Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It Wasn't Pretty, but I'll Take it

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets made me sweat after making a prophetic call in my game preview, but found the will and the way for a 117-112 victory over the Sonics. The game went back and forth with Ray Allen, the league’s best shooter, giving Denver his best shot on his way to scoring 44 points. Unfortunately though for the Sonics were the collective offensive efforts of ‘Melo, AI, Nene, and Steve Blake in combination with the defense of Marcus Camby down the stretch. And overall, the Nuggets just had more firepower than Settle and outlasted Ray Allen‘s single handed onslaught. My only hope is that by going through each quarter’s high and lowlights. I can make some better sense of a game that was really closer than it needed to be.

In the first quarter the Nuggets really opened the game with some bad shooting in what I feel was a direct result of the tail end of back-to-back games and fourth game in five days. Their legs weren’t there and the jumpers just didn’t want to fall. The Nuggets found themselves 4-15 and 0-5 from three point land before some relief in the form of two quick threes from J.R. Smith revitalized them to a nice comeback.

The second quarter continued to harbor sloppy basketball for the Nuggets. Denver turned the ball over nine times before the half and the overall execution was ugly despite the Nuggets hanging around. It wasn’t all bad though. Nene showed a quick spin move around 11:00 minutes and Allen Iverson also reached the 20,000th career points milestone. AI became the 30th player in the history of the NBA to reach 20K, but acted as if nothing had happened at all. Seattle countered with a 7-0 run to close out the half when a three-point buzzer beater by Ray Allen made the score 60-53 in favor of the Sonics. Chris Wilcox’s 16 points were the difference and the Nuggets were playing down to the Sonics’ level and not making a commitment to the defensive end.

Marcus Camby said in his post-game interview that Coach George Karl told the team that this game was going to be won on the defensive end and the Nuggets reacted favorably in the third quarter. By holding the Sonics to only 18 points in the quarter, the Nuggets got defensive rebounds and turned the game around with 32 points of vintage run-and-gun.

The fourth and final quarter started with the Nuggets up 75-68 with a 31-10 point advantage in bench scoring and a shoot-out ensued. It started with Ray Allen hitting a 27 foot jumper and was countered by J.R. hitting his fifth three of the night. The Sonics and the Nuggets went back and forth with the game eventually deadlocking at 99 with 5:05 remaining and once again at 106 after the first of four events that I can pinpoint which inevitably sealed the victory for the Nuggets. First, Steve Blake hit his first shot of the game and it was a big three to tie the game at 106. Then after a defensive stop, Nene made a strong move that was awarded with a foul being called and “Big Brazil” hit both of his free-throws to put the Nuggets up 108-106. Can you say clutch? The third turn of events was a perfectly diagramed and executed play for the ball to go into ‘Melo and to be thrown back out to a relocating Steve Blake for his second cold blooded three-pointer in just over a minute. Those eight points turned the tide of this ball game and a steal by Carmelo Anthony that led to a fast-break lay-up nailed the coffin shut. A handful of free-throws in the waning seconds were just cushioning to ensure that Ray Allen’s amazing three-point stroke was in vain as the Nuggets persevered for the win in a game that they played below their desired level of execution. The only thing I can say is a win is a win and I am glad the honeymoon now has a chance to wear off before the Nuggets take on the Jazz in Utah this Friday night.

Nene continues to out do himself in the last couple of games and performed beautifully in route to a 17-point, seven rebound evening. Carmelo returned back to his normal form and scored a team-high 34 points and also added a team-high nine rebounds. Allen Iverson was the only Nugget to record a double-double with 21 points and ten assists and J.R. Smith finished with 20 points off 6-10 from the three-point arch. I really like J.R. coming off the bench right now because he is filling the role of offensive instigator when the Nuggets are searching for a basket with the second unit in the game.

The only sense I can make is that Seattle, behind Ray Ray’s game-high 44 points, gave the Nuggets their best look and the Nuggets played just enough out of rhythm for it to be closer than I expect it to be. You gotta tip your hat though to the Sonics because they didn’t get caught up stargazing at the Nuggets and put up a valiant effort.
The most hated of all NBA foes in the Utah Jazz look to spoil the Nuggets weekend in a game that could have major divisional implications on Friday night. Tonight's win gives the Nuggets a season’s best five-game win streak and now they just need a couple of days of crisp practice and some rest before we really see what this new look Denver team is capable of against a Western Conference playoff bound opponent. But as the team flies home tonight, I think that it is now hightime for Nuggets fans to say Denver is officially where butter belongs… On a roll!

7 comments:

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Seth said...

Nene had some really quick moves in the post. I didn't even know he had those.

Fence said...

I have to say that I'm encouraged that the Nuggets were able to play the second of a back-to-back on the road, play it sloppily, and still win. That's uncharacteristic of the Nuggets of the past. Personally, I think it bodes well for this team and I'm very interested to see what they are able to do against Utah.

Jason said...

Nugg Dr, this is the game I have been waiting to see from this Nuggets team. A game in which they really did not play that well, but overcame that and played smart basketball down the stretch to earn a victory. And like you said, it doesn't matter how ugly it is, a win is a win.

But the one thing that disturbs me greatly with this team is how many easy baskets this team gives up. I am not sure of the points in the paint total for Seattle, but far too often this team allowed a layup or dunk because of lack of rotation or lack of perimeter defense on the guards. This is something they are going to need to fix if they expect to beat teams like the Suns, Spurs, or Mavs in the playoffs. Your thoughts?

btalk said...

Hey Nugg Doc, you are right, a win is a win. Ray Allen....wow, what more can you say, the guy can just fill it. The only thing you didn't mention, that I thought contributed to the fourth quarter spurt, was Karl's excellent call to go into a zone.

Stumbleweed said...

Ray Allen was just going off in the 4th. Even though he finished with a worse 3pt % than JR, he seemed unstoppable when it mattered most. I'm just glad we weathered it -- he was knocking down threes with guys all over him. Steve did a good job on him, but there's nothing you can do when a guy like Ray is really feeling it.

Speaking of JR, I'm loving the way he's playing right now. Even with that 4/14 from deep night he had against the Grizz, I think he's been the spark that's gotten us moving in games when we've gotten stagnant. He's taken a few ill-advised shots, but overall, he's just lofting threes, which is what he's there to do. I'd like to see him go to the basket a bit more and be more active without the ball (he seems to just hover around the arc, sometimes completely out of the play) -- that would just open up Melo and AI even more.

I liked what I saw from Melo also -- his jumper finally fell (at least a few times) and his four steals and nine rebounds were an added bonus. It really is scary that he can shoot under his average and still get 34. It still seems like we're trying to force it to him a bit, and it's led to some unwise shots in traffic -- hopefully that will stop and the flow will get more natural as Melo gets the nerves out and the other guys get used to having him back.

Nugg Doctor said...

Btalk,

Your exactly right! I can't believe that I forgot that because I even wrote it down. The Nuggets started playing zone around the same time that Blake hit the second three pointer and it really shook the Sonics. Add Coach George Karl's influence to the games favorable outcome too because if they do not change D, Ray Allen might have shot his team to victory.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor