Right off the bat it has to be mentioned that the Nuggets played maybe their best half of basketball against the Suns in the first two quarters of tonight’s game. Carmelo was dishing the ball phenomenally, scoring at will, and hitting the boards. At the break he nearly had the triple-dub with 18 points, eight assists, and seven boards. Nene showed that he is also a very capable passer in the first half with three assists. J.R. Smith was taking the ball to the hole nicely and the team was playing defense, well, as a team. It was all pretty good despite the absences of AI and Camby with the Nuggets up by nine at intermission.
From there is when it all went down hill. The Nuggets were up by ten at one point in the third, but would finish the quarter down by two, 81-79. Steve Nash eventually had to leave the game with a right shoulder injury that was aggravated with contact, but Leandro Barbosa filled in quite nicely with 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists. In the fourth, it was just more of the same with the Nuggets losing the quarter by three points and the game by five. They settled for playing Phoenix’s game and shot way too many jumpers in the second half. All the attacking of the rim virtually stopped and when the shots didn’t fall there wasn’t enough time to comeback. Credit the Suns for making their free-throws in the final minute because J.R. Smith and Carmelo both had three-point plays in a dire attempt to tie the game.
This is the first time in Carmelo’s career that he has recorded a triple-double. Anthony finished tonight’s game with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists and it was as if he was trying to make a statement against the Suns in the wake of his All-Star snubbing. Nene also continues his good play tonight with a 27-point performance that included seven rebounds. The Brazilian big man is really showing some positives in the last four games and would appear to be the obvious decision for starter from here on out as long as he doesn’t relapse.
The game of J.R. Smith is also progressing right on schedule. The 20-year-old Smith has noticeably picked up his defensive awareness and as long as he continues to rip the cords from long range should have a place here in Denver. J.R. finished tonight’s game with 18 points, three rebounds, and four assists coming off the bench.
I am really excited to see the five of AI, Smith, Carmelo, Nene, and Camby play together because I feel that those five guys have proven to be the best five players for the Nuggets. It would only make sense that George Karl would start these guys at some point in near future. They just flat-out give you a better chance of winning on any given night, and the next night that presents a chance for all the Nuggets to win is Wednesday. The Nuggets will be hosting the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets and will hopefully be back at full strength in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Until then, I will be keeping an eye on the injury report and the NOOCH. Go Nuggets!