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Game 75 recap: Nuggets 111 - Knicks 104

 

Melo, Nuggets charging into playoffs

 

 

You always want your team clicking at the right time and the Nuggets are doing just that. If Carmelo Anthony was an NBA Jam character every time he took a shot you would see a trail of fire from the ball just moments before burning down the net.

Checkout Melo's soaring scoring numbers on a month-by-month basis this season.

  • November 19.9 points per game
  • December 21.9 ppg
  • January 23.3 ppg
  • February 23.1 ppg
  • March 26.8 ppg

In Melo's six season in the NBA he has had the team around him reshaped drastically numerous times. In Melo's rookie season of 2003-2004 he was drafted to a team that was just constructed. His point guard was Andre Miller, who had just been signed in the offseason away from the L.A. Clippers.

Melo was a rookie just trying to find his way in the NBA and was on a team that had eight new players from the previous season (Melo, Andre Miller, Earl Boykins, Voshon Lenard, Rodney White, Jon Barry, Francisco Elson, and Michael Doleac), one veteran center who was hopefully healthy (Marcus Camby), and two unproven second year guys (Nene and bust-o-matic Nikoloz Tskitishvili).

That team along with second year Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik reached the playoffs with a 43-39 record ... a drastic improvement from the lottery team of the year before (17-65).

It was believed that this team was one major piece away, so before the 2004-2005 season the Nuggets acquired Kenyon Martin from the New Jersey Nets. The team had to adjust to a new personality and a new player. The Nuggets again made the playoffs, but just like the year before were bounced from the first round.

During the 2004-05 season Jeff Bzdelik was replaced by Michael Cooper and Cooper was replaced by George Karl. Melo would suddenly have to adjust to a new coach's style, personality, and preferences.

The Nuggets kept things relatively the same for the 2005-2006 season. You could call that Melo's only season of stability in his young NBA career. The team once again made the playoffs, but were once again shown the door in the first round.

I think just about everyone in Denver was surprised that to open the 2006-2007 season the Nuggets were coming in with practically the same team that hadn't got the job done in the post-season. Denver did acquire a young shooter named JR Smith in the offseason from the Bulls in exchange for Howard Eisley and two 2nd Round picks (what a steal!). And just 23 games into the season Denver traded for Allen Iverson. The Nuggets gave up steady point guard Andre Miller in the deal and then the Nuggets traded fan favorite Earl Boykins to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Steve Blake.

So just like that the guys who had been feeding Melo the ball since he was a rookie were gone. Adjusting to new point guards can take time and I think we can all agree that Iverson is/was not a point guard when he was here. Melo did adjust to the new style of isolation basketball and the Nuggets kept winning.

But even with all the regular season wins the Nuggets were bounced from the playoffs in the first round in the 2006-2007 season and again last year in the 2007-2008 season.

And once again the Nuggets entered into a shaky offseason. For the first time in his career Melo was hearing his name publicly in trade talks. The team that should have drafted him, the Detroit Pistons, were one of the teams rumored to be trying to work out a deal for the talented 24 year-old small forward. But the Nuggets decided to make some other moves instead.

Marcus Camby was traded (given away) to the L.A. Clippers and energetic forward Eduardo Najera was not retained as he signed a deal with the New Jersey Nets. So the Nuggets were entering the 2008-2009 season with what appeared to be a less talented team and a team that was probably lottery bound in the ultra competitive Western Conference.

All the critics looked correct as the Nuggets opened the season 1-2 with Iverson. And then in a surprise move the Nuggets made a deal with the Detroit Pistons, but Melo was not going anywhere.

Denver traded Allen Iverson basically in exchange for Chauncey Billups. The team seemed to change instantly. In November with Billups aboard the Nuggets rattled off an 11-4 record in Billups' first 15 games as a member of the Nuggets (one loss coming before Billups could play with the team Nov. 5th at Golden State).

Things have stayed pretty consistent record wise month-to-month throughout the season with Billups and Co.

  • October 1-1 (with A.I.)
  • November 11-5 (one loss was pre-Billups under the A.I. regime)
  • December 9-6
  • January 10-4
  • February 8-4
  • March 10-6

Melo and the rest of the Nuggets had a point guard and a player/coach in Billups, their guiding light. I don't believe that the Nuggets transformation would have taken place without Billups.

