The first half was hard fought with the Hornets getting the better of the Nuggets by the end of it, 59-51. In the first 24 minutes alone Chris Paul had torched the Nuggets for 19 points and seven assists to lead all scorers while also getting into early foul trouble. On the contrary, Carmelo Anthony was still continuing to struggle offensively and finished the half with only eleven points and five rebounds on a dreadful 3-13 shooting that included missing his first five shots. However, Allen Iverson was picking up his slack and led the Nuggets with 13 points and five assists.
The main problem at this point was how the Nuggets were giving the Hornets (mainly Chris Paul) way too much penetration around the goal and things got really bad with the Hornets going up by as many as 14 points with under a minute remaining in the half. New Orleans had three players score in double-figures with the aforementioned CP3 stat line, Rasual Butler scoring 14, and David West kicking in eleven and as a team were shooting a torrid 56% from the field with 13 total assists.
Thankfully for the Nuggets Nation the next three words I am about to type are probably the best holiday surprise so far.
Carmelo is back.
And it was on Carmelo’s back that the Nuggets rode all the way to victory tonight after he scored 15 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter!
Denver gained some ground on the Hornets in the third period outscoring New Orleans, 26-22, and went into the final period down by only four. Anthony Carter was the spark that lit the Nuggets on fire with nine points in the third, and in the fourth the other man named Anthony threw gas all over it. No single shot was bigger than the three Melo hit that tied the game at 86 with 8:20 remaining and when Eduardo Najera hit another one the next time down the floor you could sense the momentum had swung for the final time in the Nuggets direction. The Hornets would momentarily take back the lead, 92-91, with under six minutes remaining, but the Nuggets defense (led by Anthony Carter’s gutsy effort on Paul around the perimeter and Marcus Camby shutting down everything inside and grabbing almost every defensive rebound) was awakened and so was Carmelo’s offense.
Anthony scored the next eight straight Nugget points and with the game tied at 99 Marcus Camby grabbed two offensive rebounds with the second being tipped back in to give the Nuggets enough to win a very hard fought game against a very good New Orleans Hornets team.
The Nuggets had six players score in double figures with Carmelo’s aforementioned 32 points and ten boards leading the way. Allen Iverson scored 22 and passed out eleven assists to improve Denver’s record to 17-1 when he records a double-double. Marcus Camby had a double-double of is own with 14 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks. Anthony Carter had 13 points and five assists to compliment his gritty defense on CP3 down the stretch, Kenyon Martin added eleven points and eight rebounds, and Eduardo Najera gave the Nuggets ten points off the bench.
Up next for the 14-8 Nuggets is a rematch of last season’s first round playoff match-up with the Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday. I hope the Spurs are still undefeated at home when the Nuggets roll into town. That would make things a whole lot more dramatic when these two division leading teams meet for the first time this season.