The Nuggets were so badly outmatched by the Orlando Magic’s bench that it was embarrassing. The four Nuggets reserves, and I am leaving the Yak out of this because he only played 58 seconds, could only muster 18 points. Only Earl Boykins and Reggie Evans were capable of scoring, and it was the bench players that lost this one for the Nuggets. Please, if you will, allow me to demonstrate my point. In the second quarter, Carmelo Anthony and Andre Miller took a breather with the Nuggets up 33-26 with 9:20 remaining. After sitting ‘Melo and Miller for a mere four minutes and five seconds, the seven point lead had evaporated and the Nuggets were clinging to a one point lead like a bawling infant to a parent leaving for work. At this point the critical nature of the problem was not as serious as it would become and the Nuggets finished the half with a one point lead. My point is that this type of breakdown happens all the time. Whether it is a lack of confidence by the Nuggets reserves, or a lack of leadership, it just needs to stop.
After the break the Nuggets seemingly put things back together, launched out of the gate, and extended the lead to 60-50 with a quick nine points to start the half. From there it all went to pieces. The Magic went on an 18-4 run and never really looked back. Keyon Dooling scored 15 points in the quarter and made the Nuggets look dumbfounded as he kept drilling treys in defender’s faces. The rest of the third quarter, and fourth for that matter, was simpatico and the Nuggets allowed 29 points in both quarters of the second half.
I’m perplexed as to why this team is so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but they just seem to implode sometimes without warning. It is as if they completely lose focus and then have to find a way to claw back into things when they should be composed enough to play solid basketball. This “composure” that I’m referring to was lost not only in the third quarter, but once again when the Nuggets found themselves in a position to potentially win down the stretch.
With the score 101-97, the Nuggets gained possession and began to fast break. J.R. Smith went for the bucket, didn’t receive the pass clean, and found himself in a scrum underneath the Magic goal. He and Trevor Ariza deadlocked around the rock and J.R. Smith, with the jump ball forthcoming, decides that he is going to throw a fit and get T’ed up. Grant Hill drained the freebie, and the jump ball ensued. To the Nuggets Nation’s disbelief, J.R. just stood there! I don’t know if he wasn’t ready for the tip, which would be a ridiculous error, or if he consciously decided to not jump at all for some reason. Needless to say, Coach Karl gave him a big slice of pine and had a look of disgust on his face to finish the game.
The brightest Nugget continues to be Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets captain didn’t have the most fluid game, but still managed to be the game’s high scorer with 34 points. He also added four rebounds, two assists, and two steals to the final box score. Marcus Camby also played well and recorded another double-double with 13 points, twelve rebounds, two assists, four steals, and two blocks.
The Magic reserves outscored the Nuggets reserves 57-18 and were the difference, along with the disintegration of composure, in this game. Tonight I will try to avoid the nightmares that are inherently going to follow this loss. The Nuggets are their own worst enemy right now and the sooner they eliminate the potential for Mr. Hyde to resurface the better. As I quiver in my slumber tonight, hopefully the Nuggets are interviewing priests to exorcise their demons.