In the first half the Nuggets were getting it done with defense as they limited the Spurs to 33% from the field, and one shot, as they dominated the glass 28-19. And because of the defensive intensity, the big names for the Nuggets were able to lay a strong offensive foundation of their own. Carmelo went into intermission with 16 points and five rebounds off 7-9 from the field, Allen Iverson had 12 points, and Nene and Camby each grabbed seven boards and scored six and seven points respectively.
On the other side of the intermission box score the Spurs big names looked down right awful. Tim Duncan sulked his way to four points on 2-11 from the field, Manu struggled to seven points on 3-12, and Tony Parker limped in with four points on 2-10. And the kicker was how the Spurs only shot four free-throws in the first 24 minutes and hit on only two attempts.
But somehow the Nuggets, for as well as they played, still found away to keep the Spurs in the game by turning the ball over eight times resulting in eleven San Antonio points. At one point in the first half the Nuggets led by as many as nine points, but the lack of care with the basketball translated into only a, 44-42, advantage at the break.
In the third quarter, the Nuggets were stymied by a rallied up defensive effort by the Spurs who jumped out to a five point lead with more than eight minutes remaining. I don’t know if the Nuggets were so happy with their efforts up to this point that they forgot to come out and compete, but luckily they were awaken by the smelling salts of Coach George Karl. George called a full-time out and whatever was said in the huddle was exactly what this doctor ordered! From that point on the Nuggets proceeded to counter-punch the Spurs right in the breadbasket with an 11-2 run that would fruit a lead that would last until right about the same time in the fourth quarter. Where once again George Karl would have to break out his bag of smelling salts.
With just shy of eight and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Denver had fallen behind by one after “Big Shot” Bob Horry hit a huge three-pointer that had the San Antonio faithful on their feet. Coach Karl quickly called timeout to relax the crowd and circled up the Nuggets. And once again whatever was said to calm down the troops was precisely the right prescription. The Nuggets answered back and dropped a 15-4 point run on the Spurs that was finally ceased by Tony Parker hitting two free-throws with the damage already done. The Nuggets were now in the lead for good with their biggest margin of the game, 87-77, and from there would trade baskets and free-throws with the Spurs before walking off with their hands in the air and a victory in game one!
Aside from how I just illustrated the game’s unfolding, I would like to point to one specific point where I felt the Nuggets displayed the confidence needed for the win. With five minutes and twenty seconds remaining, Nene swatted a lay-up attempt by Robert Horry and really drove home a statement to the Spurs who trailed by three at the time. That statement was clear: The Nuggets are just not happy with being in the playoffs this year and they have more than enough fire in their bellies to put out your lights if you are not going to bring you’re A game!
I mentioned in my guest interview with www.thebasketballjones.net that Allen Iverson was one of the toughest postseason competitors the NBA has ever known and he did not make me look bad tonight with a game-high 31 points to accompany his five assists. He scored eleven third quarter points, and it should also be mentioned that while Allen had struggled from the free-throw line to end the regular season, he was a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe tonight.
Also reaching the 30-point club tonight was Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo hurt the Spurs for 30 points and eight rebounds, while also finishing a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line.
On the glass, the Nuggets were led by Marcus Camby and Nene. The Captain ended tonight’s game with ten boards, (nine defensive), two blocks, and eight points, which was exactly as I drew it up in my game preview as he completely DOMINATED Franny Elson who didn’t score and only squeezed four rebounds. Nene also executed exactly how I foresaw as he matched and bettered Tim Duncan’s 14 points, ten boards, and seven assists with 13 points, 12 rebounds, (eight offensive), two assists, two steals, and the aforementioned block on Robert Horry.
Now we lay in wait for Wednesday’s game two to see if the Spurs react to this upset loss to the Nuggets. I for one am riding high, but this series is far from over and the Nuggets can ill-afford to let up on the Spurs for even one quarter! We’re ready San Antonio, are you?