Maybe I should stop wishing for the Nuggets to get off to fast starts. Even with one of their best on a back-to-back, the Nuggets simply could not sustain their pace and ran out of gas.
After putting up 65 points at a blistering pace in the first half, the Nuggets came out completely flat to start the second and could only muster 38 points overall. At one point, Ty Lawson (7-17, 16 pts, 9 ast, 5 reb) advanced the ball to half court, then didn't even cross the 3 point line until there were 8 seconds remaining on the shot clock and continued his disappearing act in the second half. It must be said, though: there was no offensive flow in the second half for one major reason - the officiating.
Let me be clear: the Nuggets didn't lose this game because of the extraordinarily poor officiating by Jason Phillips, Mark Ayotte and Brian Forte. They surrendered a 15 point lead meekly and missed fourteen free throws. Al Jefferson (10-15, 28 pts, 5 reb) abused Kosta Koufos (3-4, 7 pts, 9 rebs ) and Kenneth Faried (8-12, 21 pts, 9 rebs) all night in the low post along with an aggressive Derrick Favors (6-8, 19 pts, 7 rebs). Danilo Gallinari (4-10, 12 pts, 3 rebs, 3 ast) struggled through flu-like symptoms and looked like he was two dribbles from puking all night, retreating to the locker room several times.
Give a lot of credit to a scrappy Jazz team that dug deep and refused to roll over when down big in the second. The Nuggets also continued to shoot themselves in both feet, their shins, their thighs and all of their toes for good measure at the free throw line. They didn't just shoot their league worst average 60%, they shot just 18-32 (56.3%) in a 2 point loss. That's 14 points the Nuggets shouldn't even have needed left on the court because they can't shoot an unguarded 15 foot standing shot. Despite multiple opportunities in the closing seconds - first off an Andre Miller (2-7, 8 pts, 1 ast) contested three (!?!?!?) and then perhaps even more disappointingly an aborted Ty Lawson drive without even a look to the basket - the Nuggets are going to keep losing these games if they can't figure out how to shoot from the line.
However, after a Jazz run midway through the third quarter to tie the game at 77, side judge Mark Ayotte decided that Andre Iguodala (5-9. 10 pts, 4 ast, 3 rebs, 2 stl) was being too much of a big meanie to Al Jefferson and in one of the most bizarre turns of officiating I've ever seen, ejected him with two consecutive technicals after a foul on JaVale McGee (4-5, 10 pts, 3 rebs).
You know those TV shows where "paranormal investigators" travel to haunted locations the world over to prove there's some supernatural presence? Someone needs to send them to EnergySolutions Arena in Utah. Mormon thetans must have grabbed and pulled the Utah Jazz all night, then when it seemed like they may have gotten a little too friendly with the home team, decided to do a little pulling on the Nuggets also. Mark Ayotte and Jason Phillips were like those sideshow oracles, or maybe John Edward (of Crossing Over with John Edward), reaching and grasping for calls in a game at times they clearly weren't watching. Neither team could establish any sort of rhythm in the second half because of this mysterious paranormal activity, and with an energized home crowd, the Jazz simply wore the Nuggets down. It was one of the worst officiated games I've ever watched, and I've seen a lot of Lakers home games.
It's hard for me even to really get into what I thought was another poorly coached second half and even more poorly orchestrated final few possessions when they're just a microcosm of the bigger problems facing this Nuggets team, namely free throw shooting and frontcourt defense. This was a very winnable game and the Nuggets completely squandered a 15 point lead on the road.
After a short few days, the Nuggets continue on their road trip to face the Golden State Warriors on Thursday (8:30 PM MST). If the Nuggets hope to have a chance at winning that one, they must show greater concentration than they did tonight.