After months of asking this season, and years of wondering when the Denver Nuggets would at last receive attention from the national media, my questions were answered.
The Nuggets smashed the Hornets in their hive with all the excitement of young children busting open a pinata at a birthday, for it was Denver who swarmed all over the Hornets Monday night.
Against a down but not out New Orleans Hornets team, Denver went for the queen Hornet, found her, and squished her emphatically. Chris Paul, New Orleans' best all-around player, thought of by many as the preeminent point guard in the NBA, has been all but completely shut down by Denver's awesome defensive efforts.
Couple that with the Nuggets' overwhelmingly explosive offensive play, and Denver now looks like a power in the West.
Jay Mariotti, Chicago-based writer and known hater of the Nuggets, seems to have jumped on Denver's bandwagon, arguing on Tuesday's Around the Horn on ESPN, "The gap has closed significantly between Denver and the Lakers."
Woody Paige, Denver Post great and self-proclaimed homer agreed, "I guarantee the Lakers are thinking about the Nuggets."
It seems this dominant win not only made an impact with the Nuggets, going up 3-1 and getting close to finishing off the series, it has woken up the analysts as well. Some from the national media believe this win signifies that Denver is now a true competitive team in the west.
Tim Legler, an ESPN NBA analyst argues Chauncey Billups has made a huge impact and has turned Denver into a contender.
"Billups goes in there and overnight have turned them into a team that you have to take seriously, even the Lakers, as a legitimate threat in the west, possibly to get all the way to the finals," said Legler.
Mariotti echoed that feeling on Around the Horn, saying, "It's gonna be a good western conference finals," alluding to Denver making the West's championship series.
Denver has gone from a consistent playoff disappointment to a team that seemingly everyone thinks can cause damage in the West right now. And why not?
The 2008-09 Nuggets have tied their franchise NBA best season at 54-28 wins, doing so with great team play, strong leadership from Billups, and a commitment to defense that has reduced the points allowed per game by seven from last year.
Now in the playoffs, Denver has taken an even newer, more fierce and aggressive transformation. The Nuggets are playing more physical than they had all year, getting into a superstar's head (CP3) and frustrating the Hornets all series.
As long as the Nuggets continue this highly aggressive play, there is no reason they should not make the Western Conference Finals, or even the NBA Finals.
While the Lakers present a very tough matchup for Denver, no one wants to play the Nuggets right now. No one can count them out.