Dirk Nowitzki's 35 points and 12 rebounds propelled his Dallas Mavericks to 102-101 win, but not before Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets made it interesting. Melo's game winning shot attempt as time expired did something that Nuggets fans are not used to ... it missed.
I'd like to announce ... or at least petition to have myself removed from writing game recaps. The Nuggets are now 0-2 this season in games that I've covered. That is just not getting the job done and I will gladly bench myself, as I'm treading in J.R. Smith type territory.
Tonight's exciting finish will overshadow the fact that the Nuggets played a horrible third quarter. The third quarter is where the Mavs won this game and where the Nuggets lost it. Dallas outscored Denver 34-28 in the third as they were able to slow the game down and disrupt the Nuggets fast-and-furious pace by using a zone defense. You would normally look at a quarter where 62 points were scored and think the game was being played at a quick pace, but that wasn't the case for much of the quarter.
The Nuggets played even smaller tonight as Nene sat out with a groin strain and joined teammates Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin in street clothes. In Nene's place at center was Shelden Williams and filling in the void in the lineup was first year guard/forward Gary Forbes. Forbes made the most of his 24 minutes shooting 6-12 on the night and finishing with 12 points and a couple nice defensive plays against Dirk Nowitzki (Forbes was eye level with the letters on the front of Dirk's jersey).
The Nuggets crunch time lineup for most of the night featured Al Harrington at center and Melo at power forward. The other positions saw a pretty good rotation of Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson, Chauncy Billups, Forbes, and Smith. The lineup of Harrington, Melo, Afflalo, Billups, and Lawson was on the floor as Denver made their final push and bid to win the game.
A couple key sequences late ... Dallas was up 93-90 when Dirk took the ball from the elbow and was thinking "drive" all the way, he forced his way into the lane and went in for an easy dunk around Harrington ... Dirk really wanted to put some authority behind the jam and wound up bricking the thing into the backcourt. Dallas got the ball to Caron Butler and he blew a wideopen layup, and Lawson found a streaking Afflalo for a dunk closing he lead to one 93-92.
Later in the fourth quarter, Dallas was again looking to extend their three point lead (102-99) and like Harrington did years ago when he was with the Golden State Warriors (in the playoffs), he stopped Dirk on a drive and forced him to miss an awkward layup, Denver wasn't able to control the rebound. So again Harrington covered Dirk and this time Dirk bricked a long jumper, but alas Denver again couldn't get the rebound. This time Dallas couldn't get the ball to Dirk where he wanted it (thanks to Harrington) so Jason Terry drove the ball and lost it out of bounds. Review gave the ball to Denver and the Nuggets cut the lead to 102-101.
The next Dallas possession, Harrington again forced Dirk to take an awkward shot at the shot clock expired and the big German sailed the ball over the rim and Melo knocked it out of bounds ... but the ruling was a 24-second violation so the Nuggets would have eight seconds and a chance to win it. The Nuggets got the ball inbounds to Billups who swung it to Melo on the elbow, where he likes it, and Melo took a couple dribbles and created enough space on Shawn Marion to take his usual pull up jumper ... the ball hit the back side of the rim, fell just slightly in as it came forward on the cylinder, hit the inside of the front of the rim, and came out ... Billups' tip wasn't good and wasn't in time and Dallas escaped.
Had the Nuggets not fallen into Dallas' gameplan for the third quarter or if the Nuggets knew how to beat a zone defense, they easily could have and should have won tonight's game. But the coulda, woulda, shoulda game doesn't mean anything.
The Nuggets dropped to 2-2 on the season and they'll face the Los Angeles Clippers at the Pepsi Center this Friday ... can't wait for that one as I'll be in attendance and ready to see the Nuggets bounce back from tonight's tough loss.
Some nuggets to chew on:
- Melo finished the game with 20 points and 15 rebounds (6 offensive boards). My favorite part of Melo's game tonight ... after he picked up a bogus foul call on a block attempt on a Jason Terry breakaway layup Melo said to the official clear as day on Altitude TV, (I wont put in quotes since I may have missed a word or two): If I would have known you were going to call that (foul for Terry) I would have put him (Terry) on his back.
The ref didn't really appreciate Melo's comments and told another ref that Melo had received his warning. I now assume that players will get a little leeway on arguing with refs, but will receive warnings before a technical foul is called ... so long as they are not overly dramatic.
- We might see the rise of Forbes and the fall of J.R. Smith in the coming weeks and months. Forbes played 24 minutes tonight to Smith's 17 minutes. Forbes looks like a little bit of a mixture of Afflalo and Smith as he has no problem shooting threes, hitting jumpes, or going to the rim. Forbes also looks like a defensive ace as he went right at Dirk and had a nice steal early in the game on, I believe, Butler right at the foul line. Something tells me that George Karl is going to fall in love with Forbes' game quickly and it's no secret that Karl is not a big fan of Smith. If the emergence of Forbes happens then Masai Ujiri needs to con somebody into taking Smith in a trade as soon as Forbes is deemed ready. I have always been a big Smith fan and his talent is unreal, but his days in Denver are numbered.
- Coach Karl and Billups share a lot of blame for Denver's lack of energy to open the second half. The Mavs stayed in the zone defense that got them back into the game in the second quarter and at the half Karl had to have known Dallas was going to keep using the zone, yet no adjustments were made. Assistant coach Chad Iske told Altitude sideline reporter Maya Starks that the Nuggets wanted to use speed to negate the Mavs' size and while that sounded great ... it didn't happen. Karl should have been ready and when his team wasn't he should have called a timeout and either put Lawson in the game or told Billups to stop walking the ball up the court and get the damn offense moving. Both Karl and Billups are too smart to fall for the Mavs' strategy and it cost Denver the game tonight.
- I don't know exactly what is going on with Dallas coach Rick Carlisle's health, but he did collapse on the practice court last month and I hope he's alright. I am liking his shaved head as I hated his old part and comb job he rocked for years. This has nothing to do with the game other than liking how Carlisle cleaned up the hairdo and after Karl's situation last season I just hope Dallas' coach will have a healthy season!
- On all of Lawson's replays where he's attacking the hoop ... watch his feet. He puts so much torque on his shoes I wont be surpised if he blows a pair out. Lawson is such a big difference maker when he's attacking the hoop. Billups can still get himelf to the foul line, but the speed advantage Lawson has just kill defenses. Lawson can get right to the rim whenever he wants ... I wish he'd get there more. Too bad Melo couldn't get Lawson a win for his 23rd Birthday present.
- If Kenyon Martin gets healthy and if Denver makes the playoffs AND if Denver faces Dallas, I'm confident in the Nuggets' ability to put both K-Mart and Harrington on Dirk at different times. Loving Harrington's defense thus far.
- What do you think Karl hates more ... running out of cough drops on the sidelines or Renaldo Balkman's game? The Nuggets were desperate for rebounders tonight, got out-rebounded 45-39 and the yet Balkman (a rebounding machine) didn't move off the bench ... instead Karl chose to use Forbes.