Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dirk's 44 Spoiled in Denver

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets jumped all over the Mavericks early in their, 99-97, victory over Dallas for the third time this season, but it wasn’t until the final seconds of the game that Denver knew they had taken care of business. Thankfully, Mr. Big Shot once again lived up to his namesake, the Birdman was flying high, and the slam-fabulous effort from Dahntay Jones combined to give the Nuggets their 26th victory of the year.

In the first half things were looking fantastic for the Nuggets. Great ball movement fruited twelve first half assists as Denver enjoyed a double-digit lead for the majority of the second quarter. The Nuggets went into halftime up, 60-47, and things seemed to be pretty normal. Only the problem with normal is that the Nuggets normally come out flat in the second half and in the second half against the Mavericks it was Denver business, or a lack thereof, as usual. The Nuggets started out the third quarter with a decent effort, but right around the mid way point in the third things fell apart offensively as a result the Nugget offense going completely stagnant. With just under six minutes remaining in the third, Jason Terry sparked the Maverick run with a three to cut the Nuggets eleven-point lead down to just eight, 68-60. From that point and including Terry‘s trey, Dallas went on an over four-minute 10-0 run to cut the Denver lead to just one before Dahntay Jones got nasty on Eric Dampier. I present the video evidence to the Nuggets Nation:

That monstrous dunk may have been the most important deuce of the night for two reasons. The first being it lifted the Nuggets’ spirit and gave them something to cheer for as the entire team had basically stood around for the last four minutes waiting for someone to do something to stop the bleeding. The second reason is more immediately intrinsic but still related to the first, but for whatever reason Dahntay’s complete and blatant disregard for gravity paved the way for the Nuggets scoring eight more points in the final 46 seconds of the third including a half court heave from the Birdman that kissed off the square and dropped straight down into the net at the buzzer!

The Mavericks had come close enough to smell the pie cooling on the window sill at the end of the third only to have Dahntay Jones and Chris Andersen slam the window closed. But Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry were not content on going to back to Dallas without another attempt at stealing desert.

The Nuggets once again extended their six-point lead at the end of three to nine after Chris Andersen hit a baseline jumper to put the Nuggets ahead, 86-77, with over eight minutes remaining in regulation. Too bad that was Denver’s last score for the next four minutes of the fourth quarter as Dirk and Jason Terry alternated scores for nine straight Dallas points before Chauncey Billups hit a three at the four minute mark to break an, 86 -86, tie. The next four minutes were pressure filled as Dirk tried pulling out everything in his repertoire on his way to finishing the game with 44 points. Dallas took their first lead since scoring the first bucket of the game on Jason Terry’s third made three-point attempt from deep on the right wing, 93-91, with 2:11 remaining in regulation. On the very next Denver possession, J.R. Smith, who had his second miserable shooting night in as many games, then missed a wide open lay-up that would have tied the game giving Dallas possession of the ball with a two-point lead. On the next Maverick possession, Kleiza was bullied by the much larger Dirk Nowitzki on the left elbow which led to a foul and two more automatic free-throw makes for Nowitzki putting the Nuggets down by four with under two minutes to play.

Chauncey then wisely took the ball right at the slower Jason Kidd and drew a shooting foul that resulting in two made free-throws. Down by two, the Nugget defense clamped down with help from the Birdman being reinserted to relieve LK of his duties guarding Dirk and on the ensuing possession Jason Terry was forced into a long two-point jumper with the shot clock running down. The JET missed, Bird grabbed the rebound, and Chauncey went to work on Kidd again. This time, Kidd didn’t buy the head fake Chauncey Billups threw at him, but his penetration had drawn a double-team and left Nene in position for a short shot from inside the paint to tie the game at 95 apiece. Anthony Carter and Dirk Nowitzki exchanged a quick stop-and-pop jumper and a driving dunk to bring the game tied, again, at 97’s with 19 second remaining before Chauncey’s final plan was put into action.

Mr. Big Shot dribbled out nearly all of the remaining 19 seconds with the Pepsi Center on its feet before penetrating, pulling out, and popping a midrange jump shot on Jason Terry with his legs flailing in an attempt to solicit a whistle. The outside official was in perfect position to see Jason Terry crowd underneath Billups as Chauncey was in the air and the ensuing foul put Mark Cuban into a tirade that would have made Bobby Knight proud. Did Terry need to crowd Billups? No one will ever know, but the game was won with Billups sinking both attempts and thus winning an ugly game, 99-97.

Much of this victory was built on the efforts by Dahntay Jones and Chris Andersen. The Birdman recorded his second double-double of the year with 15 points and ten rebounds to fit nicely with his three steals and two blocked shots. The Birdman was 7-8 from the field and seven of his team-high ten boards came on the offensive glass. Dahntay’s effort started on the defensive end with five steals, but it carried over into 16 points and three assists on offense, including that nasty cram on Dampier that lifted the Nuggets out of their funk in the third period. As for Chauncey, despite his -4 in the +/- for the game, his team-high 23 points and four assists all seem to come at the right times. He was also 9-9 from the free-throw line and provided the steady hand the Nuggets needed down the stretch. Nene chipped in 20 points after nine in the first quarter, but only scored four in the second half. J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza continued their offensive struggles after both men hit blackjack with 21 points against the Heat. J.R. was 1-14 from the field, but did hand out a team-high seven assists while LK scored just five points and looked visibly confused at times on the offensive end.

Up next for the Nuggets are the Phoenix Suns tomorrow night. Denver is 4-1 during this seven-game home stand and are now 2-1 since losing Carmelo to a broken hand against the Pacers.

Go Nuggets!

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