The first quarter was a great start for Nene and Carmelo Anthony. Big Brazil scored ten while Carmelo added nine as the Nuggets scored 31 points in the first. Denver’s defense left a little to be desired as they allowed 27 to the Thunder, but for the pace the game was being played at it was a solid quarter for the Nuggets. Kevin Durant scored the final twelve Thunder points in the first quarter to close what was at one point a seven-point Nugget lead with just over a minute to play down to just four entering the secodn quarter.
In the second, Denver completely self destructed. The Nuggets only had two turnovers in the first quarter, but eight more in the second led to 20 points off of for the Thunder at the break. The flip side of the stat wasn’t so kind to the Nuggets. Denver forced seven turnovers, but only capitalized on those miscues for five points. Additionally, the Nuggets surrendered the most points scored by the Thunder in a quarter this season (38) in the second thanks to those eight turnovers and thus trailed at the half, 65-52.
Did I mention the Nuggets had EIGHT turnovers in the second quarter?
The Denver tease of a defense the Nuggets displayed in the first never picked up either. The Nuggets were singed after the Thunder shot 60% from the field led by Kevin Durant’s 16 points and former Nugget Earl Watson’s 13 points off the bench. About the only bright spots after the Nuggets came up empty on that many possessions before the half were Carmelo Anthony and Nene. Both Nuggets went into intermission with 15 points with Nene grabbing eight rebounds while Carmelo added seven.
The second half started right where the Nuggets left off - being embarrassed by the Thunder. Oklahoma City connected on twelve straight made baskets spanning back into the second quarter as they opened up a 16-point lead, 75-59. It was at this point that I thought for sure the Nuggets had overlooked the Thunder thiking about their seven-game home stand looming on tomorrow's horizon. Oklahoma City was playing more physical than Denver, their fans were into it, and the Nuggets were obviously discombobulated.
However, Denver managed to hang around long enough for Chauncey Billups to ignite offensively. Billups scored 14 of Denver’s next 20 points spanning the entire second half of the third quarter and into the first two minutes of the fourth and by doing so single handedly pumped new life into the Nuggets. It started with two cold-blooded, back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Oklahoma lead to just seven points with 4:52 remaining in the third.
It was at this point that the Nuggets knew they still had a chance to steal Oklahoma’s Thunder and by tightening the defense the Nuggets outscored OKC 33-24 in the fourth. After two made free-throws by Carmelo Anthony tied the game at 108 with 3:42 still to play, rookie Russell Westbrook scored four straight points before an offensive rebound and put back by Nene, and Chauncey Billups hit his fourth three of the game to give Denver its first lead since the 9:51mark in the second quarter, 115-114.
The game came to another tie at 118 after Kevin Durant drove the lane and laid the ball in, but after running down the shot clock the Nuggets came up empty on a long three attempt by Chauncey Billups which left 3.4 seconds remaining for the Thunder to get a shot up. The Thunder advanced the ball to half court and Jeff Green inbounded the ball to Kevin Durant who drained what would have been the game-winning shot had it not been for Carmelo trumping it with Denver’s fifth three of the fourth quarter from the left corner. It was a shot reminiscent of the game-winner he hit against Minnesota almost three years ago to lift the Nuggets to a, 102-101, victory and much like the fans at the Target Center in Minneapolis - the patrons at the Ford Center were left speechless after Anthony’s ninth career game-winner!
But Anthony wasn’t the only Nugget who had a spectacular night. Nene, without a doubt, had his best game of the year. Big Brazil scored a season-high 27 points on 10-11 from the field and recorded his tenth double-double of the season with a game-high 14 rebounds. Nene also recorded four old fashioned three-point plays and was 7-8 from the free-throw line. Chuancey Billups led the Nuggets with seven assists and was 4-8 from the land of plenty while tallying 24 points in total while characteristically turning the ball over just once. Anthony Carter also played a nice game finishing with seven assists off the bench in just 15 minutes of playing time.
As I said before, the Nuggets really had no business winning this game. The Thunder played more physical, wanted it more, and played with more intensity than Denver, but yet still haven’t learned how to finish when a team is ready to go belly up. Fortunately, the Nuggets lingered around long enough to find new life, but at a certain point you’ve got to feel sorry for the Thunder. Now at 4-30 overall, they deserved to have Kevin Durant’s last second heroics stand on their record as a win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and when you let a team like the Nuggets hang around you open the door to get robbed and that’s just what Denver did.