I am starting to feel sorry for the Timberwolves. How many different ways can they lose games to the Denver Nuggets? Tonight it took an NBA record tying performance to turn the tide in a game where even during Carmelo Anthony’s streak in the third quarter you could easily claim that they were outplaying the Nuggets.
Before we get to the game let’s revel in a performance we will likely not see repeated for years if not decades. It went down like this: dunk, two free throws, tipped in miss, two free throws, three pointer, free throw, lay up, three pointer, dunk, jumper, three pointer, jumper, jumper, three pointer and a lay up.
33 points in 10:55 which ties George Gervin’s NBA record for points in a quarter that stood unopposed for over 30 years. He also bested the great David Thompson’s franchise record of 32 which was set the same day. Before we move on here are some impressive facts about Melo’s third quarter. He hurt his left arm early in the quarter on a screen set by Rashad McCants (although obviously not that badly). At one point he made 26 straight points for the Nuggets. He had one man runs of 9-0 and 7-0. Melo made four straight three pointers. And last but not least, Melo scored so many points the Altitude team had a hard time figuring out how many he actually had. I am sure someone has video of Melo’s performance online somewhere, but I will try to get it out there tomorrow.
As incredible as Melo’s unbelievable explosion was we should not let it overshadow the fact that Denver played a terrible first half and even though they played very good defense to start the third quarter they basically stopped playing defense after Melo scored about his 16th point.
There are certain games where the Nuggets continue to show improved positioning and rotation from last season, but they play soft. The difference is they do not pressure the ball and give too much room to shooters. The result is a quarter like the first quarter tonight where Minnesota scored 30 points on over 70% shooting. Denver did come out after halftime and played much more aggressively, but as I mentioned, they let up during Melo’s run and allowed the Wolves to remain in the game despite a 40 point quarter.
You have to give the Wolves a lot of credit. Even though they have lost eight straight to the Nuggets, they play every game with no fear and from the outside it looks like they expect to win. The game remained close with the Timberwolves within two inside seven minutes left in the game. At that point they seemed to run out of steam due to the fact they were playing for the second night in a row.
J.R. made a nice three point play taking the baseline when Randy Foye went high on the screen to trigger a seven point run. Love missed an open 18 footer after it bounced on the rim three times. Chris Andersen tipped in a Melo miss. Sebastian Telfair took a bad three and then Melo made a layup after failing to dump the ball off to Nene in traffic. That was to me the key sequence in the game and it was not really due to any increased defensive pressure by Denver. They did do a good job of doubling Al Jefferson so he could not get a shot off, but Minnesota flat out missed back to back open shots.
The Timberwolves hurt the Nuggets on the offensive glass all night, but they only nabbed one offensive board the last nine minutes of the game. Part of that was due to an increased effort by the Nuggets to fight for position, but I think the fact that Minnesota ran out of gas had as much to do with it as anything Denver did.
The Nuggets remain in first place in the Northwest a half game ahead of Portland and a game and a half ahead of the Jazz. Next up Denver has two more days of practice and rest before a Saturday night hoem game against Golden State. Then they face three straight back to back sets against some very good teams which will tell us a lot about how good this team can really be.
Other Observations from Game 22:
- I think the key to the game was Kenyon Martin’s tie. In the first half he had a pinkish/lavender tie on, but he came out after halftime sans tie. Chris Marlowe and Bill Hanzlik suggested that George Karl must have had some choice words for them at halftime, but we know the difference was Martin losing the girlie tie.
- Early in the fourth quarter J.R. Smith took a catch and shoot 20 foot jumper after curling off of a screen. Even though he was running off a screen running away from the rim he did a great job of squaring up and getting balanced on his jump stop after catching the pass. It was a long shot, but very sound and drilled it. A couple of possessions later he came off the same curl and took a catch and shoot 20 foot jumper only this time he was fading and never got completely square. He might think he took the same shot as before, but he needs to realize the reason the first one went in was due to his great mechanics and not due to the fact he was J.R. Smith.
- Linas Kleiza continues to disappoint. Even for someone like me who believed he had fulfilled his potential last season and expected no further improvement has been disappointed by his shaky play. Tonight Kleiza only played 15 minutes despite the absence of Kenyon Martin. Kleiza is on the floor to run the court and provide some offense off the bench. We may see some explosive nights from him a few times a season, but you better believe you will hear his name in plenty of trade rumors between now and the third week in February and I think the chances of his departure are increasing by the game.
- With the win tonight George Karl has passed Kevin McHale in the all time ranks for winning percentage. I would like to offer Coach Karl a laurel and hardy handshake for such a great accomplishment.
- Craig Smith had his way with the Nuggets in the first half and I was a little surprised to see Renaldo Balkman have such a difficult time keeping him from driving from the free throw line to the rim.
Razzle Dazzle Game Stats
The pace factor for the game was a somewhat pedestrian 93.6, which is a little below their home court pace factor to enter the game of 95.4.
The Nuggets defensive efficiency was a disappointing 112.2, but when you mail in an entire half against a hungry team that is what you get.
Denver did have another impressive offensive efficiency rating posting a 123.9 for the game. They have achieved an offensive efficiency rating of at least 110.0 in seven of their previous nine games and have raised their season rating up to 109.2, which is inching toward top five offense territory.