These two franchises have been battling since their ABA days; tonight's game resembled those contests of old as the quick pace, high score (121-117 Spurs), and shorter players dominated. Heck, even Corey Brewer resembles the players of the wild ABA 1970's era. But things turned out ugly once again for the Nuggets down in old San Antonio ...
The first note of consequence in this contest: the Nuggets were down after the first quarter 37-25. That 12-point Spurs lead was just too much to overcome over the next three quarters. An early hole in the NBA often requires that things go nearly perfectly at the end in order to pull off a crazy comeback.
The Spurs saw their once 20-point lead dwindle all the way down to just 2-points (106-104) with 6:03 left in the game; and it appeared that Denver was finally over the hump (7-10 points) and in a position to come all the way back.
But here is how the Nuggets' next seven possessions played out:
- Rudy Fernandez misses a jumper from the left elbow.
- Ty Lawson misses a 20-foot jumper.
- Andre Miller misses a bunny from the baseline.
- Al Harrington draws a foul, but only goes 1-2 from the foul line (110-105, Spurs).
- Danilo Gallinari misses a three-pointer. Arron Afflalo called for a charge near the paint on the baseline.
- Gallo misses a jumper. Miller steals the offensive board from T.J. Ford, hits the layup (112-107, Spurs).
- Lawson on a breakaway and Richard Jefferson blocks the shot with a lot of contact ... no call. Jefferson buries a dagger three-pointer on the other end and it's 115-107, Spurs.
- Kosta Koufos checked out of the game at the 5:13 mark of the first quarter - never to return. K2 played just 7 minutes, but collected 3 rebounds (1 offensive) and kept DeJuan Blair's short self in check. The score when he left: 18-12, Spurs.
- Chris Anderson checked in at the 3:56 mark of the first quarter for Timofey Mozgov. Dirty-Bird played the next five minutes (into the second quarter) and was taken out - never to return.
- Timofey Mozgov played just 18 minutes during the first and third quarters only. He started the game 2-2 from the field with a couple nice bunnies - he finished 2-2 for 4 points and 2 rebounds.
- George Karl decided after seeing Koufos and Birdman that his team needed to try to out-score the Spurs by going small and playing fast. Karl did open up minutes for Corey Brewer in the bigs' place instead of say, Rudy Fernandez, but not even Brewer's hot-hand was really rewarded. Sometimes Karl will ride a hot-streak too long, but tonight he only dished out 12 minutes to Brewer, who clearly affected the energy for the Nuggets in a positive way.
- Blair ate up the Nuggets while Al Harrington played center and Gallo tried to play power forward. The Nuggets truly missed Nene in this one and Koufos' size and know-how, as well. Blair grabbed 7 offensive rebounds and had 10 points - he looked like a non-factor with Koufos in and an all-star against Gallo.
- Shooters confidence: late in the game with things still in doubt, the Nuggets pace slowed down and guys, like Gallo, were passing up open looks. Chris Webber was a great player in the League, but he hated having the ball in his hands with the game on the line ... I don't want to see Gallo venture down that path. Some of the young Nuggets need to start stepping up in the clutch.
- Officiating - dog shit, as usual. The Nuggets were just 17-26 from the charity stripe (9 points left off the board), but they should have been well above 30 attempts on the night. Sucks that Lawson has to wait until his jersey sales rise to get a freaking call.
- Corey Brewer! In the first half Brewer played 6 minutes and put up the following: 2-2 (1-2 free throws) from the field for 5 points, 3 rebounds (1 offensive), 2 steals, and 1 turnover. He was the only Nuggets player to record a positive +/- with a +12. Brewer finished the night with 11 points on 5-6 shooting, 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 steals and that same +12 in just 12 minutes.
Brewer has that old school look, but Karl should have weaseled a few more minutes in for the wily Brewer. I was hoping that we'd see Kenneth Faried at some point for some energy, defense, and rebounding, but we got Brewer instead and he didn't disappoint. How about a lineup of Lawson, Brewer, Faried, Gallo, and Harrington? That would have been fun to see - could have been bad, but I'd like to see it.
- As much as the first quarter killed the Nuggets chances, the team could have easily packed it in and settled for a road split after winning in New Orleans Jan. 6th. But Denver didn't settle, they came back from 20 down to get within 2-points and make a game of things. Actual wins count over pointing out positives in a loss, but this Denver team has fought in every game this season.
- Gallo. A season high 31 points on 10-16 shooting (3-4 from deep, 8-10 free throws), 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 assists, and 2 steals. As good as Gallo looked, I could have even see more shots from him. He was more selective tonight, but when he's feeling it ... let it rip! He passed up a few open looks late in the game, and missed an easy runner, but he's continuing to grow into a dependable all around player for this team.
- Lawson abused the Spurs all night. They played a blurb during the game about Lawson's uncle rallying for his nephew to make the All Star game, but Lawson's play is speaking louder than his uncle ever could. Lawson's 20 points and 10 assists were more than impressive. His aggressive play should get him to the foul line more than just 3 attempts. It's crap that jersey sales continue to mean more than play on the floor.
- Denver's three-point shooting ... 8-16 or 50% - finally!
Tough loss for the Nuggets and a game where if the team makes any number of plays, they get the win. We'll have to wait to see if Denver can finally avenge those 2005 and 2007 playoff losses to the Spurs. These are the ups-and-downs of a young team, but it'd be nice to see some wins in these closely battled contests. Until then, the San Antonio horror show continues for the Nuggets.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons