In the first half the Nuggets were just where they wanted to be with the game being played at a fast pace and Denver in the lead, 67-62. They still weren’t doing a great job of keeping the Jazz off the boards, but they were running the ball and ‘Melo was hitting his jumper. Marcus Camby was well on his way to a double-double and I was feeling really good about the way we were playing.
Then the second half started and the Nuggets exploded with an eleven point lead with four minutes remaining in the third period when they all simultaneously fell asleep on defense. Utah was all over the offensive glass and Carlos Boozer got dimed by Deron Williams for an and-one followed by four quick points by Ronnie Brewer. A once eleven point lead was dwindled down to four in the matter of a single minute! No timeout was called, which I was screaming loud enough for, and just like that the game became a dog fight. Utah ended up winning that quarter, 25-24, and had all the momentum of the Energy Solutions Arena carrying them at the crest of its wave.
In the fourth quarter the Nuggets shot a dicey 4-12 from the field and missed critical free-throws. The worst part of what was otherwise a great game was that the game was changed by the officiating down the stretch of the final 31 seconds. With 31 seconds remaining and the score 111-110 in favor of the Nuggets, Matt Harpring let fly an 18-foot jumper and Nene had Carlos Boozer boxed like a dozen oranges. Boozer, as I described his rebounding style in my preview, proceeds to shove Nene in the back and knocked the big man down to the floor snagging the rebound with the whistle blowing. Somehow, some-indescribable-how, the referee found a way to nail Nene with a foul which sent Boozer to the free-throw line for the lead. It was the most baffling call I have seen all year. How a guy can perfectly box-out his man, get pushed down to the floor with a shot to his back and be called for a foul?
Denver still had time after Boozer cashed in his free-throws, but with the clock reading 21 seconds Carmelo dribbled the ball off his foot and the balloon popped for the Nuggets. The entire Nuggets Nation heard a big fat fog horn. A couple fouls later and with the Jazz hitting their free-throws the large women was belting one out. The Nuggets were there, so close to the win, but had it slip their grasps.
The bright side of things shined on Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Allen’s 33 points, three rebounds, and six assists in combination with Anthony’s game-high 37 points and six rebounds, and two assists were incredible to watch. Unfortunately, other than Marcus Camby who recorded yet another double-double of 21 points, ten rebounds and three blocked shots, watching is about all that the Nuggets got from anyone else. The Nugget bench combined for 11 measly points while the Jazz reaped the benefit of their reserves coming up huge with 46. Carlos Boozer also was everything I said he was in my preview and the Nuggets had no answer for the power forward’s 25 points and 19 rebounds.
As big as this game was, it is still just a game in the first half of the season. The Nuggets will get to see these guys twice more before the season’s end and I just know that there is a victory over the Jazz waiting to materialize sometime this season. This game also makes the Nuggets 2-19 in their last 21 games in Utah.
Tomorrow night the Nuggets will host the New Jersey Nets before a day of rest and then playing host again to the Bobcats. Both games are very winnable as neither team is even .500. From there the Nuggets will have back-to-back games with the Portland Trailblazers and should be well on their way to another nice win streak.