Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Turning in a gritty and gutty performance in the fourth quarter, the Denver Nuggets stand up to the best team in the league, the Memphis Grizzlies, and beat them at their own game. Oh ... and Danilo Gallinari made some sort of shot. Nuggets win 97-92 in Memphis
Lets get this out of the way, Danilo Gallinari's defense on Marc Gasol was a larger factor in the Nuggets winning tonight's game than hitting that clutch three at the end. It was Gallo who, despite being outweighed by at least three thousand suns in comparison to Gasol, pestered the younger Spaniard brother to death ... resulting in some costly Gasol mistakes and an offensive foul in the waning minutes that was a clear mark of frustration.
However, with 14 seconds left, Gallo hit a big time three pointer when the Nuggets were up by one point. This was after an ultra aggressive drive by Ty Lawson (thank you Ty) and kick out. However, Gallo's steal from Jerrod Bayless just before that shot was most likely a bigger play. While Gallo cooled off in the second half (after shooting 5/6 in the first half) he got to the free throw line and was consistently aggressive. All in all, great game from my favorite Italian who finished with 26 points and 5 rebounds.
This was by far the Nuggets best performance of the season against a supremely tough opponent. Memphis was never able to go on a super long run (one that sank the New York Knicks on Friday night) and the team played possibly their best defense of the year. JaVale McGee got in some good minutes (and, to the delight of some Stiffs, down the stretch) and played more within himself than he has at any point this year ... including the Miami Heat game on Thursday. JaVale ended the game with 15 points and 8 rebounds, and just generally looked awesome.
While Zach Randolph had another double double, he didn't dominate the offensive glass. This was partially due to Kenneth Faried's presence on the glass (13 points 13 rebounds) but it was mostly due to aggressively boxing out the man who camps out in the lane. This prevented Memphis from feasting on "cheap" points that they seem to live off of. Also, Mike Conley was prevented from penetrating the lane by the Nuggets employing the same scheme that works against them ... stacking the lane.
This was a game of ups and downs. At times the Nuggets looked to have taken an iron grip on momentum, only to lose it in the next breath. The Grizzlies could never impose their will on the Nuggets, and while the game was played at marginally the Grizzlies' pace (particularly in the second half) you never got the feeling that at any time the Grizzlies were going to run away with it. Rudy Gay had a good, but not great game (21 points) and proved what a liability he can be on the defensive end by routinely getting taken to the hole by Gallo. Tony Allen made an HUGE mistake in the fourth quarter by trying to rough up Kenneth Faried while the Manimal was on the ground. While it only gained the Nuggets two points (a technical shot by Gallo and a 1-2 free throws by Manimal) it broke the momentum that the Grizzlies had.
Overall, as Nuggets fans, you can't ask for more than this. While Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson had off nights, the team was able to pick it up on the defensive end. This resulted in the best win of the season. More games to come on this road trip, but it's nice to see a win when things seemed so dark.