The Denver Nuggets are the losers of game three, 96-91. The combination of playing their own worst enemy and the Spurs hot three-point shooting was enough to do them in. Denver is now at risk of letting this series slip from their grip as the Spurs now lead 2-1 with a must-win game looming on Monday night.
The first quarter was solid with the Nuggets finishing on top, 25-22. The Nuggets made good on 11-22 from the field; despite Marcus Camby starting 0-6 in what was an obvious misunderstanding that he was named Defensive Player of the Year prior to tip-off instead of OFFENSIVE. And in one of the strangest moments of playoff basketball I have ever seen… Coach George Karl was hit with a completely asinine technical foul for standing, that’s right standing, outside of the coach’s box. So much for the idea of referees not putting their own personal stamp on the game. Thanks for nothing, Bob Delaney!
In the second, my worst nightmare became reality as the Nuggets opened up 0-11 from the field and with Eduardo Najera being completely abused off the dribble by Manu Ginobili. “The Flopper”, as he will be referred to as for the rest of this postseason and indefinitely until he mans-up and cuts the phony dramatics out, finished with eight points in the quarter and eleven for the half. The Nuggets on the other hand finished the second quarter only scoring 15 points and were lucky to be going into halftime down only three, 43-40. Carmelo missed four straight free-throws after making 16-17 up to this point, Steve Blake was a no-show without a single point, Allen Iverson was 3-10 good for only seven points, and the Spurs were just starting to heat it up from downtown connecting on 4-13 from beyond the arch.
After the chance to regroup, Allen Iverson came out with a completely new offensive focus in the third quarter. The Answer scored the first six points for the Nuggets in the half and would add a dozen by the completion of the third. However, Denver’s main headache would prove to be their own sloppy play which was kindled by J.R. Smith’s lackadaisical backwards pass towards the Nuggets’ basket. Robert Horry picked off the errant pass which allowed the Spurs to explode for a quick six points off two three-pointers and opened up an eight-point lead that would suffice them throughout the fourth quarter. San Antonio outscored the Nuggets, 32-27, in the third and with a defense like the Spurs’ that left the Nuggets with a steep mountain to climb in the fourth.
Once again Denver gave San Antonio a spirited run, but the veteran Spurs have been there, done that, and own the rings to prove it. San Antonio is not a team that lets the Nuggets, or any team for that matter, back into games when they lead by more than eight points to begin the money quarter. And after the Spurs would fatten their lead to ten at one point, the Nuggets would take back three in the quarter, but the damage had already been done.
Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with a double-double which included a game-high 28 points and twelve rebounds while Allen Iverson finished with 20 points, but had three turnovers to all but nullify his four assists. Nene did a good job matching Tim Duncan’s 20 points with 18 of his own, but Duncan’s seven offensive rebound were too much for the Nuggets to handle. It should also be noted that despite all the pushing, shoving, and illegal screening that Duncan doled out that he was not guilty of even a single foul in tonight’s contest! And after starting out the game 4-13 from downtown in the first half… The Spurs connected on 5-8 from downtown in the second with Michael Finley leading the way on 5-7 from deep.
Now is the time that the Nuggets have to look themselves in the mirror and decide whether or not they allow history to repeat itself. There are only two ways out of this series; one with honor, and one without. For the last three years the Nuggets have been one-hit wonders in the postseason and the young guys on this team need to do what it takes to not become too familiar with the feeling that comes with being bounced in the first round. Time to fight, Nuggets. Time to fight!
Bring on game four!