In the first half, the Nuggets were trailing the Cats by ten after the first 24 minute’s conclusion. The combination of getting badly out-rebounded on the defensive glass gave the Bobcats a huge advantage (Marcus was sorely missed in this regard) and the extra possessions kept the Nuggets without the ball for a disproportional amount of time. At this point, I was thinking the home court was about to be compromised and Denver was about to lose to the Bobcats, again. The Nuggets had surrendered 67 points on 61% shooting to a team that is not known for scoring, and without, arguably, their best player (Gerald Wallace). But, if there was anything to be positive about in the first half it was Carmelo Anthony going reverse for a filthy slam that proved to me the extra games missed were well worth his full, and 100%, return to the line-up.
In the third quarter, the Nuggets once again looked uninspired with the score, 87-77, when they exploded with a 23-3 run which included 15 straight at one point! These are the Nuggets are I’m used to seeing smoke out their opponents at home with a dizzying barrage of offense and the kind of defense I know they are capable of playing. The only thing that confuses me still is what snaps in the minds of these players that makes them so different from one quarter to the next. In ESPN’s game recap George Karl is quoted as saying, “There are too many times where I walk into that locker room and we are letting a team shoot over 55 percent on us. Then, we change our face and personality and we look like the San Antonio Spurs on defense.”
And the Spur-like defense proved to be exactly what ignited the Nuggets’ offense. The Yak put the clamps down on Jason Richardson (who, by the way, would tie a season-high with 38 points) but the Bobcats as a team only managed to score 14 points in the money quarter as the Nuggets put up a 35-point effort that cemented the win. Carmelo Anthony led all Nugget scorers with a double-double performance of 25 points and ten rebounds, Allen Iverson was right behind his All-Star Starting comrade with 24 points and 13 assists which brings the Nuggets to a 20-1 all-time record when he double-doubles in said categories, and Linas Kleiza continues to be Denver’s most reliable third scoring option finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Steven Hunter, in a rare playing role never mind the start, scored eight points, snared six rebounds, and blocked two shots in a very quiet but effective outing as Kenyon Martin and Anthony Carter each scored ten to round out the starting five’s offensive production. And if there is any other aspect of the Nuggets eighth straight home victory that I can directly attribute this win to it is the Nuggets lack of turnovers (only eleven) and the ability to not allow those turnovers to translate into points (only six) for the Charlotte Bobcats.
With the win, the Nuggets (28-18) are now only a game behind Utah (30-18) with Monday’s trip up to see the currently third place Portland Trailblazers (27-19) ahead of them. A win would put the Blazers another full game behind the Nuggets in the Northwest Divisional standings, while a loss would bring Portland into a tie with the Nuggets for second place. Denver will then host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday in a game that could potentially decide who emerges as the division’s top dog. But first, the Nuggets have to take care of Portland. One game at a time, Nuggets Nation. One game at a time!