Thursday, December 11, 2008

'Melo's Record Night Fuels Win

"After 33 points in the 3rd quarter, only ice could put out 'Melo's fire!"
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(Boulder-CO) If you managed to watch the first dreadful 24 minutes of the Nuggets vs. the Timberwolves game last night and came back for the second half you were treated to a very special event. Not only did the Nuggets erase a 12-point halftime deficit to come back and win the game, 116-105, but Carmelo Anthony broke David Thompson's Nuggets franchise record for points scored in a single quarter (32) by igniting for 33 points in the third on his way to scoring a season-high 45 points!
Now before I jump right into all of the statistical breakdown of Carmelo's record setting/tying third quarter, the first half still needs to be critically analyzed. Maybe it was akin to the ring rust of a boxer who hasn't fought in awhile, but the Nuggets, after not playing since Saturday night against the Kings, looked completely confused in the first half against the Timberwolves. Denver's soft interior defense was allowing the Timberwolves way too many lay-ups as they were dominated 30-20 in points in the paint while Minnesota shot 51% from the field and out rebounded the Nuggets 28-13.
Minnesota's Craig Smith finished the half with twelve points (all in the first quarter and on 5-5 from the field on mostly lay-ups) as did Al Jefferson who added nine first half rebounds. For the Nuggets, it wasn't as if their defense was terrible as a whole because they did record nine steals in the first half, but their defensive rotations were a step slow and their help-and-recover defense was next to non-existent as they allowed Minnesota to score a season-high 56 points in the first half. Offensively, I liked how Denver was attacking the basket and drawing fouls, but with the Nuggets only cashing in on a combined 8-15 from the charity stripe it was not surprising that they only totaled seven assists in the first 24 minutes and entered intermission trailing, 56-44.
And now, with no further delay, we can completely dissect and appreciate the Carmelo Anthony magic in the third quarter!

In David Thompson's 73-point performance on April 9th, 1978, "DT" scored 32 points in the first quarter to set the Nuggets franchise record for points scored in a single period. It was a feat that many basketball aficionados remember and felt would stand in the Nuggets record book forever. But, as Carmelo said in his post game interview, "Records are made to be broken."
Carmelo Anthony's 33 points, on 12-15 from the field including 4-5 from downtown, was the foundation for the Nuggets 40-point third quarter explosion and tied the NBA record set by George "The Ice Man" Gervin for most points ever scored in a single quarter. And to completely grant justice to how special of a performance it was I will now detail the ENTIRE quarter's scoring summary.
The third quarter started with Chauncey Billups connecting on a three before a Carmelo dunk cut the Minnesota lead to seven with just under eleven minutes to play.
Two down, 31 to go.
Dahntay Jones then cashed in on two from the free-throw line before 'Melo spontaneously combusted for 26 straight Denver points! Two made free-throws (4), an offensive rebound and the put back (6), two more free-throws (8), and a three (11) broken up by a missed free-throw and then a make (12) gave Carmelo 12 points in the quarter with 5:52 still to play in the third.
'Melo then drove the lane for another lay-up (14) to give the Nuggets the lead, 63-62, followed by another three (17), a dunk off a Chauncey Billups assist (19), a 16-foot jumper (21), another three (24), a pull-up twelve footer (26), and another long jumper (28) capped one of the most prolific individual scoring stretches I have ever seen!
After giving the Nuggets a, 77-74, lead with 1:38 seconds still in the third, Coach George Karl called timeout to which the Pepsi Center erupted to their feet in applause for what they had just witnessed. And, Perhaps sensing that history was within reach, Carmelo wasn't done yet!
Coming out of the timeout, Chauncey Billups drew a foul on Craig Smith to earn two free-throws and then Carmelo followed up a J.R. Smith trey with a three of his own (31) before capping off the Nuggets' 40-point third quarter with a gliding drive to the hoop and the lay in (33) with just one second left in the third and his share of NBA history!
With the Pepsi Center electrified, needless to say the Nuggets were not about to let Carmelo's offensive brilliance in the third be spoiled by a let down in the fourth, and despite the resolve of the Timberwolves to cut Denver's lead to 94-92 with 6:47 remaining the Nuggets held on for their 15th victory of the season.
Carmelo Anthony would only score three more points in the fourth quarter to finish the game with a Nuggets season-high 45 points and eleven rebounds to give him his seventh double-double of the season. It should also be mentioned that Anthony's 8.2 rebounds per game average is the highest total of all NBA small forwards.

But for all the magic that went into Carmelo's record-breaking performance he didn't act alone in giving the Nuggets their 15th W of the season. Chauncey Billups modestly captained the Nuggets with 24 points and six assists without a single turnover, and his veteran leadership was pivotal in Denver being able to hold off the Wolves when the game tightened half way through the fourth.
The win extends Denver's dominance over the T-Wolves to the NBA's longest head-to-head win streak of eight straight games and added another loss to the Timberwolves' current losing streak of seven games which is also currently the NBA's longest.
Denver will host the Warriors at Pepsi Center on Saturday night next before things get heated up with six games in nine nights thereafter.
Be sure to check out for Minnesota's reaction to 'Melo's record setting/tying performance and as always...
Go Nuggets!

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