Nuggets, JR Smith utilize the number 3
The Altitude TV pregame show mentioned the February 7th, 44-point loss to the New Jersey Nets roughly 237 times before last night's game. Again Carmelo Anthony scored 15 points against the Nets, but this time instead of nobody else scoring in double figures for the Nuggets five other players dropped in double figure totals as Denver beat the Nets 121-96 and are now on a 3 game win streak.
Kenyon Martin made his return to the starting lineup after missing five of Denver's last six games. Coach Karl did say before the game that KMart would be limited to roughly 20 minutes. Martin played 15 minutes, scored 8 points on 4-8 shooting, and grabbed 4 rebounds. Kenyon started the game 0-3 with a couple of terrible looking jumpers, but shook the rust off with a couple power dunks and finished his night going 4-5 from the floor.
It was good to see Kenyon back out on the floor, but a big part of me didn't want him out there in case he aggravated his back again. I can't help but think of Tracy McGrady's back woes from a year or two ago and how he'd play a night or two and then have to sit out. I don't want to see Kenyon with that same fate. But then again KMart needs to be out on the floor so he does not lose chemistry with his teammates ... very tricky stuff.
It was good to see Karl limit Kenyon's minutes and not hesitate to insert Renaldo Balkman into the game. The Crime Stopper was again his energetic self scoring 8 points and recording 8 rebounds and 6 of those on the offensive glass!!!
With 00:11 seconds on the clock at the end of the 1st Quarter Billups launched a 27-foot 3-point shot. The shot was an airball, but Balkman was there to re-direct it and lay it in the hoop just before the shot clock expired. Both my roommates asked me if Billups would get an assist there (like an alley-oop) or if Balkman would be credited with an offensive rebound?
I wasn't sure. Did Billups perhaps fool us all with a great alley-oop? Not according to the play-by-play. Balkman was credited with an offensive rebound and tip in make - exactly how it should have been. That was a great heady play by Renaldo.
The real key to last night's game was Denver's tenacious effort on the glass, especially on the offensive end. The Nuggets grabbed a season high 25 offensive rebounds. The Nets only collected 25 defensive rebounds. This equated in part to Denver being able to take 23 more shots than the Nets on the evening (99 field goal attempts for Denver to 76 for the Nets.)
On the defensive end the Nuggets out rebounded the Nets 26-6. When you don't allow your opponent to have hardly any second-chance opportunities you are going to win a lot more games than you lose.
I can't help but to think Balkman's effort on the offensive glass has been contagious to the rest of the team. Karl has wanted the team to do a better job controlling the glass as well as attacking the offensive glass and the Nuggets were all over it last night. I hope that is a trend that continues.
Once again another trend that has been helping the Nuggets in this three game win streak is their unselfishness. The Nuggets once again recorded above their season average of 21.88 assists per game with 27 total assists. Billups dished out 10 dimes to lead the team to go along with 14 points (his 9th double-double of the season). It was the first time Billups has recorded double-digit assists since January 19th when he had 12 against the Rockets in a losing effort. The Nuggets are now 9-1 when Billups records double-digit assists.
At the 8:51 mark of the 2nd Quarter JR Smith climbed a bit higher in the Nuggets' record book. Smith buried a 28-foot three-pointer to move into sole possession of 3rd place on the Nuggets all-time 3-point makes list.
Nuggets All-Time 3-Pointers Made List
- Michael Adams 630 (1987-91)
- Dale Ellis 448 (1994-97)
- JR Smith 431 (2006-present)
- Nick Van Exel 425 (1998-2002)
- Mahmoud Abdul Rauf 371 (1990-96)
But JR wasn't done ... he added five more 3's on the night to finished 6-12 from downtown. JR missed a few 3's at the end of the night and I was wondering why he was still shooting them. Well it didn't take me long to realize that he was gunning for Rauf's and Adam's record of 9 three-pointers made in a game. JR already owns two three-point records for the Nuggets with 7 made in one half as well as 7 made in one quarter.
The Prodigy could beat his own season record if he can make 33 more 3's this season to surpass his 157 makes last season. I think that Dale Ellis' record of 192 three-pointers made in the 1996-97 season is safe for now as JR only has 14 games left to make 67 threes to tie and 68 to surpass Ellis' record. And frankly with the way the division race is playing out there is just no time for anything except wins.
The win last night proved to be a crucial one once again for the Nuggets. The Spurs and Hornets both lost last night and Denver preserved their half game lead over the Blazers, who defeated the Grizzlies last night 103-92.
Much was made of Denver getting some revenge against the Nets for their 44-point loss on Feb. 7th and the 25 point win was nice for the Nuggets. I do wish that Devin Harris would have played last night, but Keyon Dooling did a fine job filling in and scoring 17 points. Vince "I quit on you Canada" Carter led the Nets with 32 points including five three-points, but it wasn't enough.
Nene and JR led Denver with 19 points each. The Nuggets were able to give their starters some rest as only Billups played over 30 minutes last night (34)... another crucial aspect for Denver. Denver's bench outscored the Nets 50-28 and Denver's role players really stepped up once the starters went out.
Getting a bit of payback against the Nets was a great way for Denver to wrap up their most recent home stand and to get some footing back on the Northwest Division.
Renaldo Balkman left the game last night with just under 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Balkman clutched his left groin as he left the floor and he headed to the locker room shortly after and did not return. The injury was reported as just a strain.
Nuggets beat writer Benjamin Hochman had this update on Balkman's status:
Coach George Karl said he thought "there's a chance" Balkman would be able to play Wednesday at Memphis.
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets are now 20-5 when Billups records 7+ assists ... Billups averages 6.2 apg
- The Nuggets only turned the ball over 6 times last night after recording 22 turnovers against the Clippers
- With 00:10 seconds left on the clock in the third quarter Melo launched a desperation 38-foot shot that failed to go in ... after the shot Melo was seen laughing and looked a bit confused ... not quite sure why he took that shot other than being tricked into it somehow ... the Nuggets' players and coaches had a good laugh
- Joey Bunch of the Denver Post has an interesting story about Nets center Sean Williams who was arrested in Douglas County (suburb south of Denver) after trashing a computer monitor at a cell phone store in Park Meadows Mall and therefore missed the game versus the Nuggets.
Western Conference Standings:
- L.A. Lakers 53-13 (--)
- San Antonio 44-22 (9)
- Houston 44-25 (10 1/2)
- Denver 43-25 (11)
- Portland 42-25 (11 1/2)
- New Orleans 41-25 (12)
- Utah 41-26 (12 1/2)
- Dallas 40-27 (13 1/2)
- Phoenix 36-31 (17 1/2)