(Boulder-CO) Just because I don’t like the way the Nuggets won doesn’t mean I don’t like the win. Denver turned the ball over a season-high 26 times directly resulting in 33 Kings points, gave up a twelve-point lead after halftime to go into the fourth down by one, and shot only 2-15 from downtown which when all combined made beating the Kings, 101-97, a whole lot harder than it needed to be.
The first half was chalked full of good things. Offensively, Allen Iverson led all Nugget scorers with 19 points, three assists, and three rebounds. He got a lot of support from Kenyon Martin’s 12 points and eight rebounds and Carmelo Anthony’s ten points, six rebounds, three blocks, an assist, and a steal. Even Anthony Carter came up big with some very stingy defense at times on Ron Artest, John Salmons, and Beno Udrih while also giving the Nuggets a team-high eight assists, two steals, and a domineering block on a Salmons fade-away.
The Nuggets went into halftime with a twelve-point lead after outscoring the Kings, 25-13, in the second quarter and things were looking really good. Denver had limited the Kings to 38% shooting from the field and were badly dominating Sacramento on the glass, 29-14.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets were not primed coming into the third period and allowed the Sacramento Kings to completely erase their lead to actually go into the fourth quarter up by one point after Denver put up a pitiful 18 points and allowed 31. Denver missed twelve shots in the third, abandoned the fast break, and stood around and watched an awful lot. But, what was most disheartening about the quarter was how George Karl, once again, didn’t call timeout when the momentum was swinging Sacramento’s way or when the Nuggets went completely stagnant on offense. It wasn’t until the Kings were all the way back into the game, 69-68, that a timeout was called leaving me scratching my head as to why it wasn’t called earlier. The Nuggets were taking bad shots and the ball movement stopped, but yet there was no reorganization when the game was slipping away.
In the fourth, the Nuggets did regroup offensively, but it was their proficiency at the free-throw line that saved them. Denver hit 10-14 free-throws on route to scoring 24 points in the quarter to win by five. Allen Iverson led Denver in scoring with 23 points and ten assists improving Denver’s record when he double-double’s to 16-1. Carmelo once again struggled from the field connecting on just 5-16 from the field (including 0-4 from downtown) to finish with 14 points, seven rebounds, the aforementioned three blocks, three assists, and a steal.
However, the unsung heroes of the game were Anthony Carter and Kenyon Martin. Anthony Carter played his best game of the season finishing with 17 points, nine assists, four steals, three rebounds, and two blocks. I already mentioned that he absolutely trashed a John Salmons fade-away, but the feather in his cap was also swatting seven-foot Brad Miller’s turn-around jumper from the elbow that made Miller so frustrated that he actually threw a forearm into AC’s head for his sixth and final foul. Carter also ripped loose a steal from a penetrating Francisco Garcia that sparked a fast break scoring opportunity in the crunch of the fourth quarter.
Kenyon Martin also played his finest all-around game of the season finishing with 20 points, twelve rebounds, five blocks, three steals, and an assists in 38 big minutes of action. He was 8-10 from the field, only got whistled for two fouls, and had five of his twelve rebounds on the offensive glass. K-Mart is showing continued improvement in his bounce around the goal and is catching more alley-oops and putting back more and more tip-slams with each passing game. Does anybody remember that I predicted Martin to win NBA Comeback Player of the Year?
Up next for the 13-8 Denver Nuggets is a few days of rest before hosting Chris Paul and the Hornets on Wednesday night. Denver has a light week next week starting with the Hornets and then do not have to play again before Saturday when they face a serious challenge traveling to San Antonio to play the Spurs. Denver is now 9-3 at the Pepsi Center and is currently tied for first place in the Northwest Division with the Utah Jazz.