Chauncey Billups, fresh off being named the Western Conference Player of the Week, went for a near triple-double of 27 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds. And Arron Afflalo put on a three-point shooting clinic as the Nuggets defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 104-93.
The Nuggets were without Carmelo Anthony tonight and towards the end of the first half the team would also be without Kenyon Martin. Gerald "Crash" Wallace barreled his way into the lane, where his elbow met J.R. Smith’s face and sent the shooting guard to the ground in a heap. Smith was whistled for the foul and K-Mart decided to take the issue up with the refs … he was called for a technical foul. Stephen Jackson stepped to the foul line and bricked the technical shot. Martin walked into the lane and applauded the miss and either said something that referee Kenny Mauer didn’t like or the applauding did him in as Mauer immediately whistled him for another technical prompting an automatic ejection.
Martin took his time leaving the floor and had some additional things to say to Mauer. With the game still very much in doubt I was worried that the ejection of K-Mart would allow the Bobcats an advantage on the glass and perhaps give them a way to win the game. The Nuggets kept their composure and Malik Allen did an all right job filling in for Martin, but it was really Billups and Afflalo that took over.
Whenever the Nuggets needed to get to the foul line, Billups seemed to get there. When the Nuggets needed a shot to fall, Afflalo unleashed his high releasing three that found the bottom of the net 6 out of 7 times. Afflalo’s career-high matching 24 points continued to show that he is more than capable of carrying a bit of the offensive load and that he definitely is not a "defensive specialist." Afflalo wants to be known as an all-around player and his game is doing his talking.
The Nuggets are now winners of seven straight games and got a little revenge on the Bobcats.
--J.R. Smith was the last Nugget on the floor tonight for pre-game shoot around (just before tipoff). He came out of the tunnel and went through the "high-five squad" (a group of kids who welcome the players onto the floor) and interacted a bit with the kids. Smith and Renaldo Balkman also interact with about every fan sitting courtside before player introductions … it’s actually pretty sweet that they have this ritual with the fans. As for the game … J.R. checked into the game late in the first quarter (his usual time) and he didn’t seem affected by the situation. He came in after a timeout so there was not a chance for him to be announced by the crowd and that was a bit of a disappointment, as I wanted to see if there was any reaction from the fans.
When Smith was on the floor, coach Karl barked a few instructions to him. It was actually nice to see that there was some interaction between the two. Perhaps this game served to allow Smith to move past the Hornets fiasco … he started the game 3-3, but from that point was just 2 for 11 as his shot faltered (5-14 to end the night). I wish J.R. would take the ball inside a bit more during this slump and overall just get to the rim more. I wonder if J.R.’s poor foul shooting has discouraged him from driving to the hole … probably not, but I wonder. Smith also received a nice mouse under his right eye (stemming from Crash Wallace) that I could even see from my seats. I liked Smith’s hustle throughout the game as he was active and tuned in all night during his 28 minutes.
--Afflalo’s 36 minutes and fine shooting kept Ty Lawson on the bench a little more than usual (17 minutes). Every time the ball left Afflalo’s hand it looked good and it was usually good. Thank you Joe Dumars! Oh and Spellcheck added 7 assists as well.
--Nene … oh poor Nene. The Brazilian had roughly 78 missed bunny shots. Frustration could be seen on Nene’s face during the game and he once again let the refs non-calls affect his attitude and when Nene is not finishing strong around the rim he has trouble getting the "shooter’s touch" rolling. Nene did go for 17 points and pulled down 5 boards, but I thought early that he was in for a much bigger night.
--Birdman tallied 5 blocks, but I really only remember him getting two of them. Typically Bird does not have a quiet multiple block game. When Andersen rolled his left ankle the Pepsi Center crowd fell silent and when Bird returned from the locker room about two minutes later the crowd erupted.
--Joey Graham filled in for Melo admirably scoring 13 points. I liked seeing Graham back on the floor, as his minutes fell off when Melo returned from injury. Graham hit a couple of big shots and gave the Nuggets some lift when they needed it. I think that if the Broncos called, Graham could play some outside linebacker … guy is built like a truck.
Photo Courtesy of AP Photos: David Zalubowski