At halftime of this contest the Nuggets were looking poised as they boasted a 64-45 lead behind a monster first half by Marcus Camby. Camby would finish the game with both a team high in rebounds and points, 26 and 17 respectively, but what Marcus did in the first half, despite nearly giving the Nuggets a double-double, was set the tone defensively for the rest of the night. He was altering shots, clearing rebounds at a dizzying pace, and hitting his outside jumper from the top of the key.
After playing the Cavaliers essentially square in the third period, the fourth quarter was a bit of meltdown. With about three minutes remaining in the game the once larger than 20 point lead the Nugget were coasting on was chopped down to five after the Cavaliers hit five three-pointers in a row. After a great pass by Allen Iverson, Nene missed a dunk and was sent to the line for two free-throws. He probably wasn’t thinking this at the time, but this was the beginning of what is hopefully a trend for Nene. The big man hit both his free-throws and put the Nuggets back in the driver seat for good in what was a crippling blow to James and company. He would later get a touch pass from Marcus Camby that he would two-hand-tomahawk slam to put a cherry on top, but it was those two free-throws that really sealed the deal. The potential is there for Nene to round out this team as a real contender in the Western Conference and hopefully with tonight’s win, and Nene’s performance down the stretch, the confidence will be there for “Big Brazil” in games to come.
It should also be mentioned that Allen Iverson is setting up his Nuggets teammates beautifully. AI finished tonight’s game with 25 points, nine assists, and three rebounds, but it is the way that he is picking and choosing his times to dribble penetrate and his knack for finding the open teammate when double-teamed that is really making this team coagulate. He is finding players in their preferred positions and it is really paying dividends so far for the Nuggets. I think if there were still any questions about his selfishness as a point guard that they are quickly being silenced as he is routinely eclipsing or coming close to eclipsing double figures in assists every game.
Tonight the Nuggets shot 50% from the field, 40% from the arch, and 88% from the charity stripe and it all added up to a win. Now the Nuggets will be looking for a little payback against the Houston Rockets tomorrow night as they travel to Houston to complete the tail end of this back-to-back. However, what is more important down the road is that it will be the last game without Carmelo. I think that the Nuggets are going to be scary good when ‘Melo comes back. Less than 48 hours to wait, Nuggets fans. Let the NBA be put on notice!