave my best friend my tickets to the big game. He graciously offered to do a guest commentary on his experience, and so without further ado here it is:
I am honored to be a guest contributor to the infamous "Alan Switzer Nuggets Fan Page". It has been a long time dream of mine and now "I'm Living the Dream Baby"!!!!!Let me preface this game observation between the Nuggets and the Cavaliers, by sharing my deepest gratitude from my wife, Alice, and myself for the vestal tickets for tonights game. Mr. and Mrs. Twizzler, for lack of a better saying.....you guys ROCK!!!!
The game....the game....the game!!! 18 in a row!!! Ouch!!! There truly aren't many things in this world that I can do 18 times in a row. January 16, 1998...mark it down Nuggets fans...the date Bobby Jackson established the confidence to realize that he can be a premier guard in the NBA. The kid is an amazing talent and I relish the opportunity to watch him grow into such a player in the next few years. The game progressed as usual. The Nuggets play good solid basketball for the first part of the game, and then Wham!!! Boom!!! Pow!!! we're down by 20 points and the opposing team is showboating for each other (Mr. Kemp do you here me loud and clear!!! It's one thing to show up a competitor in the heat of battle, but to whoop it up in front of a bench whose team is down by 27 points....that's classless pal...pure and simple!!!).
Final score: Nuggets 74 Cavaliers 99
A brief overview on what's occuring with our beloved Nuggets. I've been directly associated with a few of the all time losers in the competitive sports world, having attended Colorado State University (with Senor Twizzler I might add) and their beleaguered football team of the late 80's, having been a long time supporter of probably the losingest team of all time in organized sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and now my beloved Nuggets have joined the ranks!!! Ugghh!!! As with CSU and the Bucs, I will stand by my team, and watch as the Nuggets turn this team around. It may not be next year or the year after that, but it will happen....just like it did with CSU and the Bucs!!!
I must commend the Nuggets players and coaching staff for coming out night after night and playing with what has been made available to them. What else can you do but play for your own personal pride and hope that things will someday turn around, and that the breaks will start going your way. It's going to happen someday soon, I can feel it!!! The Nuggets WILL NOT set the record for futility in this league...please, oh please!!! But you know what, if they do, so what, I'll still love my Nuggets, no matter what happens!!! Hang in there fellas. There is a few of us left who still believe in you guys!!! (I guarantee, Alan and I will belly up to the bar in Mexico this next week and root for you guys as usual!!!!)
That's my angle,
P.S. Mr. Bickerstaff.....what comes around, goes around!!!! You will get yours my evil little friend!!!:-)
The Nuggets played a beatable team tonight, which gave me hope, going into the game. On top of that, I was sharing the experience with a longtime friend, who has been, and continues to be a longtime Nuggets supporter. His enthusiasm rubbed off and me, and I really got into the spirit of things - applauding the good plays, yelling at the refs, and yelling out an occasional "Go Nugs" when it felt needed. You see, I've had to adjust my normal role as a Nuggets fan this year, in order to survive a long and so far, frustrating season. I go into each game as mellow as possible, so I can enjoy the game for what it is - an NBA competition with amazing athletes and stars.
Anyway, enough of that, on to the Orlando game. Tony Battie started the game off at a tear, scoring most of his total game points in the first half of the first quarter. Several of his baskets were breakaways out ahead of the pack, and he finished each with authority. Several other Nuggets looked decent in this game, namely Bobby Jackson, and LaPhonso Ellis, and Dean Garret. Unfortunately, no one else on the team really joined their effort, and the bench lacked any real firepower with Johnny Newman sitting this one out due to a shoulder injury.
The Nuggets were up by a point at 66-65 with around 2 minutes left in the third quarter, when Orlando started getting and hitting open shots. On our offensive end, we never quite seemed to create the same open looks, and what we did create and shoot, wasn't going in nearly as often as Orlando's. As soon as a few Orlando shots swished through the net early in the 4th quarter, and the lead quickly went over 10 points, the Nuggets began their familiar ritual that they've shown frequently during their current 17 game losing streak. Their shoulder's began to sag, and individual players began trying to force shots on the offensive end, resulting in bad misses and easy transition baskets for Orlando on the other end.
The Nuggets need serious work on both the offensive and defensive ends. They need sustained energy level and effort. They need some confidence from a few of their players on the court. They need leadership to wheather the storms during close games. They need LaPhonso Ellis to step up.
The Nuggets lost an absolute heartbreaker of a game against the Houston Rockets in overtime. I literally came home from the game with a pounding headache (from all the yelling and screaming) and a broken heart for getting my hopes up for the third win and biggest win of the season. It would have been such a great way to start off the New Year for the team and all of the fans, so hungry for a win.
It was a great game, if I can get over the agony of yet another loss. Hanzlik made two interesting line-up changes to instill some energy into the team after a pathetic performance against Utah, the week before. Johnny Newman, the veteran started in place of Eric Washington, the rookie at guard. Harold Ellis, recently of the CBA played in place of LaPhonso Ellis at forward, who had been fighting stomach flu the entire day and didn't even show up to the bench until after the game had started. Hanzlik's changes worked, and worked well. Harold started off the game with a steal and a jam which got the crowd off to a roaring start. He played on fire the entire 1st quarter, making 4/4 shots from the field and putting in 13 points. LaPhonso entered the game and just played better and better the entire game, as the popular phrase goes - "like the Phonz of old". He drained 3-6 3-pointers, led the team in scoring with 26 points, and made some of the most crucial buckets down the stretch in the 4th quarter.
The Nuggets used a 13-0 run to close a 10 point deficit in the 4th quarter and went up by 3 points with only 8 seconds left. Hanzlik used a foul the Nuggets had to give, leaving the Rockets with just over 3 seconds to put up the final shot. Brent Price, who hadn't made a shot all game, lost himself in the corner just enough and nailed a 3 pointer at the buzzer, shocking the hopeful 9,000 Nuggets fans who had stayed back into dispair. We were much quieter in overtime, too shocked to know what to do, but the Nuggets found themselves with another chance. After being 4 points down, the Nuggets sank 3/4 free throws to tie up the game. A miss by LaPhonso was critical, as the Nuggets would have been going down the court with a must-make rather than a doesn't matter situation. The worst that could've happened was a foul, with 16 seconds left on the clock. The whistle blew on Harold Ellis with 2.7 seconds left, and Mario Ellie sank the first free throw. My heart sank. Ellie banked his second shot off the rim, preventing LaPhonso from handling the rebound easily and throwing the long outlet to 7'4 Priest Lauderdale, who Hanzlik had positioned under the other basket, for a desperation play. After all that, just another loss.
This game featured two former Nuggets - Jalen Rose and Mark Jackson, along with the only other rookie coach in the NBA this season - Larry Bird. Both ex-Nuggets shined, while the Nuggets team no longer has any of the players gained from those trades still playing for them. Larry Bird looked calm and collect as he guided his veteran team past the young Nuggets during the crucial 4th quarter stretch.
Bobby Jackson had an excellent first half, scoring 17 points, but he saw more limited action and was not nearly as effective in the second half, finishing with 22 on the night. The Nuggets could not keep up with the Pacers in the last few minutes of the game, after closing to within 4 points, they just couldn't stop Rik Smits from scoring. Jalen Rose sank a timely 3-pointer, and Mark Jackson converted on a 3-point play and sank 3 free throws in the final minutes.
Oh boy. I looked up at the scoreboard early in the 4th quarter and got excited. We were only down by 5 points at the time, and seemed to be staying with the Lakers, nibbling at their small lead. Then, in a matter of minutes - the Laker lead became 19 points. Nuggets started forcing shorts, turning over the ball, and the Lakers didn't help matters any. Nick Van Exel started raining threes from all over - boom, boom, boom!
Reality quickly sunk in. The Lakers turned it up several notches after a timeout called by Del Harris, and decided to put the Nuggets away it was that easy. Their bench players could have outplayed our 5 starters - that is how deep and talented this Lakers team is - without Shaq. Scary.
Okay, so what about the Nuggets. Well, for one thing, Tony Battie finally returned after missing 7 games with a badly sprained ankle. He didn't quite look himself, missing most of the shots he took. It was good to have his enthusiasm back on the court though. Bobby Jackson had a solid game, finishing with 15 points and 9 assists. In fact, Bobby looked better than he has in a while, after seeming to hit an early rookie wall. He had some absolutely spectacular drives and dishes in the 3rd quarter, but was missing along with the rest of the team in the 4th.
The Nuggets played a great, nearly perfect game against a good, but inconsistent team. The Nuggets finished with only 7 turnovers in this game, a season low, and they finally didn't self destruct under pressure defense late in the 4th quarter.
Johnny Newman and Dean Garrett were the heroes of the day, and also both were celebrating birthdays. Newman hit 6 consecutive free-throws down the stretch to thwart any Minnesota comeback hopes.
A couple of unusual things happened at the Nuggets game against Utah:
So, it all adds up to the fourth loss of the season, but that was the first time I've ever been to a Nuggets game where the fans continued to cheer, after the game was lost, and the Nuggets began to head towards the locker room. I hope some of the players heard it, because their efforts throughout the game, and especially in the 4th quarter, were well deserving of all the support the crowd could muster. Down the stretch, it was the young Nuggets squad that was outplaying and outhustling the experienced and recently NBA Finals participating Utah Jazz.When the Nuggets tied the score with only 2 minutes left, after being down as much as 14 points just 5 minutes prior, the crowd went nuts.
