For the second straight home game against an awful team from the greater New York metropolitan area, the Nuggets desperately tried to lose a game, but weren't able to accomplish doing so.
Carmelo Anthony got another close-up view of a team he might be playing for should he leave Denver in the New Jersey Nets. But while Melo likely wasn't impressed with the lack of talent on the team from Newark, he had to be impressed with their undying effort...especially considering they were playing on the second half of the dreaded Pacific Coast-to-Midwest back-to-back.
As we've come to expect from an Avery Johnson coached team, the Nets never gave up against our Nuggets, despite being down as many as 13 points late in the second half and likely being beyond fatigued. The Nuggets, conversely, almost gave up on themselves thanks to yet another collection of the unnecessarily rushed shots and defensive lapses that seem to have plagued them all week. One supposes you can get away with such play against the Knicks and Nets of the basketball world, but against the likes of the Suns and Trail Blazers it doesn't fly.
As mentioned in my game preview, the upcoming spate of games on the Nuggets schedule bodes well for the boys in powder blue and gold. But if they continue to play without a killer instinct, they'll do nothing but tread water in the standings when they should be mounting a march towards the top of the Western Conference.
The View From the Not-So-Cheap Seats...
...Nets rookie Derrick Favors - the player most mentioned in a possible deal for Carmelo Anthony - is 6'9" tops even though he's listed at 6'10". In fact, he's not much bigger than Anthony in person. That said, Favors is wide, bulky and has great natural basketball instincts. Once Favors puts it together and is properly coached, he could be a beast in the NBA.
...as he had in Dallas, Avery Johnson has an overload of assistant coaches. My seat mate and I were counting how many formerly mediocre NBA players Johnson had assembled as assistants, including Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame nominee Popeye Jones, Sam Mitchell, Doug Overton and Larry Krystkowiak.
...the Nuggets shot out of the cannon early with a 9-2 lead...and then allowed the lead to evaporate just as quickly.
...you have to love Shelden Williams nightly effort, but he's the consummate Stiff. On an easy early dunk attempt, Williams attempted to dump it in and missed the center of the basket entirely.
...from our seats, I couldn't see exactly what happened to Chauncey Billups when he hit the floor hard in the first quarter. I've since read that he has a fractured nose, sprained wrist and a chipped tooth. Ouch!
...J.R. Smith was re-inserted into the lineup during his normal time in the rotation. Smith rewarded Nuggets coach George Karl's use of him with one of his greatest all-time dunks...this one was right on Nets center Brook Lopez and it set the Pepsi Center crowed ablaze.
...it was fun watching former Nugget backup Stiff center Johan Petro going head-to-head with current Nugget backup Stiff center Melvin Ely. Ely thoroughly out-played Petro with nine points (on 4-4 shooting) and six rebounds to Petro's four points (on 2-6 shooting) and three boards.
...Melo had a solid first half with 10 points, four rebounds and five assists.
...you had to love the Nuggets' ball movement at the end of third quarter that set up Arron Afflalo for a set shot three-pointer in the corner.
...Ty Lawson had a phenomenal spin move right on Favors for a drop shot, and followed that up with another solid night of play. As we've become accustomed to, Lawson was a key catalyst for this victory.
...it was disappointing seeing the Nuggets 13-point lead dwindle to four...and then two...towards the end of the fourth quarter. You could tell by the Nuggets body language throughout the game that they weren't going to cover the spread.
...Travis Outlaw's blocked shot on Melo at the game's end shouldn't have been a goaltending call at all. NBA refs too often associate blocked shots near the basket as goaltending, when they should stick with the rule book: if the ball if going up, it can be blocked.
...I've never seen Nets backup point guard Jordan Farmar make a big shot and tonight was no exception.
...the Nuggets are lucky that Lopez missed that last-attempted chip shot. This game should have been finished out in overtime.
Non-Stiff of the Night
-Nene: The Nuggets got their center going early and Nene finished with the most complete game among his teammates. Finishing with 22 points, eight rebounds and 15 free throw attempts, Nene made the Nets interior defense work overtime throughout the game.
Stiff of the Night
-Devin Harris: The Nets starting point guard simply went through the motions for much the game, finishing with a mere 12 points on 3-9 shooting and just four assists.
Favors looked good and has big upside, but he didn't seem to have the explosiveness of a younger Antonio McDyess nor does he have the height of Kevin Garnett (two formerly "raw" power forwards whom Favors is most often compared to). Should Favors end up being a Nugget in exchange for Anthony, the Nuggets better get someone else of substance in the deal.