This game overall was fantastic. Let me just say that first and foremost. There was playoff atmosphere in the Rose Garden even before the officials threw the tip and both teams managed to come back from sizeable leads in the first three quarters. Denver led by as many as 17 points in the first half before finding themselves down by seven with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Nuggets then battled back with a 14-7 run to finish out the third after Allen Iverson heaved in a 35-foot three-pointer to conclude the third sending both teams to their benches with 78 points apiece. Heavyweight championship worthy? Maybe not, but this game had some great individual efforts, a lot of intensity, and about as much on the line as a game can have at this time of year.
Carmelo was hit with a technical foul with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter for arguing with Steve Javie after getting hacked on the previous play three times on three separate, and consecutive offensive rebounds and you could tell the war was on. Neither team was showing retreat, and things were just starting to get hot.
With :39 remaining, and the Nuggets down by two, 97-99, Allen Iverson made the most clutch basket of the season yet when he drained a 25-foot trey off of a Carmelo Anthony assist. An otherwise raucous crowd of better than 20,000 Trailblazer fans had never been so quiet. Portland still had a chance to win the game, but it was so quiet in the Rose Garden it was as if they had already lost. After both teams were unsuccessful on their next possessions, Kenyon Martin was forced to foul Travis Outlaw which resulted in Outlaw splitting his free-throws and overtime.
In overtime, it was only fitting that the lead would switch back and forth one more time before Allen Iverson reminded us all why he is still an All-Star. With less than a second remaining and the game tied at 103, AI pulled up and faded his way into a game-winning 15 footer. And after all the heavy punches were traded, the Nuggets were the last ones standing.
Both All-Stars from Denver performed at their highest levels. Allen Iverson played in a game-high 50 minutes while scoring 25 points, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing eight assists. Carmelo managed to score a game-high 28 points while recording his 13th double-double of the season with 15 big rebounds and five assists. Kenyon added a double-double of his own of 13 points and eleven rebounds and Linas Kleiza got things cooking off the bench finishing with 15 points and three boards.
Sure the dramatic win is great, but it’s the things that can be built upon a game like this that are invaluable later in the season and, hopefully, come playoff time. This is one of the few games this year that Denver has had to really persevere through four quarters of basketball to win. The overtime win against Houston was another that comes to mind but when you think about it… there hasn‘t been a ton of really hard fought games this season so far for the Nuggets. Usually they either control things for much of the game and never really wince as the opposition strikes its best attempt or they never really show the kind of fire it takes to win on that night from jump street. So, a win like this provides an example of how it feels to not only play tough for nearly a full 48 minutes (and in this case, 53) but also how a game that is so intense gets won. Which, for a team that has still not been able to tie together enough consistently intense basketball to win a playoff series, is once again, invaluable.