Have you ever seen an ending like that?!?! The refs must decide if Brad Miller's quick jumper with :00.3 seconds left on the clock was still in his hand ... if it's good the Bulls win 91-90 ... if it's still on his finger tips then it's no good and Denver sneaks out of Chicago with a 90-89 win. Fortunately, the ball was still on Miller's fingertip and Denver snaps a two-game losing streak.
I am not going to lie. When that shot by Miller touched nothing but net ... I felt pretty awful. Denver controlled most of game and for Chicago to slip in and steal the win would have burned. Suddenly the Nuggets would have been on a three-game losing streak and Earl Smith III or ESIII's return would have been spoiled.
Fortunately for the Nuggets head official Mark Wunderlich wasn't afraid to make the unpopular and correct call and Denver got the win. To paraphrase what Scott Hastings said to Chauncey Billups in the post game interview, sometimes it's better to learn a lesson and still win the game rather than to learn a lesson and lose the game.
The biggest problem with the final play was that the Nuggets left Miller wide open at the top of the key and he had a clean look at the hoop with no defender in sight. So, the Nuggets still got the win, but they should have been able to put this game away a lot earlier.
The Denver Post article that mentioned J.R. or Earl Smith wanted to go by Earl instead of J.R. must not have been read by Altitude play-by-play man Chris Marlowe as he referred to Smith as "J.R." roughly 673 times during the game. But it was good to see Smith back on the floor. He finished 1-9 shooting (3-4 free throws, 0-3 three-point), scored 5 points, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers, and 5 assists. The thing that impressed me about Smith was his ability to recognize that after going 1-2 to start the game and 0-7 afterwards that he was going to be an asset distributing the ball. He took shots when he was open and started the game attacking the rim and missing a layup that he will not miss throughout the season. A little rust, but he did play a nice 29 minutes and even made a small difference on the boards with a couple nice grabs in traffic.
Denver's bigs (K-Mart, Nene, and Bird) combined for 31 of Denver's 46 team rebounds. I think that was the Nuggets' bigs best effort on the boards ... even though Joakim Noah grabbed 21 boards by himself (of his team's 44). Speaking of Martin, he played some tough basketball and having him on the floor made a big difference.
Another big difference tonight was George Karl inserting Arron Afflalo into the starting lineup. This was an expected play, but one we hadn't seen yet this season. Double-A responded with a nice game in just 19 minutes scoring 10 points on 4-8 shooting (2-3 from downtown) ... I can't help but wonder what he would have done with those 8 minutes that Anthony Carter got. Karl should have recognized Afflalo's hot hand and ridden him a bit more than just 19 minutes. Perhaps the trust in Afflalo will build as the season wears on because he's looking better and better in each game.
The trust in Ty Lawson seems to be improving as well. Lawson got the bulk of the backup point guard minutes (18) and Karl even trusted the rookie to start the final quarter with Denver up just 71-66 and Lawson played a great portion of the fourth as Billups didn't replace him until the 4:50 mark. I think it's safe to say this kid has earned the backup duties and will continue to get steady minutes.
A few random notes:
- Chris Andersen (who continues to look unimpressive) started the game without a headband, but came back in the second half sporting a headband.
- Melo scored his 11,000 point as a Denver Nugget on a fastbreak layup feed from ESIII.
- The combo of ESIII, Melo and Lawson is going to create some exciting plays this season.
- Derrick Rose is not 100% ... his ankle injury is still lingering. Always sort of a disappointment when a young star is not able to show you their skills.
- At the 10:25 mark of the fourth quarter Lawson found Nene on a pick-and-roll heading towards the hoop ... Nene went up and THUNDERED down a right handed dunk that shook the entire hoop and gave Denver a 75-68 lead. Wish we saw that Nene a bit more.
- Melo thought he had yet another game winner when he sank a baseline fadeaway with just 13.1 seconds remaining, but it wasn't to be.
- I'm still a bit confused how the refs determined that it took Noah just 0:00.3 seconds to secure a rebound, come down in that short amount of time, and get a timeout.
- Either way you look at this game ... you'll be happy if you are a Denver fan and miserable if you are a Bulls fan.
The Nuggets have another game tomorrow night in Milwaukee as part of yet another of their 22 back-to-back sets. This was a big win from a moral standpoint. The roadtrip is coming to an end and the Nuggets needed a break ... they didn't get a lucky break, but they sure are glad Brad Miller has long hands.
Photo Courtesy of AP Photos: Charles Rex Arbogast