Denver came out in the first quarter and was really out of synch. The Nuggets only mustered 15 points in the first quarter and 19 in the second while shooting a dreadful 32% from the field. Starters Linas Kleiza and Anthony Carter were a combined 0-8 and the Nuggets finished the half with Allen Iverson as their high scorer with only nine points.
On the other side of the ball, the Dallas Mavericks were getting all the breaks, and the offensive boards. There must have been at least five times that the Mavericks were the beneficiaries of random plays swinging in their favor and they were doing a solid job keeping the Nuggets on defense by eating up the clock with second chance opportunities. The Mavericks grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the first half alone in what would be the most detrimental trend of the rest of the game. As for the defensive rebounding machine, Marcus Camby… he finished the half with only six boards while DeSagana Diop and Dirk grabbed nine and eight boards, respectively.
At the break, the Nuggets were down by eleven, 45-34, but honestly couldn’t really play much worse.
Denver regrouped and showed some fire on defense in the third period by holding the Mavs to only 15 points. The Nuggets’ guards got things cooking offensively, even though as a team they only managed to score 20 points total in the quarter, with Allen Iverson scoring ten and Anthony Carter coming up with another six. And although the game was still really slow and discombobulated, Denver was still in the thick of things and in a great position to perhaps become the first team in the league to beat the Mavericks twice this season at home.
Fast forward now to the five minute mark and the Nuggets had only scored eight points by way of a J.R. Smith three, Eduardo Najera bombing another long ball, and Allen Iverson hitting a couple of free-throws while the Mavericks had extended their lead to ten points, 72-62. Things were grinding to a halt for the Nuggets with the ball movement getting slower and slower, a couple of bad shots being hoisted, and Denver becoming visibly more frustrated with a couple of no-calls before Anthony Carter felt the hot shooting hand. AC scored the next eleven consecutive points (including three straight threes) and 14 of the last 23 points that were to be scored for the Nuggets, but unfortunately Dallas had a counter punch. Dirk Nowitzki would answer Carter’s long range barrage with a couple threes of his own, and managed to score 14 of the Dallas Mavericks’ last 16 points which included the final four game-sealing free-throws.
The Nuggets had given the Mavericks a little bit of a scare down the stretch, but in the end all the loose balls, offensive rebounds, and second chance points were too much for the shorthanded Nuggets to overcome. Denver had fought hard, but were outlasted by, at least tonight, the better team.
Allen Iverson led all Nugget scorers with 23 points, nine assists, and three steals, and his starting backcourt running mate Anthony Carter finished with 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds. Marcus Camby grabbed 12 rebounds and swatted three shots, but only scored eight points as the Nuggets collectively struggled offensively.
The good things that can be taken from tonight’s game are numerous (Denver didn’t give up, they played stingy defense in stretches, and they shot the ball well from downtown), but the one that I’m going to praise the most is Denver’s effort to lockdown the defensive glass in the second half. After a lousy rebounding effort that fruited the Mavericks eight offensive boards in the first half. The Nuggets shut off the valve and finished only allowing eleven offensive boards in total to the Mavericks. And had Denver shot the better than 19-27 from the free-throw line, who knows, the Nuggets might have actually won their third straight game without Carmelo. But the Nuggets need to learn quickly from this game and file away the positives for the upcoming postseason because they fly right into the nest of the Western Conference’s best team, record wise, tomorrow night with the Hornets of New Orleans.
Be ready for a showcase of a couple of the NBA’s two best guards tomorrow night, Nuggets Nation. CP3 and AI are becoming a marquee match-up.