If the ending to tonight's game didn't make you leap out of your chair...consult a physician, you might be dead. Melo's 13th game winner of his career couldn't have come at a better time. The Nuggets struggled a great deal in the second-half of tonight's game, but Melo's shot allowed me to put a band-aid on the bullet-wound that has become the Nuggets.
After losing three-straight games the Nuggets needed to do whatever was necessary to pull out a win tonight. On the last play of the game, Denver did exactly that. With just 16 second remaining and Denver down 96-95, J.R. Smith inbounded the ball to Chauncey Billups who found Carmelo Anthony on the right elbow ... Melo didn't waste any time and loaded up a shot with 9 seconds left that like most of the shots in the second half for the boys in powder blue, rattled off the rim. Game should have been over, but ...
Anthony Carter got a hand on the ball in a crowd, then Nene tipped the ball off the glass, J.R. Smith volleyballed the ball in traffic towards the sideline, Nene raced over and threw the ball to Billups (who was being double-teamed) on the three-point line and Billups found Melo near the foul line who threw up a desperation fadeaway in Jarrett Jack and Antonine Wright's faces that found its mark as time expired ... Nuggets win 97-96.
The shot of Wright on the floor in disbelief summed up the night for the Raptors. Toronto struggled to start the game scoring only 19 points in the opening quarter, but they went on to score 32 in the second and 29 in the third before being shut down in the fourth by Denver's active defense and chalking up only 15 points.
The Raptors are not known for their defense (27th ranked D in the NBA) and they really were not stiffling the Nuggets, but Denver rather just seemed to be shooting at a shrunken rim as they hit just 3-21 field goals in the third quarter and opened the fourth 0-5 from the floor.
Credit Denver's defense in the fourth quarter for allowing them a chance to win the game and credit Melo's icy cool veins with the game on the line for tonight's win.
In the second quarter the Raptors were enjoying a 19-6 run and a 40-36 lead as Adrian Dantley turned to a lineup of Billups, Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith, Melo and Nene ... this group quickly went on a 9-0 run and retook control of the game going into the locker room up 56-52.
We've seen a lot of bad third quarters and second quarters and some awful fourth quarters this season by the Nuggets, but the third quarter of tonight's game was no doubt one of the worst I've ever seen. Denver couldn't hit layups, wide open jumpers or free throws. The period reminded me of what can be found in the toilet the morning after you spend all night drinking whiskey and all of fourth meal eating tacos from Malik Allen nickname's namesake (Taco Bell).
Watching Denver battle back from 12 down in the fourth quarter and somehow pull out the win tonight was nothing short of something special. The Nuggets somehow need to pull out another win on this road trip either Sunday in Orlando or Monday in Dallas, but heading to Florida with this incredible win under their belt sure is nicer than the alternative.
- Anthony Carter saw 18 minutes tonight to Ty Lawson's 3 minutes. Lawson was what made Denver a special team with another gear before he went down with his shoulder injury. If Lawson isn't able to see more time before the playoffs begin Denver will lose their 6th gear and that special ingredient that he gave them. That is not a good thing.
- Arron Afflalo came off the bench after Melo's game winner with a huge smile on his face and was one of the first guys heading to give Melo's props for his shot. Pretty big for a guy who wasn't on the floor in crunch time in favor of A.C. That's a good teammate and somebody I want to see get key minutes ... I guess it's nice to know that Afflalo is going to be with the team no matter his playing time.
- Johan Petro only saw 13 minutes tonight and should have played more. Dantley pulled Petro with just under eight minutes to go in the third quarter and Petro didn't see the floor again the rest of the night. I still want to see Petro play his way into a rhythm and that is still not happening. Against a big team like the Raptors, Petro's size was working in his favor and it was a questionable move to put the smaller Joey Graham in for him.
- Melo's 25 points, to lead the team, tonight seemed to come very easily ... as usual. I was impressed with Melo's offensive game and he once again came through for his squad for win 48.
- It was nice to see Sonny Weems score 14 points in his start tonight. After being thrown away by the Nuggets it's nice to see Weems resurrect his career in Toronto.
Photo courtesy of: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese