In the first half the Nuggets were doing all the right things. They had 28 assists, 30 boards, and shot a steamy 58% from the field on their way to a 71-point explosion in the first 24 minutes. Offensively, they were guided by Carmelo Anthony’s 23 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Defensively, the Nuggets were anchored by Marcus Camby swatting shots, Nene ruling the glass, and as a team forcing the Kings into bad shots on their way their way to holding Sacramento to 39% from the field. It was one of the better first halves of the season and the Nuggets looked prime to blow out the Kings.
However, once the second half started the Nuggets slipped into a mini-funk that allowed the Kings to battle back to within eight with under seven minutes to play in the third quarter. The Nuggets starting five came out a little bit too loose and it wasn’t until the substitutions for Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith did Coach George Karl find any energy. L.K entered the game and immediately hit a bucket to push the lead back to ten. Then J.R. Smith wired in two three-pointers and added two more free-throws before coming up with a huge blocked shot at the buzzer to put the Nuggets back in the comfort zone entering the fourth, 95-79.
In the fourth the Nuggets were still too much in love with the jumper and failed to take advantage of Sacramento’s lack of a shot blocker. As a result of their 4-18 start from the field in the money quarter, the Nuggets found themselves clinging to a five point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Slowly but steadily the Kings had been led all the way back into striking distance by Ron Artest. Love him or hate him, the choice is up to you, but you can not disagree with the fact that the guy is a talented basketball player. Ron-Ron finished tonight’s game with a game-high 32 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals, but it was just not enough as the final seconds ticked off with the Nuggets still in the lead. Denver had survived. Hallelujah!
As I mentioned before, Carmelo Anthony was the team leader early and finished tonight’s game with a team-high 31 points along with eight rebounds the previously mentioned four assists, but he was far from alone in the box score. Nene was once again gargantuan pouring in a tremendous effort. Big Brazil finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists. He proved to be un-guardable by either Brad Miller or Shareef Abdur-Rahim as he scored in a variety of fashions, but Nene was not alone in the club of double-double. Marcus Camby contributed 15 points, eleven rebounds, and four blocks and Nuggets’ shooting guard Allen Iverson added 16 points and ten assists. The effort from Marcus marks the 28th time the Captain has recorded a double-double this season.
I also feel that J.R. Smith deserves some credit for his defense. If you compare where J.R. started this season defensively to where he is now one has to admit that the youngster has grown by leaps and bounds. Last night he came in the second half and did a fantastic job against Kobe Bryant and his efforts were felt once again tonight. It all boils down to desire for J.R. because he has all the physical talents to be a great defender and as of late he has shown the discipline and dedication to make himself a better overall player.
The Nuggets will rest tomorrow before meeting up with the Mavs in a heat check game with potential playoff implications if Denver were to slip in the final eight games or the Clippers were to streak into the seventh playoff position. And if your keeping track of how my predictions are holding up… I’m 1-1 with the Nuggets picked to lose against the Mavericks. But for tonight, we dance!