Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nuggets Win Fifth Straight Sans Carmelo

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets didn’t miss a beat against the Heat as they won their fifth straight game for the first time this season, 108-97, in the first game without the injured Carmelo Anthony. The win improves the Nuggets’ home record this season to 12-5 at the Pepsi Center as Denver is currently holding the second seed in the Western Conference while extending their divisional lead to 3 ½ games over the Portland Trailblazers who have lost two in a row.

This game got out to a very inauspicious start with Chauncey Billups picking up two early fouls in the first quarter. Two early fouls on Michael Beasley in the first quarter balanced things out a bit, but ten first quarter points for Beasley kept the Heat competitive through one. However, even with Chauncey on the pine, the Nuggets played complimentary and within their own games. Kenyon had a great block on D-Wade and I was especially impressed with the Denver defense as they held the Heat to just 21 points on just 8-20 shooting in the first quarter. Wade was held to just two points in the first much to the praise of Dahntay Jones’ hounding effort, but if there was one area the Nuggets could eliminate it was the seven turnovers in the first quarter of which materialized into ten of Miami’s first quarter points.

The second quarter opened up with Chris Andersen and Anthony Carter hooking up with a great alley-oop on a fast break opportunity off of a made basket. Two early fouls on Chris Andersen then brought Nene back in the game with over ten minutes still to play in the second before Kleiza hit his third three to extend the lead from three to six, 35-29. The Nuggets were energized after a great extra effort on the offensive boards by Linas Kleiza and Nene that created an extra opportunity of which Chauncey cashed in a big three to put the Nuggets up by nine, 44-35. An amazing drive by J.R. Smith finished with a fancy reverse extended the lead to eleven, 46-35.

Wade heated up with 12 second quarter points to finish the half with 14 points after the aforementioned slow start, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Nuggets from closing the half with all the momentum after back-to-back beautiful lay-ins by Chauncey were followed up by a sneaky steal by J.R. Smith finished at the buzzer with a two handed slam as the red game clock light exploded like fireworks. However, the basket was waived off and the Nuggets concluded the half up by 11 for the third time, 59-48. At the break, LK had exploded for 15 points in 19 first half minutes. Denver was sharing the ball well with 15 first half assists and were led by unselfish play on both ends of the floor. J.R. gave the Nuggets a big boost of the bench with nine first half points.

The Nuggets weathered Miami’s scoring storm led by Dwyane Wade’s seven of the Heat’s first 13 points in the third of which cut Denver’s lead to just three before Chauncey Billups and LK combined for five-straight Nugget points. But before that point it was tedious basketball to watch for the Nuggets Nation. Denver had come out flat offensively missing ten of their first eleven field goals as a result of too much stand and watch basketball. This horrible stretch of offense in combination with Dwyane Wade heating up was broken up by Chauncey’s crafty bank shot and his heady dish back to Kleiza in transition which set Linas up for his fourth three of the game and extended Denver’s whittled down lead back up to eight, 71-63. Mr. Big Shot then made a three of his own from the same spot on the left wing that LK just hit from to extend Denver’s lead to eleven for the fourth time of the game, 74-63.

Enter J.R. Smith.

The Prodigy scored seven of the Nuggets final nine points of the third quarter to put the Nuggets back up by eleven again, 83-72, at the end of three.

The Nuggets could have maintained the momentum from J.R. Smith’s flurry to end the third but that would have just been too easy. The damage had already been done and Miami’s 10-2 run to open the fourth brought the game within three before Nene’s jumper broke Denver’s drought of missed field goals. Chris Andersen then rejecting our old friend Yakhouba Diawara’s futile attempt around the basket to emotionally recharge the Nuggets, and the Bird continued to soar as he scored three more consecutive points, and perhaps the most important three points of the game, to put the Nuggets back up by eight, 90-82, with just seven minutes remaining.

Enter J.R. Smith

With the Nugget lead once again trimmed back to just six points, the Prodigy put the Nuggets back up by nine with a three, 99-90, followed by an ill-advised three of which he missed but made up for with a hustle play on a loose ball that led to a soaring two-handed slam to keep the Heat at bay.

And wouldn’t you just know it?

The Nuggets beat the Heat by eleven, 108-97, after Kenyon Martin made his tenth three in just 17 attempts on the season and Dwyane Wade threw in a garbage bucket off the glass!

The win gives the Nuggets their first five-game win streak of the season and came by way of three different Nuggs scoring 21 points. Linas Kleiza, Chauncey Billups, and J.R. Smiths’ equal while different efforts more than made up for the absence of Carmelo. Linas led the trio in rebounding with seven rebounds, Chauncey led in assists with six, and J.R. led in steals and blocks with three and one respectively. The Nugget bigs also all had well balanced games. Starters Nene and Kenyon Martin each scored 14 while Kenyon’s team-high eight rebounds and game-high tying three blocks were crucial as Nene was an uncharacteristic 4-9 from the field shooting. The Birdman Chris Andersen also deserves special mentioning as does Anthony Carter. The Bird gave another yeoman effort of six points, seven rebounds, and a pair of blocks in a very productive 21 minutes while his reserve running mate handed out a game-high nine assists.

And it’s no surprise with such balanced scoring that Denver also shared the ball very effectively. The Nuggets out passed the Heat 24-19 in the march of dimes and dominated the boards 41-34 by way of every Nugget that played grabbing at least two rebounds.

The win brings the 25-12 Nuggets 13 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season and improves Denver to 19-3 when scoring over 100 points. Up next for the streaking Mile High crew is a reunion of sorts with Allen Iverson and the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. Feelings are sure to be mixed when AI comes to town for the first time since being traded for Chauncey Billups after Denver opened up their season 1-3.

Go Nuggets!

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