Carmelo Anthony is playing the best basketball I have seen him play in the last four years. He has scored more points in earlier stretches, but never, ever, has his decision making, passing, or rebounding been better than it is right now. Tonight he finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and a block. ‘Melo surely could have scored more, but found himself on the bench during the majority of the fourth quarter due to the Nuggets enjoying a sizable lead. I would also like to note his total assists are misleading because many of his passes led to teammates getting fouled on point-blank lay-ups. In all honesty, he was probably good for about eight or nine dimes.
In tonight’s game we also saw just how hot J.R. Smith can get. J.R. finished tonight’s game with 28 points and four rebounds, but hit the Warriors with a flurry of three-pointers late in third quarter and to begin the fourth that solidified the game for the Nuggets. In a span of 2:55, J.R. Smith spontaneously combusted for 15 points that included three straight long range bombs! The guy is just instant offense, and as long as it is going through the net, you just have to love what he brings to this team.
On the team note it has to be mentioned that the Nuggets all passed the ball phenomenally. Steve Blake led the way with 13 assists, but the rest of the Nuggets were all flipping the rock to each other like a hot potato. Marcus “Gumby” Camby dished seven assists including a behind the back pass that led to a huge slam by Nene, Linas and DerMarr both had three dimes, and Nene and Najera both chipped in a couple too. As a team the Nuggets out-passed the Warriors 37-29 and no Warrior had double figures in assists. What you have to enjoy about the Nuggets sharing the ball so well is that it gets everyone involved early and it becomes contagious throughout the rest of the game.
In the rebounding department the Nuggets got all they needed out of Reggie Evans. The Joker snagged a team-high eleven boards coming off the bench in 20 minutes of action. As a team the Nuggets dominated the offensive glass 22-9 and finished the game with a twelve board advantage over the Warriors, 46-36. Just like sharing the ball, hitting the glass became addictive for the Nuggets which is always instrumental in starting the Nuggets fast break.
My final individual spotlight belongs to Nene. Big Brazil continues to look like the second coming of Gus Johnson and ended tonight’s game with a stat line of 24 points, six rebounds, and two assists. He was an efficient 10-14 from the field that included this season’s best facial yet! Off a beautifully executed pick and roll between he and J.R. Smith, Nene fielded a bounce pass that split Warrior defenders and finished the play by taking a piece of Andris Biedrins's manhood. Nene had a lot of aggressive dunks tonight, but none were nastier than when he put Biedrins underneath his massive shoulders before tomahawking the leather though the iron! Aside from that play, Nene showed all kinds of variations of a lethal spin move on the baseline and shot a respectable 4-7 from the free-throw line. Having him play at a level anticipated has got to be a relief for Nuggets management after such a devastating injury put a lot of question marks around his career and his huge contract signing this summer. Give credit where credit is due though, because after some frustration early in the season Nene has diligently worked through the excess weight, and the lingering swelling in that knee, and is really shaping into a solidifying piece in the Denver front court.
Up next for the Nuggets is one more game with the Timberwolves before one (’Melo) or two (Iverson) of them bolt for the All-Star Game in Sin City. Minnesota always plays the Nuggets tough, regardless of what their team record says about them, and the Nuggets really need to keep this momentum rolling before the five day rest. Starting the stretch run of the season may not seem different whether or not the Nuggets are winners of four straight, but believe me it matters. The Nuggets will be thinking about what happens against Minnesota during the break and it is far more advantageous to not be dwelling on a game that slipped away.