No Nene ... no problem for Nuggets
Melo, Billups, and Smith combine for 71 against Hornets
The Nuggets showed their fans last night just what the team can do when they put their minds to it. We haven't seen a defensive effort like that since the Lakers game almost exactly one month ago (Feb. 27).
Please allow me a few broad points on the game:
- Billups is ALWAYS coaching. If a player could ever earn Coach of the Year then this guy would win it walking away. If you've been to a Nuggets game this year you may notice that when Billups in "on the bench" he actually spends much of his time standing up and directing the players on the floor. Last night at the 5:00 of the 4th Quarter when Billups was waiting to check into the game you could see him coaching from the scorers table. What a pick up.
- Balkman did not play in the second half. The Nuggets for the first time in a while did not miss his energy on the floor as they provided much of their own.
- Johan Petro was WILDLY effective in the first quarter replacing Nene. He started and played 7 minutes in the first and put up 3 points and 4 rebounds. On the night he finished with 5 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes and his length was a bit of an issue for the Hornets and while he didn't block any shots (could have swore he had a rejection) his presence in the lane was a factor.
- I can't applaud the defensive effort enough. From the trapping of Chris Paul (helping to lead to his 6 turnovers) to not allowing a single quarter with over 24 points by the Hornets. And I don't want to hear the, "Well Peja didn't play" argument. Denver didn't have Nene. NENE!
- Birdman and KMart were all over the glass. They combined for 7 of Denver's 11 offensive rebounds. That kind of effort to get second chance points is what helped fuel the offense when the Nuggets went into some lulls. The Nuggets after getting smoked on the boards against the Suns only allowed the Hornets 8 offensive rebounds (28% second possession clip for the Hornets to the Nuggets 38%.)
To the game itself:
I'm going to tell you ... when the Nuggets lose I can't wake up and watch any highlight shows. I don't want to chance having to relive the misery of a loss. BUT when the Nuggets pull off a big win ... I scour the tube to see how the Nuggets get portrayed and I want to relive the "good times." This is probably true of my life as well. If something good happens all my buddies get to hear about it until they jab a fire poker into their ears.
What can I say? I'm a long winded man. I like to hear myself talk. I crave attention. I need some spotlight from time-to-time.
1st Quarter: Nuggets 28-21
Well the New Orleans crowd treated this game perfectly. The playoff atmosphere probably helped amp each team. Heck, I felt like I was down in the Big Easy last night!
I thought the Nuggets played brilliantly and earned a 24-14 lead. The defense was fired up and everybody was flying around. The Nuggets again utilized the trap on Chris Paul when the Hornets went to the pick-and-roll and Denver clearly was frustrating the MVP candidate and forced Paul into a couple turnovers on a bad pass that led to a Melo fastbreak layup and a traveling violation. Paul even chucked up a desperation three-pointer on one possession out of frustration. Whoever drew up the defensive gameplan on Paul could proudly pat themselves on the back.
The Nuggets had been giving up easy buckets the past few games, but last night they challenged a lot of shots that I didn't expect. At the 4:52 mark in the first Hilton Armstrong (6'11'') tried to finger roll in a layup and Dahntay Jones came out of nowhere and swatted the shot and Denver capitalized on the other end with a Melo layup.
And at the 1:32 mark of the first Sean Marks received a pass off a pick-and-roll and was headed to a wide open cylinder when JR Smith challenged the dunk and was whistled for a foul. JR didn't like the call, but I was more than happy that he made Marks go to the line instead of firing up the crowd with the classic "goofy white guy dunk."
The offense was a bit too one-on-one for me in the first and the Hornets closed the quarter on a 7-4 run and cut into Denver's 10 point lead 28-21 at the end of one.
Quick note: Before the second quarter during a commercial break an Altitude TV preview of the Nuggets vs. Mavs game on and we were told that Nene would be leading us to Dallas to take on the Mavs. I found this funny ... I'm easily amused.
2nd Quarter: Hornets 24-18
At the 11:15 mark of the quarter Melo got his layup blocked by crafty veteran and former Nugget James Posey on one end and instead of wasting his time complaining to the officials Melo hustled back on defense and mistook Morris Peterson for La La Vasquez as he was all over him! Melo's pressure drew a hearty boo from the fans, as well as a 24-foot three-point clank as the shot clock ran down and Peterson had to force a pass to Marks (not a three-point ace).
Denver looked to be in control of this game and took another 10 point lead of 31-21, but the Hornets dominated the rest of the period and closed on a 24-15 run to send the game to the half 46-45.
In the period Denver missed some easy layups. I wish the Nuggs would power the ball up better and go for the dunk rather than off-balance layups. An extra dribble here and an extra gathering jump there and the Nuggets would solve this issue and probably get some extra free throw attempts in the process. Aggression is rewarded.
CP3 is a trickster ... an old dog ... a young guy who already knows all the tricks. At the 00:39 mark on a pick-and-roll Birdman stayed with Paul to form a trap and Paul just threw himself at Bird ... much like how I'd throw myself at Rachel McAdams given the chance.
"Do I want to watch the Notebook AGAIN? Of course I do!"
"What, you want to watch Wedding Crashers? So do I!"
Anyhow ... Paul is crafty. With just 00:27 left in the half Melo attempted to steal the ball from CP3 ... Paul passed the ball and found Melo a little too close for comfort and again pulled a me with McAdams, but this time the refs whistled the "Golden Child" and Melo stretched out on the hardwood and rejoiced in the pleasure of having the play called in his favor.
3rd Quarter: Nuggets 31-23
So basically every possession was handled with kids gloves. Neither team wanted to waste a single opportunity to put points on the board. This game turned into Arturo Gatti vs. "Irish" Micky Ward ... a real slug fest and a boxing reference!
Melo scored 10 straight points for the Nuggets leading to a 61-59 lead. The Hornets would not go away. Their aggressive game play lead to a 5-0 foul advantage and would be shooting free throws for much of the quarter. The Hornets would finish the period 13-13 from the foul line, but not to be outdone the Nuggets started playing more aggressive and went 10-10 from the line. So, 23 of the 54 points in the period were of the free variety. I wish the refs would have let them play a bit more, but whatever ... such is life in the NBA.
Melo dumped in 14 of his team high 29 points in the period and Denver found some breathing room and closed the quarter up 77-
65 ... well Posey drew a "foul" on Bird in the left corner on a three-point attempt.
As Bird flew out to block Posey's shot Chris did his best to avoid contact and would have if Posey hadn't leaned to his left and thrown himself at Anderson while hoisting up a horrific shot. The replay didn't even show that contact was made, but the refs awarded this "effort" with three fouls shots and the lead was 77-68 Denver headed to the fourth. I was really hoping that play would have zero outcome on the game.
4th Quarter: 24-20 Nuggets
It was bombs away for the Nuggets in the final phase. The Nuggets opened the quarter 6-6 then 7-9 including 3-3 from 3-point land to push the lead to 94-73. BALLGAME!
The Hornets tried to make a couple runs, but the Nuggets kept the game under wraps and earned a big time win on a big time stage in New Orleans. With the win Denver is virtually tied with the Rockets for 3rd place in the West as both teams have 26 losses. And the Suns did their part by defeating the Jazz last night as Denver moved a game ahead of the Hornets and a game and half ahead of the Jazz and Blazers.
If Denver plays like this ... I don't care who they face in the first round.
Views you can use:
- There is a GIGANTIC BLIZZARD going on in Denver right now. White out conditions. Not sure how you can use this information, but my drive home should be fun
- Denver is 10-5 when Melo and Billups both go for 20+ points
- The Nuggets are 22-9 when Billups goes for 20+ points
- The Nuggets tied the season series with the Hornets 2-2
- Denver combined for only 14 assists last night ... thank goodness the shots were falling
- Chris Paul tallied his 4th double-double against the Nuggets with 19 points and 13 assists ... but it was a very very quiet double-double
- The Hornets turned the ball over 17 times to Denver's 10
- The Nuggets shot 95% from the foul line going 23-24 and the only miss came with just 00:36 remaining with Birdman missed the last free throw of the game for Denver - my buddy Rory COMPLETELY JINXED HIM!
Opposition: At the Hive