Deja Vu at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City
For the first time in awhile we get one of these games from the Denver Nuggets (33-16): A Tale of Two Halves. Not one of my most favorite tales, but it made the game fun to watch (well perhaps if you tuned in for the 2nd half).
Just before tipoff we learn that Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups will both be sitting this one out; although KMart was in uniform perhaps for emergency purposes. I was curious as to what Marlowe and Hastings were saying about the two, but I was watching the game at a buddy's house and he was listening to University of Colorado's Head Coach Dan Hawkins talking about his football team's newest members. So, admittingly I was a touch out of the loop.
But if I had to guess what Marlowe and Hastings discussed with the two stars being out it would go something like this:
Marlowe, "Well Scott the Nuggets are REALLY going to have their work cut out for them tonight with Mr. Big Shot and Kenyon being out ... Melo is going to have to step up tonight right?"
Hastings, "Bah ha ha ha. Well Kenyon's got the towel on his head over there and he looks pretty sick to me, look I'm no doctor, but I'd say Kenyon could probably get out there if the team needs him tonight, but I don't expect George to let him play. Chauncey has been big for Denver and well ... is that bar-be-que I'm smelling Chris? The Nuggets need to feed the ball inside tonight and get the big fella involved. Look, man ... what's that cooking?"
So did I miss much? Probably not.
Anyhow, the Nuggets starting five consisted of; AC, Dahntay Jones, Melo, Crime Stopper (Balkman), and Nene. All I remember thinking when I saw them all on the floor was, "I hope Melo is hot tonight."
At the outset of this one it was evident that the Nuggets were going to try to outscore the Thunder (11-38). By the way ... what's with this "Thunder" nickname? The best I could come up with by the end of the game is that - The Thunder do embody their name thus far ... make a lot of noise, but don't really do major damage.
Anyhow, by the end of the 1st Quarter Denver held a 32-31 lead as Melo and Nene had some great chemistry going early. Nene finished the quarter 6-6 with 12 points and Melo earned 3 beautiful assists on Nene dunks. It makes sense to me that these two should be able to team up off Melo drives A LOT more in the future. The Thunder often doubled Melo when he got into the lane and the results were wide open looks to Nene.
During the opening period the Thunder foreshadowed in glimpses their gameplan. Attack the rim! In the 2nd Quarter Okie City unveiled their gameplan in full. I honestly can't remember seeing the Thunder take hardly any jump shots in the period. Earl Watson and Russell Westbrook were possessed to get to the rack and they did so with relative ease on Anthony Carter.
I guess AC got caught-up in the speed of the game and decided to try his hand at attacking the rim. At the 7:16 mark of the period AC committed his second straight turnover off wild drives into the lane where his gameplan must have been, GET IN LANE ... CHUCK BALL INTO AIR ... PRAY FOR THE BEST. At that point the Nuggets were down 47-42 and the Thunder were on a 14-3 run. The lead soon ballooned to 56-42 and the wheels appeared to be falling off.
I sent out a barrage of texts to my buddy Rory during the Thunder onslaught that read:
"Wow. No willingness to play defense." (52-42 Thunder)
"We are going to lose man." (56-42)
Rory is a very emotional fan, yet he somehow remained calm assuring me that it was "The Thunder" and "They'll let us back in". There were also a couple texts that questioned by fanhood and also used some "unkind" words.
Sometimes texts laced with obscenities do the trick, when there isn't anyone around to toss a glass of cold water in your face or deliver a nice slap to the dome along with a "snap out of it!" statement. Needless to say I overreacted and watched Denver go on a nice little 9-3 run and go down just 11 headed into the half (70-59) after giving up a 39 point quarter to a team that averages 96 points per game. So, for those of you mathematicians out there ... that's roughly 40% of their average offensive output in one quarter!!!
The Nuggets came out in the 3rd Quarter more determined to play defense and also got some help from the Thunder, who suddenly were no longer attacking the rim with the ferocity they showed in the 2nd Quarter. Entering the 4th Quarter Denver was down 94-89, but you could see that the momentum was changing in a hurry.
I'd like to do something George Karl hates to do. I'd like to praise JR Smith for winning the game for the Nuggets in the 4th Quarter. The Prodigy went 6-8 in the period with two MONSTER three-pointers to give Denver leads of 106-102 and 111-109. Without those shots the Nuggets lose. Karl hates JR's shot selection almost 100% of the time and I admit he takes some ill advised attempts, but the guy has boulders for balls and you need that in the NBA. MJ had 'em, Kobe has 'em, LeBron has 'em and to a much lesser extent JR has them. Smith is as streaky as they come, but last night he put on a performance when it counted and finished 8-14 shooting for 22 points.
The last 1:20 of the game was as exciting as it gets in the NBA with both teams tied at 111.
JR got to the foul line and gave Denver a 112-111 lead with :22 seconds on the clock. I figured that the Thunder would hold for the last shot, but I was wrong. Kevin Durant drove the lane practically unopposed and gave the Thunder a 113-112 lead with :17 seconds on the clock.
It was Melo time and the whole building knew it. Carmelo in no rush took the ball from midcourt and drove the lane on Jeff Green and somehow managed to put in a double-clutch lay in at the rim with :05 remaining. Kevin Durant would get one final attempt.
Okie City inbounded the ball to Russell Westbrook at the top of the three-point line and he took a couple dribbles before handing the ball off to Durant. Durant found himself 32-feet away from the basket and was forced to lob an off balanced attempt off the rim at the buzzer and the Nuggets pulled out another last second win against the Thunder.
Yes, Denver should have won this game in less dramatic fashion, but I wouldn't have wanted to see this shootout end any other way. Definitely a fan friendly game and one against a team with a bright future. The Thunder played very tough, but have yet to learn how to close teams out and win the close ones. Denver on the other hand is gaining some much needed clutch time performances in preparation for the playoffs.
The Opposition: Welcome to Loud City
Views you can use:
- Since returning from injury Carmelo has scored 19, 35 and 32 ppg - Good for an average of 28.6 per game (averages 21.8 on the season)
- Carmelo out dueled Kevin Durant 32-31 (same point total as the Nuggets' first quarter margin over the Thunder)
- Carmelo earned his 7th double-double on the season with 32 points and 11 assists
- Johan Petro played 7 minutes and actually led the Nuggets in a category ... finishing a team worst -11 in +/- on the night
- The Ford Center? Really? The term Auto Bailout comes to mind.
- At the 8:48 time mark of the 2nd Quarter and returning from commercial I realized that when they zoom in on the cheerleaders the advertisements really get in the way of seeing the ladies perform - so a note to Altitude TV ... Please cease running advertisements over the cheerleaders when coming back from commercial break ... THANKS!