Saturday, March 1, 2008

Nuggets Slide by Clippers

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets found a way to beat the Clippers after not being able to hold L.A. under a hundred points. Denver was led by Carmelo Anthony's 16 double-double of the year en route to a, 110-104, victory.

The Nuggets started this game at a torrid pace both offensive and defensively. Denver surrendered a respectable 22 points to the oft times offensively challenged Clippers while dropping a quick 31 on L.A. in the first quarter. I thought to myself, maybe tonight we can show some resolve on the defensive end, but that cartoon bubble quickly burst as Denver collapsed on D and surrendered 35 points to the Clippers in the second quarter.

The pace might have had something to do with it, but just because the Nuggets got out on the fast break and ran the floor shouldn't mean that the defensive end gets neglected. In fact, it should mean just the opposite seeing as defensive rebounds and steals should lead to the fast break, but the Nuggets found a way despite getting 35 points dropped on them in the quarter to counter punch with another 30-point quarter of their own finishing 30 points in the second.

In the second half, the Nuggets continued to push the pace, but offensively were not as potent. In the third, Denver tightened down the D to allow the Clippers 23 points, while fruiting 27 of their own, but in typical Nuggets fashion it wouldn't have been right unless the game was tied with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

With 1:39 remaining to play, a combination of turnovers (which the Nuggets had done a great job of limiting in the first three quarters), bad shots, and unsavory defense resulted in a, 104-104, tie. This is where the Nuggets visibly decided that this game was not going to slip away. Denver played solid D and got aggressive on the boards to ensure that they would be able to get off good shots and get to the free-throw line to win. With the game tied, AI broke the stalemate with a short jumper to give the Nuggets a two point lead. Denver then forced Corey Maggette into a tough long, off-balance, jump shot which clanked off iron enabling 'Melo to grab his twelfth rebound. Denver proceeded to run down the shot clock with their next possession before Anthony Carter took an open three, missed, and again gave Anthony the opportunity to grab another offensive rebound and put in yet another deuce to give the Nuggets a four point lead.

L.A. called timeout and drew up a quick three-point shot for Cuttino Mobley that missed allowing Marcus Camby to snatch his 16th rebound. Denver then ran as much shot clock as they could before AI hoisted a high-arching three with 13 seconds to play. Marcus Camby then tried tapping in the miss, recording his game-high 17th rebound, but unfortunately missed allowing Carmelo to pull his 14th rebound of the night and earn another deuce from the free-throw line as the Clippers fouled one more time as if it would have mattered.

'Melo scored 30 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and dished six assists in quite possibly one of his best games of the season. AI ripped through the Clippers defense for 38 points and six assists. The Captain recorded a dozen points, six rejections, and the aforementioned 17 rebounds while Kenyon Martin rounded out the double figure scoring club with 13 points and five rebounds.

The key to this win was the points in the paint. The Nuggets were a dreadful 3-20 from beyond the arch and their saving grace was outscoring L.A. 56-36 in points in the paint.

Now the schedule gets really tough for the Denver Nuggets. The month of March starts with a match-up with the Yao-less Rockets on Sunday before a four game stretch next week that includes Phoenix, San Antonio, Utah, and then the Spurs again! I want to also mention that the Nuggets have a gruelling five-game road trip smack-dab in the middle of the month too that may very well be the deciding factor in the the Nuggets' playoff aspirations. Only time will tell, Nuggets Nation. Only time will tell...

Go Nuggets!

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