But what I do know is that Melo has some stability around him this season and has helped define his own role with the team as the season has progressed. Last night on a layup attempt Melo took some hard contact and instead of standing there looking for a call he instead raced down court to get back on defense. I've been blown away at his growth this season. Sure at times he still will get a bonehead technical here and mental lapse there, but this kid is getting it.

In the month of March Melo has been the superstar on a team charging towards the finish line.

 

Nuggets 111 - Knicks 104

 

Some bullets from the game last night:

  • Melo had a tremendous 1st Quarter. He started the game 5/5 and finished the quarter with 14 points on 6-9 shooting to go along with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Melo finished the game with 29 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in 35 minutes. Carmelo continues to score in a variety of ways. He's dangerous from beyond the arc, he can post up any small forward in the league, if you go big on him he's been blowing by guys and getting to the rim, and he's shooting 84.4% from the foul line if you want to send him to the charity stripe. This is the Carmelo Anthony that we all know and love and he's also reinventing himself as an all-around player.
  • Linas Kleiza was the first guy off the bench for Karl last night. He checked into the game at the 6:26 mark for Nene and recorded a defensive rebound and a fastbreak dunk ... he was taken out just about a minute and a half later at the 4:52 mark in favor of Chris Anderson as the Nuggets were getting beat on the boards with a small lineup on the floor that featured KMart at center. Kleiza's short leash is probably not doing his confidence any good. Karl should have inserted LK and Bird into the game at the same time and let Kleiza play into a groove or kept him on the bench until Melo needed a rest. No need to jerk the kid in and out of the game when his confidence is shaky at best. LK did have another nice performance in his 16 minutes of action going 6-10 from the field (1-3) from distance and finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
  • Chauncey Billups was 3/3 in the first quarter on fastbreak three-point attempts. He sank his first three of the quarter just 00:06 seconds into the shot clock. He nailed his second three-pointer just 00:05 seconds into the shot clock. And he drilled his third three of the quarter just 00:04 seconds into the shot clock. That's some quick and accurate shooting. He missed his final three three-point attempts on the night and finished with 13 points and 7 assists.
  • The Nuggets built a 27-point lead with just 4:48 left in the 2nd Quarter (62-35) ... from there they fell in love with the jumper and looked like they may have dipped themselves in super-glue in the locker room just before the 3rd Quarter. The Knicks outscored Denver 69-49 to finish the game, but Denver was able to hold on for the win.
  • At the 3:52 mark in the 1st Quarter the Nuggets had a pretty sweet play. Kenyon Martin and David Lee lined up for a jump ball at the Nuggets foul line. Instead of tipping the ball backwards to his teammates ... KMart spiked the ball volleyball style out towards halfcourt where Billups had already taken off, gathered the ball, and made an easy lay in. Hadn't seen that one before from the Nuggets or at least can't recall the last time I saw it.
  • J.R. Smith continued to set career milestones. He surpassed 4,000 career points last night. He made number 4,000 on a free throw in the second quarter to give Denver a 65-30 lead.
  • The Nuggets came out with enough energy and hustle to start the 4th Quarter to get the win. I don't like to see the Nuggets play the way they did last night. They missed a great opportunity to keep the game way out of reach and allow the starters some rest.
  • Note to Kenyon Martin ... STOP SHOOTING THREES! Kenyon attempted his 36th three of the season last night. His last make came on January 30th against Charlotte ... he was 14-28 at that point in time (50%), but is now 0-8 in his last 20 games.

Views you can use:

  • The Nuggets starters combined for a -25 while they were on the floor last night. Melo was the only starter to record a + with a +10
  • The Nuggets bench combined for a +60 while they were on the floor last night. J.R. Smith led the bench with a +22
  • Nene recorded his 18th double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds ... the Nuggets are 13-5 when Nene records a double-double

 

The Nuggets moved into the #2 seed last night as the Spurs fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in San Antonio last night (96-95). The Nuggets will face the Thunder for the final time on April 8th here in Denver.

 

 

ntimmons73@yahoo.com