If you’re expecting big numbers in the box score let me just burst your bubble of hopes right now. The Mavericks shot a dismal 36% from the field and just 17% from downtown finishing just 3-17 from the land of plenty. And the Mavericks didn’t find a way to shoot many free-throws with just eleven attempts from the line in total finishing a meager 8-11. However, it was very surprising in such a low scoring affair that the Nuggets only committed eleven turnovers in a game that was equally one part ugly and one part sweet as candy.
Carmelo Anthony had his best stuff down the final stretch and finished with a game-high 23 points, including ten in the fourth quarter, to go along nicely with ten rebounds, three assists, and a steal. And there were no two bigger than the alley-oop pass thrown by Marcus Camby with the game tied at 71 when ‘Melo snatched the ball from mid-flight and made the Pepsi Center erupt with a thunderous finish to give Denver the lead for good!
Carmelo’s main partner in crime tonight, no pun intended, was Allen Iverson. AI gave the Nuggets 22 big points, five assists, three ‘bounds, and two steals. I really liked the overall game that AI produced because it wasn’t forced at the wrong times and when it was his time to put the ball in the basket, or make the right pass, it seemed as if he always made the correct play.
The other main offensive weapon for the Nuggets in a game that was dominated by poor shooting and defense was Nene. Big Brazil once again went for a double-double on his way to proving to be nearly un-guardable in the blocks that rings 16 points, ten rebounds, four assists, and a steal. Do you remember when Nene was out of shape, missing games because of pain in the surgically repaired knee, and rarely grabbing more than five boards a night? I know it seems so long in the past, but it wasn’t! Nene has matured so much, so fast this season that it has truly been a slideshow, game-by-game, of his improvement. He’s back in shape, showing unbelievable quickness around the goal, and hitting the boards like Gus Johnson! And if the Nuggets are going to make some big things happen come playoff time, I think that a lot of it depends on the play of Nene.
Another point that I would like to illustrate is how the Nuggets never waived the white towel of surrender against the league’s best overall record. Down as many as twelve at one point, and eight or ten a couple of different times, the Nuggets kept the wheels turning despite only playing eight deep for the fourth or fifth time in a row and found the resiliency to win. I don’t know if earlier in the season the Nuggets would have believed in themselves enough to win a game like this because of all the readily available excuses, but this win showed me that the Nuggets may, and let me stress that word MAY, be ready to rise above all that has happened this year and catapult themselves into the category of “Very Dangerous” come playoff time. And just to refresh your memory; The Nuggets have now trounced Phoenix, killed the Lakers, and defeated a very strong Maverick’s team at home which should be enough for any potential team to be a little worried about playing a series with the Nuggets.
The show capper is how the Nuggets have now won four straight games, which also ties Golden State for the longest winning streak currently in the NBA, and are potentially closing in on the sixth seed depending on how they fare against the Clippers today and the Lakers on Monday. I for one do not want to move up to the sixth seed, however, because that would mean the Nuggets would face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs and have to deal with that suffocating Spur defense. I would much rather see the Nuggets stay in the seventh seed and play the Phoenix Suns where anything, and I do mean anything, could potentially happen.
Oh, and I’m elated to announce that my psychic skills are looking pretty shoddy as I thankfully was wrong in my prediction that the Nuggets would lose against the Mavericks! That makes me 1-2 overall so far and brings the Nuggets overall record to 39-36.