(Denver-CO)) This game against the Thunder was like a bad roller coaster of which you throw up after getting off of only to find $50 bucks in the trash can when your done. The roller coaster was how bad the Nuggets played in the first half. Throwing up was Denver being behind by 17 points in the second quarter and allowing 70 points in the first half. Finding the $50 bucks was the Nuggets winning this game on Carmelo's 10th career-winning field goal, his second this season against the Thunder, and a career-high eleven assists while Denver orchestrated its second largest comeback win of the season without Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin in the line-up!
It pains me to do so, but I'm taking off the gloves and really going to tell you flat out what I went through in the first half at work tonight (yes, I have a job where not only is the game on, but I'm sitting there watching it with an ex-Nugget and media types alike). Now that you've been formally warned here it goes... Dahntay Jones fumbled the ball over and over again in the first quarter. The rock slipped out of his hands on a dunk attempt, he lost it on the dribble, and on defense he couldn't put a steal in his pocket if it were a silver dollar. Offensively, Carmelo Anthony acted like he had never seen a double-team before. The double would come and instead of either splitting early with the dribble or giving it up to the open man, Carmelo would ball fake his way into making either a bad pass or getting the ball stolen. However, once Carmelo accelerated his action with the ball it was poetry in motion as he would either score at the rack himself, get fouled and go the free-throw line, or find Nene for dunks. In fact, 'Melo fed Nene four assists in the first quarter, including one dime for perhaps the scummiest disregard for another player's family when Big Brazil rocked the rim so hard that Joe Smith actually ended up on his can from the sheer force the ball was thrown down with.
But things went to hell in a hand basket quickly in the second quarter after the Thunder trailed by just one at the end of the first. Oklahoma City went on a 16-5 run giving them a, 47-42, lead with 7:10 remaining because the Nuggets went absolutely narcissistic offesnively and stopped playing any kind of defense recognizable to even a junior high basketball team. Denver's transition defense was rediculous. On three separate occasions I counted Kevin Durant, Earl Watson, and Russell Westbrook stroll down the length of the court before flipping in routine lay-up as the Nuggets were scattering like roaches with a spotlight turned on. The Thunder outscored the Nuggets 20-2 in fastbreak points in the second quarter and after the Nuggets missed 18 of their first 22 shot attempts Denver found themselves down by eleven, 70-59, after allowing 39 points to be scored by the Thunder in the second quarter alone.
I was still feeling slightly nauseous after the first 24 minutes of basketball, but I will admit that an energized, and perhaps ashamed, group of Nuggets took the floor in the second half. And after a tongue-lashing that I'm sure would have made a group of Marines blush was dished out by George Karl at halftime, the Nuggets slowly but surely erased the Thunder's lead by playing with, and for, one another defensively. The Oklahoma City lead was cut to seven with less than eight minutes to go in the third. Then it started to dwindle as the Denver defense picked up. The Nuggets trimmed it to six with under six, four with under five, three with under three, and then down to just one, 86-85, with two minutes to play before a minor relapse left them down by five at the end of the third quarter.
The Nuggets had fought all the way back after playing what I strongly believe was their worst 24 minutes of basketball so far this season. The third quarter was a true testament to the Nuggets' resiliency and tendency to play to the level of their competition while also having the new trait of taking control of their own destiny before it's too late in games that shouldn't become losses.
Once the fourth quarter started I knew the Nuggets weren't going to lose this game. Denver cut the lead to one again, 98-97, with 9:25 remaining in regulation after consecutive jumpers from J.R. Smith. The Thunder surged again, but J.R. still had a trick up his sleeve with the game tied at 102 apiece. The Prodigy jumped into the passing lane and intercepted an errant pass by Jeff Green. Earl Watson had no choice but to foul Smith or allow him to bring down the house with one of his gravity-disrespecting dunks and J.R. was awarded a clear path foul which meant two shots and the ball for Denver. Smith missed the first, but made the second and on the Nuggets' ensuing possession J.R. drained a three-pointer to boost Denver into a four-point lead!
The Nuggets then lost, regained, and lost the lead again all within the last two minutes after Kevin Durant put OKC in the lead, 113-112, with 17 second remaining. Then in a moment of deja vu, the Nuggets called timeout and drew up a play for Carmelo Anthony to potentially win the game in dramatic fashion. Remember, Kevin Durant hit a huge three the last time these two teams met to give the Thunder a two-point lead with five seconds remaining before Carmelo stole his thunder with a three of his own to win the game for the Nuggets. This time around, Durant and 'Melo exchanged lay-ups with the same results. 'Melo burned some clock before going to work first driving the left side before turning back into the paint and making an impossible shot over Jeff Green and Durant for his tenth game winner of his young career!
It was the $50 bucks sitting right next to the pile of vomit this game was otherwise.
It was about as ugly of a win as there possible could be, but a memory those of us who watched will never forget. The Nuggets came back from down 17 points in this one to steal a win from the more deserving team for the second time this year. Carmelo scored a game-high 32 points and handed out a new career-high eleven assists. His was the only double-double of the game for Denver, but without J.R. Smith's 22 points, including a perfect 4-4 from the land of plenty, this win doesn't materialize. Nene did add 20 points and eight rebounds, but the true story was how Carmelo and Smith brought this team back from the grave in the second half. Both men were spectacular in different ways at different times with the result being pure magic.