Once when I was a child, I ate some bad fruit and came down with salmonella. After I emptied my stomach of all its content I briefly hallucinated that I a conversation with Mr. Peanut from the Planters peanut butter label. Yet, that did not trip me out as much as this game. Specifically the fourth quarter where it seemed like the properties of time and space were altered, creating a sub-universe where up was down, down was up, and people wore shoes on their hands.
After racing to a 14 point lead, the Nuggets spend the final seven minutes of regulation not being able to hit a shot and being oddly tentative. Combine that with Lance Stephenson hitting shots he normally does not, that lead quickly evaporated. Yet, you didn't get the feeling the Nuggets were playing badly. In fact, I'd say the Nuggets defensive performance in this game is up there with the second half of the Houston Rockets game from Jan. 23rd for great defensive performances.
I'd specifically like to point out little-used Timofey Mozgov. Pressed into duty when JaVale McGee couldn't go because of a bruised shin. Not only did Moz hold his own, he played tough defense on Roy Hibbert ( Moz finished with 10 points, Hibbert had 8 points) and provided the Nuggets with some physical presence on the inside even though they were short handed tonight. Kosta Koufos also deserves mention for 9 points and 11 rebounds. Making that contract he signed last season look very affordable right now.
The keys to tonight's game came down to three players. First, Corey Brewer provided a tremendous defensive spark in the second quarter while the Nuggets were playing quite sluggishly. He pestered Paul George and George Hill into turnovers, and also provided a lift with some much needed first half scoring. Brewer finished with 16 points and 3 steals. Additionally Andre Iguodala nearly finished with a triple double (13 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists) and really played some great defense on Paul George. However, he missed four critical free throws in a row in the last two minutes of regulation. Deflating the Pepsi Center crowd. However, Iguodala redeemed himself by nailing the final free throw with .04 left on the game clock. Nuggets win.
Danilo Gallinari did not score a single point through the first quarter and a half of the game. That makes his 27 points that followed even more remarkable. He was aggressive, slashing to the basket and angry. Yelling at Kenneth Faried (who was never "in" the game due to foul trouble), Koufos and Moz - and he could be seen waving for Lawson to push the ball up the court. Intense. Even after the game he said he wasn't happy about the team defense in the fourth quarter. These are the kinds of things you want to hear if you are a Nuggets fan. Even if you don't buy that Gallo is a leader on this team, it's good to hear that there's someone who wants accountability. That spells good things to come.
Overall, this was a good, yet odd game. I still can't fully process it. Hopefully the Nuggets can take their recent inability to hold fourth quarter leads (Sacramento Kings game notwithstanding) and learn from it.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Nuggets are now 28-18. They have won 11 games in the month of January with one game remaining (Houston on Wednesday at home). While there have been some disappointing losses this month, the Nuggets current winning pace is impressive. They are now 18-3 at home, and have great wins over the Thunder and the Pacers as feathers in their cap. Maybe the Nuggets needed to get all these home games to right their ship? Who knows.
All I know is after four wins in a row (after a brief two game losing streak) I hope this win streak continues.
Opposition's take: Indy Cornrows
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78
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