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.