Then a very cold shooter on the Utah Jazz squad by the name of Bryan Russel decided to hit his 3rd three-pointer of the season. After exchanging possessions, Bryant Stith knocked the ball away from Utah and got it to Bobby Jackson. Bobby drove to the hoop and was hit as he went up for a lay-up but no foul was called. The Jazz went up by 5 points with only 1:00 minute left in the game. The Nuggets didn't give up, and showed composure that they just didn't have last season in close games. Tony Battie, who had an excellent game, got inside position and was fouled in the act of making his shot. He calmly sank his free-throw and the Nuggets held on defense. With only 22 seconds left on the clock the Nuggets waited until about 10 seconds were left in the game to shoot. They missed, but Battie grabbed the rebound and the called a timeout for one last play. Hanzlik drew up a pick and roll for Jackson and Battie, but when Jackson got trapped high, he had to create on his own. With a bigger man in his face, he passed off with seconds remaining to Stith, who had an open 18-footer. Battie tipped in his miss, after the buzzer sounded.
I watched Tony Battie as he went through the emotions of thinking his tip-in had counted and then realizing the Nuggets had lost after coming all the way back. He was so mad he nearly ripped his jersey off, and then he took off running for the locker rooms, well before any of the other players or catches started to head that way. It's good to see this team care about losing so much. Please don't ever get used to it - play hard every game, and good things can happen.
The first regular season game finally arrived, on Halloween night. As luck would have it, the Nuggets faced a Spurs team with a healthy David Robinson back in the line-up with a new seven-footer by his side - #1 97' draft pick, Tim Duncan.
The Nuggets came out of the gate fast, and maintained a lead into the second half. Then the young Nuggets began to falter at about the same time that Robinson woke up from a game-long funk. Before you knew it the Nuggets were out of it and fighting to keep it respectable.
Bobby Jackson had one of the biggest first nights for a Denver rookie in a long time, scoring 27 points, grabbing 6 rebounds and 2 steals.
This was my first chance to see my team for the new season. Uh, where did my team go? The first 10 minutes of warm-ups I spent trying to match names with bodys and faces. (We upgraded seats, so at least that last part was easier!)
Priest Lauderdale stood out - all 7'4, 300+ pounds of him. I'd already heard he couldn't even catch a ball though, so I quickly moved on to find other new players. Bobby Jackson is smaller than I imagined, and Tony Battie is definitely tall and lanky. Ah, there was Bryant Stith, a welcome familiar face! LaPhonso Ellis was decked out in a suit, laughing and shaking hands with anyone that passed by behind the Nuggets bench. Hopefully that was one of the last times I won't be seeing him in a regular uniform this season, as he's scheduled to being playing limited minutes during the next two preseason games. LaPhonso is absolutely amazing, rehabbing and coming back so quickly from a torn Achilles in April of this year.
Onto the game! Bobby Jackson impressed me to no end. He recovered from his "awe" of the Lakers in the first game they played a few weeks ago to lead a potent Nuggets attack. Bobby looked very comfortable running the Nuggets point for a guy that has spent very little time at that position. He definitely put Anthony Goldwire to shame, at least in this game. Bobby did a little of everything, he shot well - scoring 18 points, he rebounded extremely well for a point guard with 10 boards, and he also played some great defense. My favorite play of the game was when he picked a Laker's guard's pocket in their backcourt and laid it in for an easy lay-up even though a foul was called before the basket. New head coach, Bill Hanzlik is extremely animated and fun to watch. During Bobby's amazing effort, Bill danced along the endline pleading for the basket to count with a foul shot tacked on. He lost the argument but the ref laughed along with him, as the Nuggets were winning by 20+ points at that point in the game. Bill also has a temper, shown when he slammed his hand down near a phone beside the court when Anthony was called for one of two "over and back" calls on the night. I think it's great - showing the emotion that you care about winning, and it hopefully spills over to the players! Last year, Dick Motta would sit on the bench nearly every night with an excellent seat to view all of the losses.
Eric Williams, acquired from Boston looks to be a great pickup. He also finished with 18 points, and bailed the Nuggets out on several occasions with sweet moves to free up his consistent jumper. Tony Battie hustled and made a few exciting plays, but still looks like a rusty rookie. Danny Fortson, has a subpar night, finishing with more fouls than points, and looking very frustrated. Bobby definitely looks to be the best pickup of the 97 draft, so far! Welcome to the NBA, Denver Nuggets rookies!