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News » Swaggerific


Swaggerific wagger can't be forced. It's a natural feeling of unnatural confidence.

Swagger is John Travolta strutting in "Saturday Night Fever" or Kanye West rapping "My swagger is Mick Jagger."

Swagger is also Chauncey Billups, 5:15 p.m., game night, the Pepsi Center.

"There's definitely a certain swagger and certain pride I feel when I pull up in my car and am walking into the arena, thinking, 'This place is absolutely going to be rocking,"' the point guard said.

Swagger, it seems, is contagious.

All the Nuggets have it at the Pepsi Center, where the team has won 18 of its past 19 regular-

season games, scoring 110 or more points in 16 of those victories. With an 8-1 home record this season, on the heels of a 33-8 mark last season, the "swaggerific" Nuggets - that's Carmelo Anthony's word - have made the Pepsi Center one of the toughest home draws in sports.

"Our focus is much different than previous years, in taking care of our home court," Anthony said. "This is a place that can be real good to us."

OK, but there are many loud crowds across the NBA. Why has the Pepsi Center, of all the Centers (and Centres), become a court where winning streaks go to die?

The answer is attitude and altitude.

"It's tough in the respect that you're playing at altitude and it seems like you always show up in Denver late at night and it's a long drive from the airport," said Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis, a former Lakers assistant and player. "There's usually a lot of fatigue, and you're dealing with the altitude as well, so it's a huge advantage to the style of play they play."

The Nuggets have cooked up a perfect recipe in their Pepsi Center kitchen - 5,280 feet of altitude mixed with a fast-paced 110.6 point-per-game offense (in all games) and a pinch of defense.

"Playing fast in altitude, I think other teams feel that," said Denver coach George Karl, whose Nuggets (13-5) host Miami (10-7) tonight. "We always seem to find a place in the second half where the energy falls in our lap.

"And I think sometimes coaches coach differently (in Denver). Sometimes they're coaching to get more energy, and sometimes they give you a window to bust the game open because they're playing their bench a little longer than normal. I think there's subtle things that, because of the altitude, fall in our direction."

Karl remembers playing in Denver during the 1970s, and felt "a different burn in your fatigue." Billups played against the Nuggets for nearly a decade before coming home last season, and the all-star guard remembered "just trying to keep it close, don't let it get it out of hand in the first half."

Former NBAer Keith Smart, now a Golden State assistant, said before his squad was shellacked in Denver on Tuesday, "I always knew that in your pregame workout, you have to run for about two minutes extremely hard to burst a little seal on your lungs, and then you probably catch up with yourself about midway in the first half."

Fact is, though, altitude is only part of the equation. After all, it was still 5,280 feet at the Pepsi Center when the Nuggets stunk for many years. The fact that the Nuggets are much more talented allows them to make altitude work to their advantage.

Consider that Minnesota's inexplicable victory Sunday marked the first time a sub-.500 team won at the Pepsi Center in 50 games. And this season, Denver averages 117.5 points per game at home. Counting last season, the Nuggets are 37-2 in home games when they score 100 or more points, and 125-22 since Karl became coach in January 2005.

And then there's the crowd effect, as incalculable as it may be. Yes, most good teams have boisterous fans. But last season, when Denver won 54 games, Karl said the Pepsi Center was becoming a "top-five building" in the league.

This week, Karl said: "I think it's one of the (better) energy buildings. We're in a positive place, and the fans are coming out and staying with us. Some of the places around the league, they're losing a little bit of their attendance and fan base. I'm seeing a lot more empty seats."

There probably won't be many empty seats at the Pepsi Center tonight, when last season's scoring champion, Dwyane Wade, goes against the NBA's current scoring leader, Anthony (30.7). There should be some swagger.

"We're taking advantage of the home court; we don't want to let any more to slip away from us," Anthony said. "We'll try to keep up what we're doing on this home court. And it will be loud. I'm pretty sure the fans are looking forward to a game like this, just as we are."

Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or ------------ Home, sweet home

A look at the Nuggets' dominance, by numbers:

0 - Back-to-back regular-season home losses by Nuggets since February 2007.

1 - Home loss by the Nuggets this season (in nine games).

17 - Consecutive regular-season home victories by the Nuggets until Sunday's loss, a streak that was Denver's third best in its NBA history.

32.6 - Carmelo Anthony's scoring average at the Pepsi Center this season.

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post

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Added: December 4, 2009


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