The French Resistance aka Johan Petro wasn't the story of the night, but in his second-start since K-Mart's possible regular season ending injury, Petro played smart defense on a legitimate low-post threat in Al Jefferson and allowed Nene to slide over to power forward and cruise to 17-points in the Nuggets 110-102 victory over the Timberwolves. But the play of the night belonged to J.R. Smith ... watch it here.
I watched the game DVR-style, quickly becoming one of the best ways to watch a sporting event, and as I was cruising along in the fourth quarter at the 4:28 mark it happened ...
Chauncey Billups came up with a loose ball on Denver's end, dribbled just past half court, saw a streaking J.R. Swish and lobbed a perfect alley-oop from about 6-feet outside the three point line where Smith caught the ball in mid-360 and slammed it down one-handed. I thought Chris Marlowe, Scott Hastings and the Minnesota faithful were all going to have a simultaneous heart-attack. Just watch this play. That gave the Nuggets a 103-91 lead and basically put the Wolves to bed.
The Nuggets struggled keeping Minnesota off the offensive glass all night as they were able to grab 16 offensive boards, including outscoring the Nuggets 8-1 in the first quarter on second-chance points. The Wolves work on the offensive glass allowed them to take leads heading into the second and third quarters and they even pushed a lead out to eight-points in the third quarter.
But when J.R. Smith checked into the game in the second-half he earned his Swish nickname by hitting three-straight three-pointers from the right elbow and closed Minnesota's lead to just a point at 67-66. From there the Nuggets went on an 11-4 run, pushed that to 15-6 and closed the third quarter on a 24-9 run to take a 79-72 lead into the final period.
In the fourth, Denver extended a 15-0 run to give themselves a 85-72 lead and that left the Wolves playing catch-up for the rest of the game and frankly there are not many teams that can keep up with the Nuggets in the scoring department. The fourth got a bit ugly as the game turned into a free-throw shooting contest with both teams combining for 25 free throws in the final quarter.
The Nuggets took care of a sub .500 team on the road and now once again hover just one game under .500 away from the Pepsi Center at 15-16. To close out the month of March Denver will be on the road for 8 of their remaining 11 games this month and their road record could drastically change for the better over the next three-weeks.
Additional Nuggets ...
-I was really impressed with Petro's defense last night. He only played 13 minutes and I thought he could have played more, but Adrian Dantley opened up the bench and gave Joey Graham and Malik Allen 8 combined minutes. Al Jefferson finished the night 7-13 from the floor for 17 points, but Petro did a great job not allowing him space or getting deep into the paint. Big Al is a great low-post player, but Petro's length, quickness and position allowed him success last night. I also enjoyed watching Petro as the Wolves lofted shots ... he actually boxed guys out! Petro finished with 2 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.
-Arron Afflalo scored 10 points on 4-9 shooting, but did so in a different way last night. Afflalo was a running fool last night and did a great job filling the lanes and getting easy buckets in transition. When Afflalo has great explosion to the rim and I think really surprises defenders with his drives as he often blows by guys once he gets into the paint.
-The Nuggets recorded 24 assists last night and Anthony Carter again led the team with 8 total dimes. It's been a pleasure watching A.C. realize his best asset is setting up his teammates. Carter even made a couple layups last night and continues to fill in for Lawson admirably. Also, A.C. and Bird have great chemistry on alley-oop plays and A.C. hit Bird for a nice one last night at the 7:30 mark of the second-quarter.
-J.R. Smith continued his nice play of late with 15 points on 6-15 shooting, Swish finished the night just 3-10 from deep and 3-5 from inside the arc. It was good to see Smith run some point guard last night with Billups on the bench. Smith finished the game with 3 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals ... Swish continues to feast on stealing long outlet passes and disrupted one last night.
-Birdman and Billups sort of floated under the radar for me. Bird finished an impressive 6-7 from the field and went to work on the glass collecting 10 rebounds to go along with 3 blocks and 14 points. Billups led the team with 25 points on 9-18 shooting and dished out 3 assists.
-Melo continued to play the game he was dealt, handing out 5 assists and only scoring 19 points on 6-16 shooting. He also added 6 rebounds and was active on defense all night totaling 5 steals. Melo matched up on Kevin Love a few times and did a great job on the big man as Love likes to catch the ball a little further out than desirable for a 6'11'' forward.
-Corey Brewer stayed true to form last night posting his average against the Nuggets this season by dropping another 21 points. Brewer however, didn't ever take the game over and wasn't really a factor in scoring his points. It was sort of a quiet 21 for him and it'll be interesting to continue tracking his development.
Photo courtesy of AP Photos Jim Mone