It is late and there is another big game coming up tomorrow night, but we need to get something posted about this amazing game by the Nuggets.
In the second half the Nuggets played as well as I have seen them play in a long time. Quite frankly it was very inspiring to watch as a Nugget fan. A lot of the frustration seemed to melt away watching them handle the Spurs so easily in the second half. Popovich even sat Duncan, Parker (who was awful tonight) and Ginobili for the last six minutes.
Denver showed how incredible they can be when the play hard on both ends of the floor and things are going their way.
Every Nugget who played meaningful minutes contributed tonight.
AI was tremendous in the first quarter and his play ensured that they were still in the game after one.
Things were shaky in the second quarter, but Najera showed a precursor of things to come by playing tremendous defense on Duncan.
The third quarter began with Melo getting hot and that just started this team rolling like a fat guy down a ski slope.
Anthony Carter played gritty defense on Manu Ginobili and his sad little bald spot.
Camby hit the glass and J.R. was all over the floor.
As well as everyone played I would have to give Najera a tip of the cap as the key player of the game. He always plays hard, but tonight his defense against Duncan was amazing. He has never held Timmy in check like that before as a Nugget. Add in the hustle to steal the ball away from Parker by diving on the ground at half court and then flipping the ball to AI to trigger a layup by J.R. and some clutch perimeter shooting and Najera had perhaps his best all around game as a Nugget and perhaps his career.
Melo showed some mental toughness after letting the Spurs and officials get in his head a little in the first half. AI worked his way back slowly in the second half after hurting the ring finger on his shooting hand in the second quarter. By the time he started shooting again late in the third it did not seem to bother him.
If this team can play with the passion and effort they displayed in the second half they can beat anyone and not only will they make the playoffs, but they will be a handful once they get there.
The Nuggets have now played back to back good games at home against two teams ahead of them in the standings. Now they need to do it again tomorrow night in Utah.
Both teams are going to be playing for the second night in a row as Utah beat Phoenix in Phoenix tonight.
Other Observations From Game 61:
- It is funny to watch Ime Udoka try to do things he sees Bruce Bowen get away with only to get called for the foul. He fits in very well with the Spurs as he has the look of disbelief and overreaction to correct calls down pat.
- The Nuggets played quite a bit of zone tonight and it was pretty effective. It helped that Michael Finley, who usually throttles the Nuggets, shot and defended poorly.
- I like how Hubie Brown, among other announcers, continues to stick to what he said even after watching video that disproves what he thinks he saw.
- At this time of night I am not going to go back and look through all the game stats, but I doubt many teams have shot 54% against the Spurs this season.
- I mentioned how everyone contributed and Kleiza had a pretty quiet night, but he did manage to tie his career high with four assists in only 16 minutes. His ankle is really bothering him and it is certainly affecting his performance on the court. His ankle is so bad that he has questioned whether or not he will be able to play in the Olympics in August.
- The Nuggets definitely controlled the pace in the second half. ESPN showed a chart with the number of possessions and they already had 100 with a few minutes left in the game. It was the first time in the three games this season against the Spurs the Nuggets had the pace in their favor.
- The Spurs played pretty well and they will get another shot at Denver on Monday, but it will again be the back end of a back to back as they play in Phoenix on Sunday.
For some Spurs related insight click here to check out Pounding the Rock.