The Nuggets were deadlocked with the Warriors at the half 54-54, but like the Nuggets typically do at the Pepsi Center, with their opposition playing the second game of a back-to-back, they ran away with things after the break. Denver outscored Golden State 80-57 in the second half and nine Denver players scored in double-figures in the Nuggets' 50th win this season.
George Karl has now steered the Denver Nuggets to four consecutive 50+ win seasons. Karl should get a vote or two for coach of the year considerations with the way he kept the Nuggets afloat pre-trade and with how he's got this new group to come together so quickly. The 50-win (and maybe 51 wins after Wednesday) season is a nice feat for the organization and one that I didn't really foresee the Nuggets reaching. A pleasant surprise.
The Warriors came in tonight after playing at home in Oakland and losing to the Sacramento Kings last night 104-103. Exciting guard Monta Ellis wouldn't play in this one after suffering an awful concussion against the Kings. Ellis controls the ball a bit too much for my taste, but he's fun to watch and the Warriors are not as competitive without him. Also missing for Golden State was Andris Biedrins - always fun to watch him at the foul line (if he actually gets there).
The Warriors hung around for awhile with their long-distance shooting (13-25 or 52%), but as usual their shoddy defense would cost them the chance to stay in the game as the Nuggets turned up the tempo, hit their own long-bombs (10-23 or 43.5%), and came at the Warriors with nine different players in their 134-111 win.
Let's take a look at each Nugget ...
Ty Lawson - 14 points (6-10 shooting, 1-4 from three, 1-2 free throws), 9 assists, 6 rebounds (1 offensive), and 2 turnovers. Lawson was one of many Nuggets to fill up the stat sheet tonight. Lawson pushed the pace at times, was smart with the ball, and attacked the rim all night. Not a really loud game from Lawson, but he was solid.
Raymond Felton - The Bulldog had 15 points (5-7 shooting, 3-4 from three, 2-4 free throws), 10 assists, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers. Felton has been shooting the long-ball really well lately and is the kind of point guard that you can rely on for consistent performances with the Nuggets.
Arron Afflalo - 17 minutes (a few too many as he re-injured his left hamstring once again), 10 points (4-6 shooting, 1-2 from three, 1-1 free throw), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Afflalo was looking good, but played a little tentatively before tweaking his hammy ... again. Hopefully it wasn't as bad as it looked, but after AAA came up lame he cursed the injury as he headed down court. Many in Nuggets Nation were cursing as well Arron. If Afflalo can come back in the playoffs it looks like he wont need much time to gel as his play is like riding a bicycle - just get right back on and he's back in the flow.
Gary Forbes - 15 points (7-15 shooting, 1-4 from three), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. G-Forbz played 31 minutes and is returning to his early season form with the recent burn. Forbes looked like a real find for Denver at the beginning of the season and was then buried on the bench. It was good to see Forbes hit some shots and attack the rim. Wish he'd get up above the cylinder a bit more and throw it down, but a solid game.
J.R. Smith - Team high 22 points (6-17 shooting, 4-9 three, 6-8 free throws), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 blcok. Denver Stiffs reader CloudBurst said in the 2nd Half Thread, "It's J.R. time!" right before Swish went on his three point barrage. A little magic in the game thread? I think so. Smith provided the Nuggets with that instant offense that Denver will need in the post-season, it was good to see him going on a scoring burst. Karl looked a bit frustrated with a couple J.R. shots late in the game - as we are all accustomed to, from both parties.
Nene - 12 points (4-7 shooting, 4-6 free throws), 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Nene didn't play in the second half with what Aaron Lopez of Nuggets.com calls a groin strain. Nene has had some history with this injury and hopefully he'll be back and ready to go for the playoffs. I don't see much need for him to play Wednesday in Utah. Nene looked aggressive tonight and got into some pushing and jockeying for position with an old friend and Colorado guy - Louis Amundson (from the Boulder area).
Kenyon Martin - 14 points (6-13 shooting, 2-2 free throws), 7 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. K-Mart has been stellar and was playing aggressive tonight and attacking the rim. Martin has been great for the team and it was awesome to see him up off the bench late in the game after Kosta Koufos' And-1 dunk supporting his teammate and giving him a head-nod and fist pump. I love K-Mart's attitude with this team.
Chris Andersen - 14 points (6-10 shooting, 2-5 free throws), 12 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 blocks, 2 steals, and 2 assists. The Birdman is back! Andersen entered the game at the 5:02 mark of the first quarter and almost immediately got a block out near the foul line, a put back dunk about a minute later to make it 23-22 Denver, and another dunk off a pretty pick and roll with Forbes on the baseline to make it 25-24. Andersen was playing with tremendous energy and had lift we haven't seen much this season from him. Bird was a pivotal piece to the Nuggets success tonight and it was great to see him back on the floor.
Kosta Koufos - Tied his career-high with 18 points (6-8 shooting, 6-7 free throws), 9 rebounds (3 offensive), and 1 steal. I was rooting for Koufos to get the double-double, but Felton stole his final rebound and then smiled at the big center (so said Scott Hastings of Altitude TV). Koufos, a Jeff Morton favorite, was making quick decisions with the ball and making some pretty hook shots, throwing the ball down in traffic, finishing And-1s, and sinking his foul shots. There wasn't a ton of resistance on this Warriors squad for the big man, but it was Koufos' break-out game as a Nugget and the 22 year-old showed a lot of promise. At the 9:13 mark of the fourth quarter Koufos nailed a lefty hook shot to give the Nuggets 110 points and give residents of Denver the taco bell deal. Karl finally got the playing time to the Greek and Koufos delivered.
Views you can use:
- In the third quarter the Nuggets hit 7 three-pointers and the Warriors hit 5 bombs of their own. Fans were treated to the three-point binge to the tune of 36 points.
- Tonight marked the first time since 1987 that the Nuggets had at least 9 players score in double-figures. Back in '87 the Nuggets had 10 guys in double-figures - including Altitude TV's Bill Hanzlik.
- The Nuggets locked up the 5th seed with their win tonight.
- The Nuggets finished with a combined 31 assists and only 8 turnovers.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter