George Karl didn’t dip too deep into the bench tonight. Only Reggie Evans, J.R. Smith, and Linas Kleiza relieved the starters for a total combined 57 minutes and the duo of Smith and Kleiza provided the difference-making lift the Nuggets needed. J.R. played his best overall game since returning from partially tearing his meniscus finishing with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. He also broke out a sick two-handed reverse slam that brought out the oohs and ahhs from the Cleveland fans. Linas Kleiza’s final line isn’t anything to complain about either. LK finished with 14 points, an assists, and a rebound in 26 minutes of play.
As a team, the Nuggets shot the ball very well, except from the free-throw line. Denver hit 59% from the field, including 35% from downtown, but was a frigid 56% from the charity stripe making good on just 14 of 25. The Nuggets also played some very honest defense only being whistled for ten total fouls all night long and limiting the Cavaliers to merely ten free-throw attempts in the game.
On offense the Nuggets were paced by Carmelo Anthony’s game-high 27 points, Allen Iverson’s 18 points and twelve assists, and Nene’s 21 points and nine rebounds. I really like it when the Nuggets have three scorers over twenty points and somebody with ten or more assists because it seems like they win a lot more games with that kind of balanced attack. It’s one thing for Carmelo to score 30 every night, but I think it is in the best interest of the team to continue to spread the offense around because it builds morale on the defensive end.
And the defensive end is where the Nuggets hit pay dirt in the second half. Denver was only ahead by four points with 3:41 remaining in the fourth quarter before holding the Cavaliers scoreless and going on an 8-0 run to seal victory. In the money quarter the Nuggets held the Cavs to only 18 points to conclude what was maybe the best 24 solid minutes of defense they have played all year long which limited Cleveland to just 40 points in the half.
With the win the Nuggets are now 35-33 overall and have won six out of their last eight games. Up next are the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night before Denver finally comes back to the Pepsi Center for a meeting with the now Ray Allen-less Seattle Super Sonics. First things first, however, and derailing the Pistons tomorrow would be sweet. Go Nuggets!