(Denver-CO) The Denver Nuggets ate the Bobcats up like catnip with a combination of solid defense, fundamental offense, and a great energy from their bench. The almost boring win was a perfect example of a team punching in and taking care of work early against an overmatched opponent.
You’ve got to love the first Nugget possession offensively. Chauncey immediately recognized that Okafur can not guard Nene and entered the ball into Big Brazil. The result was an easy spinning lay-up and on the next possession Nene got it again with similar results. ‘Melo then scored points five and six for Denver with his first jumper since the fifth of January. The Nuggets then extended their lead to nine, 14-5, off a sly behind the back pass from Chauncey Billups to Nene for a thunderous slam and Carmelo Anthony going to work in the post for another easy deuce. But in all honesty, the Charlotte Bobcats looked terribly discombobulated committing six turnovers in the first eleven possessions to start the game.
The chip on the shoulder that I’ve been talking Carmelo coming back with surfaced when Anthony put a tricky dribble on Adam Morrison, faking the crossover left, and driving right to the rack for the hoop and the harm to extend Denver’s lead to twelve points, 17-5, midway through the first quarter. However, the score did tighten despite the ‘Cats turning the ball over eight times in the first eight minutes and the first quarter ended with the Nuggets leading, 24-19. One thing that I really missed in the first quarter was the absence of J.R. Smith’s energy. After Chauncey Billups missed two open three-pointers the feeling in the Pepsi Center was as flat as a two-liter of cola left out over night with the cap off and I think J.R. sitting on the bench had something to do with it.
Seemingly on cue, J.R. Smith got the second quarter started with an aggressive drive to the rim on which he was fouled on and went to line to redeem his two free-throws. The Birdman then began to make his presence on the defensive end felt with his second rejection of the night and a great challenge that altered a sure lay-up make before spreading his wings on a great feed from Anthony Carter for a two-handed flush. After taking flight for his first dunk of the game on the previous possession, the Bird caught an alley-oop off an inbounds play before soaring again on the defensive end with his third completely dominating block of the game.
The Nuggets extended their lead to 15 points with under a minute to play after the Bird snared his fourth block of the half and Kenyon Martin brought the house down with a backboard shaking jam. Denver held that margin going into the half, 57-42, led by a trio of Nuggets offensively. Nene was a perfect 7-7 from the field with a team-high 14 points while Carmelo scored ten points in his first 14 minutes of action. Linas Kleiza added another dozen off the bench as the Nuggets were a smoking hot 20-36 from the field in the first half. Denver handed out 17 assists on their 20 makes and everyone was getting into the act. Anthony Carter was the top distributor with four dimes in the first half as seven different Nuggets handed out an assist. Defensively, the Nuggets were actively controlling the point of attack and limited the Bobcats to just 36% shooting at the break while forcing ten Charlotte turnovers. I also liked the discretion Denver was displaying when applying defensive pressure after committing just twelve fouls and only allowing the ‘Cats ten free-throw attempts in the first half.
The third quarter was solid on all fronts and the Nuggets held their 15-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Denver was like a boa constrictor slowly tightening their grip on the game as the fourth quarter went on and by the 9:24 mark were up by 20 points, 94-74. For the remainder of this game the Bobcats acted content to just lose quietly. Usually when the Nuggets are handing out an old fashioned ass paddling I have a lot more to report, but this game seemed to drag on and on. Partially because the effort by the Bobcats was deplorable and at a certain point I think Coach Larry Brown tuned out with the game out of hand and partially because the Nuggets were winning with fundamental defense and simple offense. Denver out shot the Bobcats from the field 54-45% while forcing 18 Charlotte turnovers and handing out 28 assists.
It was a rudimentary, 110-99, win with five scorers reaching double figures. Nene led the charge with 22 points, twelve rebounds, three assists, and two steals while Carmelo scored 19 points and handed out five assists in 29 minutes in his first game back. Mr. Big Shot had a quiet night offensively making just 3-9 shot attempts for twelve points. It was also the first time in his last 30 games that Chauncey Billups didn’t make at least one three-point attempt. Linas Kleiza’s 21 points on 7-11 shooting was tremendous off the bench. As a whole, the Nuggets' bench collectively outscored the Bobcat bench 43-32.
Up next for the Nuggets is a home look at the San Antonio Spurs before Denver hits the road for a season-long, eight-game road trip up and down the east coast.