HANG TIME, Texas — Just as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat are rocketing into the stratosphere with their very special winning streak, not many are noticing that fiery little jet buzzing at cloud level.
Call it Streak Jr. The Little Streak That Could. Son of Streak. Half-Streak.
While all things Miami, as usual, is sucking the oxygen out of the room and headlines with their 21 consecutive victories, the Nuggets are now up to 11 in a row after a tough, physical win over the tough, physical Grizzlies.
Nobody’s come around yet to start asking Andre Iguodala and George Karl yet about chasing the 1971-72 Lakers, but if they keep this up they’ll start having to wonder how far the Nuggets can take this all-for-one act in the playoffs.
The biggest noise of the week came for Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver for the first time since being dealt to New York in 2011 and the loud flop of his gimpy-kneed nine-point effort in a 117-94 thumping.
But the far more significant achievement was the Nuggets being able to stand their ground and go toe-to-toe with the Grizzlies, who had been doing plenty roaring of their own of late.
According to our buddy Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, that did not go entirely unnoticed:
“It’s a man’s win,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “A win that took a lot of courage and mental toughness. Maybe it took us until the fourth to find the flow of the game, but that’s the way it’s going to be against Memphis. … The mental aspect of winning this game is a big step.”
It was the kind of win that was not merely a product of the Nuggets’ up-tempo offense. It was grueling. It was physical. It was testing. It was exactly the kind of win that is often required in the playoffs.
The Nuggets are now one short of the longest win streak in franchise history, set 30 years ago under coach Doug Moe and their home record of 30-3 is now equal to that of Miami.
However in every other way, the Nuggets are the anti-Heatles, not exactly starless or devoid of talent, but far less likely to stop traffic and bring out the paparazzi than the boys from South Beach.
When LeBron makes headlines or is the lead on SportsCenter it’s usually for scoring at least 30 points. When Iguodala is delivering his night of toil, it might add up to eight points, seven assists and seven rebounds, along with his usual heavy dose of defense, as was the case against Memphis. Toss in Kosta Koufos with 18 points and 16 rebounds and the Nuggets are just workmanlike gorgeous.
Now as the Nuggets prepare for a tough back-to-back Monday and Tuesday at Chicago and Oklahoma City, they are also just a half-game in the standings behind the No. 3 seed Clippers and No. 4 seed Grizzlies in the West and looking like a bunch that could be tough to handle in another month when the playoffs start.
The skeptics keep saying the Nuggets are playing right at the edge of their limit, that there’s a ceiling on their potential.
Let the sizzling Heat get the noise and attention as they chase history and the 1971-72 Lakers.
Streak Jr. will happily lurk in their shadow.