In the first half, it was the story of the Dr. Jekyll. The Nuggets were up by as many as 23 points before entering intermission up by 14, 64-50. Kenyon Martin had already recorded a double-double at the break with 13 points and eleven rebounds. Allen Iverson was the team’s high scorer with 17 points. Collectively, the Nuggets shot 26 free throws by aggressively attacking the basket. As for the three defensive departments I mentioned in this game's preview (blocks, forced turnovers, and steals), the Nuggets were having a good showing. They out-played the Bucks in all three categories 6-4 in blocks, 5-0 in steals, and 7-4 in the turnover battle. Denver was also out rebounding the Bucks 30-24 in the first 24 minutes of play while holding all Bucks except for Michael Redd (26 points at the break) to single figures in scoring.
After halftime, enter Mr. Hyde.
The Nuggets only grabbed three rebounds in the third quarter and a total of ten for the second half losing the overall battle of the boards, 53-40. Denver also collapsed defensively. After holding the majority of the Bucks in check offensively, Milwaukee finished with four players in double figures including a season-high 42 points for Micheal Redd. The Bucks came into this game with the 27th ranked offense scoring only 94 points per game, but the Nuggets went to pieces and allowed them to score 65 points in the second half and paste them with 115 points, 21 more than they average. Offensively, the Nuggets managed only 45 points as they fell in love with the jump shot and cooled off considerably from the first half. The Nuggets also only shot three free-throws in the third quarter (and eight overall in the half) before I stopped counting how many times they could have attacked the basket in hopes of getting rewarded with a trip to the free-throw line and started to count how many times they made one pass and hoisted a jumper. The result was a stagnant offense that fell short of the magic mark of 25 assists, which the Nuggets average when they win, as Denver finished with 22 dimes.
Talk about stubbing your toe. This was a game that the Nuggets needed to stash away a W in before the schedule gets considerably tougher for the next eight games. Denver has to play Detroit on Monday night before having to face Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio (twice), and the conference rival Utah Jazz.
The obligatory box score recap reads Allen Iverson 26 points and five assists, Carmelo Anthony 25 points and seven rebounds, J.R. Smith 20 points and four assists on 6-15 shooting, Kenyon Martin 15 points and a season-high 14 rebounds, and Marcus Camby six points, ten rebounds, and four blocks.
Now we’re going to really see what kind of character this team is made of down the stretch. With their backs against the wall, I have a sneaking suspicion that things may be on the brink of unraveling. I hope I’m wrong, but the road ahead is tough and the Nuggets are not showing me much in the cardiology department. How much do you want it, Denver? We’re going to see clearly what this team is made of in this next stretch of eight games.