The start of this game was full of news that players from both teams were not going to be able to play for a range of assorted reasons. For the Grizzlies, Stromile Swift was unavailable due to an incident with coach Iavaroni, Pau Gasol was a scratch with a sore lower back, and Mike Conley wasn’t going to play either due to a rib injury. For Denver, Carmelo missed his fifth straight game after once again not feeling confident in the injured ankle during pre-game workouts.
So despite being shorthanded, two crews from both teams threw up a tip and just because the Nuggets led by two at the half doesn’t mean I liked much about their effort. The Nuggets started out the game with seven turnovers in the first quarter and were taking a ton of poor shots. Plus, the little things like throwing the ball away with baseball passes four times, Kenyon Martin swatting a shot in to the fourteenth row when he could have just corralled the shot and kept possession, and J.R. Smith missing back-to-back dunks in the second quarter when the momentum was just starting to swing in favor for the Nuggets were really eating at me. The two blown dunks, in particular, were aggravating because they translated into five points for the Grizzlies, destroyed all the momentum the Nuggets had built in the second quarter, and completed a nine-point swing in Memphis’s favor when you consider the Nuggets came away with nothing instead of a sure four points. Needless to say, J.R. Smith was quickly benched after going 1-7 from the field in a mere nine minutes.
However, I will say that the only reason why the Nuggets were still in this game with such an undisciplined showing in the first half was Allen Iverson. He was the only Nugget to score in double-figures with 21 points and seven assists in the first half while recording three big steals that jumpstarted the Nuggets fast break in the second quarter.
In the third quarter the worst possible scenario came true for the Nuggets. AI was the only reason the Nuggets were in the game in the first half, but in the third quarter he went 0-7 from the field and didn’t score. And as quickly as Iverson disappeared so did the Nuggets as they managed only 19 points in the quarter and went into the fourth down by five.
More of the same crappy play ensued as the Grizzlies’ lead ballooned up to seven with three minutes remaining before the Nuggets flipped on the switch. With the score, 97-90, Marcus Camby tipped in an offensive rebound and started what would be a 12-0 run for the Nuggets that included five straight points (a three and a beautiful drive down the middle of the key) and an assist by Anthony Carter to Linas Kleiza for another three to give the Nuggets a three point lead. Allen Iverson would ice the game with six straight free-throws from there, but defensively good rotations, good challenges on Memphis’s shots by Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin, and solid rebounding were also part of the reason the Nuggets were able to close out this game and avoid a disastrous loss.
Sigh, what a relief.
Allen Iverson led all scorers with 32 points to go along nicely with 12 assists, four steals, and three rebounds and improves the overall record when he records a double-double to 19-1 dating back to last season. His offensive help came from a quartet of Nuggets all scoring in double figures while no individual scored more than 18 points. Anthony Carter is becoming the Nuggets unsung hero with the aforementioned five straight points in the fourth quarter and a total of 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists, Linas Kleiza overcame a 1-7 night from the three-point line to finish with 15 points and three rebounds, and Marcus Camby rounded everything out with 13 points, 19 rebounds, and five blocked shots despite taken a break in the second quarter to ice his sore right knee.
For the Grizzlies, Rudy Gay scored a team-high 30 points and Darko Milicic tied a career-high with 16 rebounds, but despite having four players score in double figures Memphis proved to be unable to manage the last three minutes of the game and they take the tough loss and end the Nuggets longest road losing streak since the 1994-95 season.
Like I said…I don’t have to like the way they did it, but I’ll take the win any day.