You’re probably thinking, "The return of Balkman? Seriously?" Yes, Renaldo Balkman saw his first action since Dec. 8th and when the last man off the bench enters the game, you know things must be going right for your team. Things went right indeed in Denver’s 119-90 laugher over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I’ve been watching a lot of HBO lately and this month they added a cheesy, but entertaining movie series to their ONDEMAND menu featuring Vin Diesel. In the latest installment Diesel or Dominic Toretto plays the role of the biggest badass and the best driver on the planet. In the opening scene Toretto must rescue his girlfriend Letty, who is hanging onto the back of a two-tanker semi that is trying to throw her from the speeding vehicle, on a mountainous road, while the driver is shooting at Toretto who is doing the bulk of his driving in reverse. NASCAR drivers don’t have shit on Toretto … the man’s movie was titled Fast and Furious and that’s just what the Nuggets were tonight.
Like Toretto with Letty, the Nuggets sort of rescued their fans tonight from having to slide further down a dangerous hill of losing three-straight games. But tonight’s contest was nowhere near as dramatic as the opening scene to the final installment of the Fast and Furious series.
Denver had it in their heads that they needed to share the ball and throughout the game the Nuggets were looking to set each other up en route to 30 assists (the Nuggets recorded 28 total in their previous two games). The main culprit who was dishing the ball more than a local cafeteria worker? Anthony Carter.
Without Ty Lawson I was worried about A.C.’s contributions … he put those worries to rest as he was diligently looking to set up his teammates. A.C. recorded 5 assists in the second quarter and even completed a slightly deflected alley-oop to the Birdman. Carter finished with 12 assists on the night (a team high) and played better than expected.
Staying in tune with surprising performances, Carmelo Anthony had himself a fine ballgame. We learned before the contest tonight that Melo used an I.V. to re-hydrate his body … it worked. Melo started the game off 2-2 from the field and scored 15 points in the opening quarter. Melo had 23 points at the half and finished with 30 points on 11-19 shooting in 32 minutes. Melo led the team in minutes played with 32 total … a great night to get the team some rest. Melo also went 7-8 from the foul line, after harping on his foul shooting on the Stiff List, it was good to see Melo return to form and hopefully fatigue was playing a bigger role than I thought.
Fatigue was something Denver didn’t have to worry about tonight. Chauncey Billups, who plays a little too much, was only needed for 27 minutes tonight. Denver’s bench guys saw extended minutes and could have probably even played more. A.C. led the way with 21 minutes, Malik Allen 12 minutes (Taco time for the whole fourth quarter!), Joey Graham 8 minutes, Johan Petro 7 minutes and The Crimestopper aka Renaldo Balkman 6 minutes. The deep bench contributed a combined 12 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and 2 blocks.
During the final period I saw Steve Hess help Balkman up off his bed of towels on the baseline and he began to stretch him out a bit. I thought to myself, "Could it be … a Balkman sighting? Nooooo." Balkman plopped back down on the floor and I cursed under my breath. A few minutes later a timeout was called and I noticed Balkman getting helped up again and a couple guys picked up his bed of towels and the Crimestopper began to shed his warm-ups! The arena announcer introduced Balkman and welcomed him back and the crowd erupted for the hustling, dread-locked player. Renaldo made one reverse lay-up and then went 0-3 the rest of the way, with all three misses coming from beyond the arc … to the crowd’s urging and probably his coach’s displeasure.
I did notice Nuggets assistant Tim Grgurich pull Balkman aside after a timeout and have a one-on-one talk with him. Grgurich is a very good coach and very well respected and he seems to take a lot of the younger guys under his wing, Balkman is no different. Also, during the game I noticed Balkman had no real interest in the team huddle and was off chatting with assistant Adrian Dantley. But when he was in the game and a timeout was called, Balkman was right next to Karl listening for instructions. Just an observation.
This was a great game for the Nuggets as they just dominated the Thunder. During the first half Denver stretched their lead to 15 points, but at the half the Thunder had cut it down to just 9 points (61-52). In the third quarter the Nuggets just took off. Looking up at the score I realized that with 2:47 left in the third that the Thunder had only mustered 7 points.
Denver pushed the lead in the fourth quarter to 108-68 … a 40-point lead! The 29-point loss was the worst suffered by OK City this season as things were not O.K. for the Thunder tonight. Kevin Durant scored 16 points in the first half, but finished with just 19 points in 27 minutes on 5-14 shooting. Coach Karl said after the game, the plan was to crowd Durant to discourage him from driving the ball and to switch bigs onto him in pick-and-roll situations. The Nuggets really did a great job of making Durant a non-factor tonight.
Nene came out and made himself a major factor tonight. The big Brazilian was rewarded for running the court and had a couple nice run-out dunks to go alone with his aggressive play inside. This was the Nene we love, the guy who chooses to dunk the ball around the rim and the guy who leaves you wondering why the Nuggets don’t run the offense through him more. He finished the game with 20 points and 2 blocks … both blocks were of the intimidating style.
The Nuggets earned an intimidating win over a team that came in riding a 12-2 record in their past 14 games since beating the Nuggets on Jan. 29th. Tonight though, the Nuggets got their revenge from a 84-101 drubbing by the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Next mission for the Nuggets? Take care of business against the sub .500 Pacers this Friday ... just like Toretto would do, Fast and Furious style.
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets are now 24-0 on the season when they score over 110 points.
- Birdman filled up the stat line after returning from injury against the Suns. Bird tallied 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks. His knee injury will be a nagging one all season, but his heart should never be questioned.
- After surrendering 57 points to Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green in their last meeting the three combined for only 35 points tonight.
- My buddy Mark has now attended three-game this season, the Nuggets are 3-0 in those games with a winning point differential of 24.6 points ... can we get this guy some tickets?!
Arron Afflalo left the game in the first quarter after banging his left hand during a Kevin Durant three-point shot. It looked like Afflalo hit his hand on the ball or KD’s arm, when Afflalo returned his left hand was taped up pretty good and after the game he got X-rayed … good news: the X-ray was negative (according to Travis Heath). His status will be evaluated for Friday soon.
Opposition's Take: Welcome to Loud City
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: David Zalubowski