In the first half, it was truly a matter of who George Karl put on the floor that dictated the flow of the game (both good and bad). When Karl would play the starters, the Nuggets maintained a lead. When George went to his bench, at one point producing a line-up consisting of Diawara, Kleiza, Najera, Carter, and Iverson, the Nuggets got eaten alive. The most clear indication of this being how the Nuggets led by three after the first quarter with the starters holding it down. Enter the reserves at the start of the second, and the level of execution dropped dramatically resulting in the slim Denver advantage evaporating quickly before turning into a fifteen point deficit by the end of the half.
The defensive intensity was just not their without Kenyon Martin or Marcus Camby in the game, and when Carmelo was on the bench the rebounding suffered even further. Deron Williams was getting free-passes to the basket with two or three Nuggets just watching him drive by their teammate without even an inkling to step up and support their fallen man. Kyle Korver heated things up off the bench with 15 points on 3-5 from beyond the arch. Mehmet Okur was all over the offensive boards leading to eight points and nine rebounds, and as a whole the Utah Jazz blistered the offensively stale Denver Nuggets in shooting 52-42% for the half.
In the third quarter the Nuggets showed poise and when the time was right they made their move. They trimmed a 15-point lead down to seven points after getting duped out of a deuce and having to settle for one made free-throw by Kenyon Martin after a late call erased an offensive rebound and put back by Marcus Camby. Four minutes remained in the third quarter and it was obvious both teams were starting to get ornery and things boiled over, albeit momentarily, when Eduardo Najera intentionally fouled Matt “Pepper Spray” Harpring with Harpring giving his best “Don’t tase me, bro” impression on top of Najera. Seriously, Harpring has got to be one of the most annoying and antagonizing players in the league and I pretty much lost all respect him and Jerry Sloan after Sloan ran on the floor like a punk kid to a school yard tussle and Harpring flopped around like a fish out of water. I digress only because the Nuggets had brought this game back to a manageable deficit entering the fourth quarter down by only six.
The six point advantage quickly became only one for the Jazz after back-to-back three-pointers from Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson brought the game to, 83-82. Linas hit a another trey from the right wing and knotted the game at 85 with under nine minutes remaining. Six lead changes, six ties, and countless clutch shots later and the Jazz and Nuggets ended regulation tied at 106 after Carmelo missed a golden opportunity to win it at the buzzer.
In overtime, like I knew from the start, the tougher team was going to win and the Utah Jazz proved to be the physically and mentally tougher team by staying focused on Allen Iverson on defense and going to their best player, Deron Williams, on offense to outscore the Nuggets 12-9 in the extra period to maintain first place in the Northwest Division and I'll spare you the expletives
About the only silver lining I see in this game is that Denver gets to play Sloan and his crew two more times. I’ll admit it… I’m bitter! This game just raised my distaste for the Utah Jazz and all their franchise stands for to an all-time high!
All five Nugget starters scored in double-figures, but unfortunately the Nuggets dropped just their second game (20-2) when Allen Iverson records a double-double in points and assists. Iverson finished tonight’s game with a game-high 34 points and ten assists. Carmelo added 29 points and eight rebounds, but fouled out early in overtime on a ticky-tack foul trying to front Kirilenko. Along with Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby each recorded double-doubles in points and rebounds with K-Mart finishing with 18 points and ten rebounds and the Captain scoring eleven and grabbing 17 rebounds.
The biggest difference in the game tonight was bench scoring. The Jazz received 50 points from their bench with Kyle Korver leading the way with 27 points and three rebounds in comparison to the Nuggets reserves only mustering eleven points of which Linas Kleiza scored nine of. Deron Williams gave the Jazz a double-double of 29 points and eleven rebounds, and Mehmet Okur fouled out in the fourth quarter after scoring 15 points and ten rebounds.
Did I mention I really don’t like the Jazz? I can’t wait for March 8th when the Nuggets get a chance to avenge this loss in Utah!