Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Kinda Loss that Hurts the Most

There was no 40-point explosion from Linas Kleiza and apparently the Nuggets only win against Utah this year necessitated that kind of outburst by a third offensive option. The Jazz took Denver’s best effort to fight back after extending an early 16 point lead in the first quarter, but managed to blow the game wide open in the second half after momentarily losing the lead to win, 124-97.

The first quarter was exactly how the Nuggets didn’t want to start out the game. Utah drew first blood and quickly led 15-5. The early lead would balloon into a 40-point first quarter as the Nuggets late arrival offensively and lack of defensive agenda left them trailing 40-25 after twelve. Allen Iverson and Carmelo did their best to bail the Nuggets out of their slow start offensively and combined for 22 of the Nuggets’ 25 points, but Denver missed six of their 14 free-throws in what was an overall sloppy quarter.

Following that nightmare of a start, the Nuggets pounced all over the Jazz in the second with a 17-2 run right out of the gate. Denver renewed its defense by switching to that zone we saw against Golden State, got out and ran their fast break, and connected on seven of their first ten shots including J.R. Smith’s old fashioned three-point play to tie the game at 42. The Jazz held the Nuggets at bay by 3-5 points throughout the majority of the quarter with the score knotting again at 55, but Utah was able fight off the Nuggets going into the half up by three, 62-59. Allen Iverson led the way for the Nuggets offensively with 20 first half points. Carmelo added 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a steal. The Jazz were paced by the unlikely duo of Ronnie Brewer (16 points and four rebounds) and Mehmet Okur (11 points and six rebounds) in the first half.

In the first six minutes of the second half, the Nuggets would shave the Utah lead to two or fewer points on numerous occasions, but each time the Jazz would find a way to score a couple of buckets and nurse that lead. However, the Nuggets momentarily took the lead, 71-70, with 6:40 remaining in the third on a jump shot from the right wing by Anthony Carter.

The Nuggets first lead of the game was short lived and a momentum changing and scary moment at the four minute mark occurred when Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony tangled up and Williams hit the floor awkwardly. Anthony was assessed the flagrant foul on what didn’t appear to be a dirty play, but nevertheless, in Utah that call gets made when the home team’s star guard hits the deck hard. Following the made free throws and the ball, the Utah Jazz extended their lead to nine points after two made free throws by Ronnie Price on the ensuing possession. Utah’s momentum peaked at just under the three minute mark with their lead back up to eleven, 86-75, and the game went into the fourth, 90-79. 24 of Utah’s 28 third quarter points came from buckets scored inside the paint and the Nuggets were going to have to play a tremendous stretch of defensive basketball if they were going to hand the NBA’s best home team their fifth home loss.

But in the fourth, the Nuggets went out without as much as a whimper. The Utah defense smothered Denver on the perimeter, and quick shots and turnovers combined to leave the Nuggets down by as many as twenty, 105-85, before George Karl waived the white flag of surrender and cleared the bench to rest the starters.

Allen Iverson led the charge for the Nuggets with 28 points and two assists and Carmelo scored a quiet 22 points and grabbed five rebounds, but without another offensive weapon the Nuggets were outmatched offensively. J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza (12 points five rebounds) were the only other Nuggets to score in double figures and Smith’s eleven points were all but nullified by his four turnovers and no assists. The Nuggets collectively turned the ball over 16 times resulting in 28 Jazz points while the Jazz were much more economical allowing only six points off their ten miscues.

Remember, for all intents and purposes, the Warriors are already sitting and waiting at 50 wins. The Nuggets now have to take care of business on the their home floor against the Rockets on Sunday and the Grizzlies on Wednesday to ensure their spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Otherwise, Denver’s playoff lives will not completely be in their own hands and the Nuggets will need Golden State to lose at least one game if they do not sweep this two-game home stand.

Bring it home at home, Denver.

Go Nuggets!

1 comment:

ThaAnswer said...

Game changed on that "flagrant" foul call. And the D looked so so bad through most of the game. What a frustrating team to watch. Once again we're relying on other teams to come through and bail us out. Go Clippers....