The Denver Nuggets won a road game. Let me repeat: the Nuggets won just their sixth game of the season on the road in Washington 120-109. It was a bit of a snoozer and the Nuggets needed one of those games on the road, especially for the first game of a back-to-back.
First things first, anyone notice J.R. Smith not playing tonight?
Ben Hochman had this to say via Twitter when I asked him about "Swish" ...
nuggetsnews Benjamin Hochmanyea.. 2 sources said he missed shootaround RT @Nate_Timmons: @nuggetsnews any news on J.R. sitting? (I may have missed a Tweet)
J.R. missed shootaround? Well, that doesn't surprise me at all. As we typically see from Smith, he'll look good for awhile and then he'll do something like this. I guess we'll find out quickly if George Karl is planning on sitting J.R. again as Denver plays tomorrow night in Detroit.
To the game itself ...
I was surprised to see the Nuggets open things up with Chauncey Billups covering John Wall and Arron Afflalo on Nick Young, but it worked out. Denver started the game with great focus. The team seemed driven to move the ball on offense, play with some energy and to bottle up Wall as soon as he crossed halfcourt.
Denver jumped out to an early 19-8 lead with 5:10 to play in the first-quarter and looked like they were going to dominate all night. But the Wizards battled back and ended the quarter on a 18-14 run and stayed in the game thanks to 15 first quarter points from Andray Blatche.
Blatche looked unstoppable in the first, even though Kenyon Martin was really trying to shut him down. Denver players kept falling for shot fakes from the perimeter from Blatche and allowed him to drive the lane after he got a lane. But every time the Nuggets were able to stop his dribble or dare him to shoot ... he missed. Blatche used to pump fakes from beyond the three-point line and why the Nuggets bigs went for those fakes is beyond me. Blatche is just 4-15 or 26% from distance this season, there is no way he was going to take those shots. But after the first quarter, Blatche scored just 10 points the rest of the way to finish with 25 points on the night (averages 16 ppg on the season).
Like I pointed out in my recap of the Pacers vs. Nuggets game, there is also a receipe for road games in the NBA against lesser teams and the Nuggets finally put the ingredients together tonight. The Nuggets started the game with a "show them who's boss" attitude, created a sizable lead, didn't allow the Wizards to play with a lead or to get within striking distance basically all night and earned a much needed win away from The Can aka the Pepsi Center.
-There were some pretty good one-on-one battles going on out there tonight. Let's take a look at three of them:
K-Mart and Blatche were getting pretty physical on the Nuggets' defensive end. It seemed like Kenyon didn't want Blatche to score at all, but he kept scoring at will with his herky-jerky style.
Melo and Rashard Lewis were going at it on the Wizards defensive end. Lewis was really trying to body Melo, but Melo had much greater strength and was able to get to any spot he wanted with or without the ball. I was wondering if the two had some bad blood going back to Lewis' Seattle days because I don't normally see Lewis being very physical, but it was fun to watch. It should be noted that Melo was just 8-20 on the night, but he went for 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 turnovers. Lewis on the other hand was just 3-6 on the night for 8 points. What happened to his game?
Nene vs. JaVale McGee. McGee is no doubt a special talent as he's super athletic for being a 7-footer, but he's also a very emotional player and you can frustrate him and throw him off his game. Nene was 8-9 shooting, including 5-7 from the charity stripe, for 21 points. Nene also added 9 rebounds and 1 block tonight. McGee scored 11 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. McGee picked up 2 fouls with 9:03 left in the first quarter, but was able to stay out of further foul trouble the rest of the way and finished with just 3 fouls ... pretty impressive. If Washington can bring in a veteran big man to mentor McGee he'd be a lot better off (even with two parents with professional basketball experience, it's key to have a veteran voice in the locker room to show McGee the ropes).
-The Nuggets did a great job taking Wall out of the game. Wall was almost an afterthought tonight. Denver trapped him to start the game whenever he crossed halfcourt and got the ball out of his hands. His teammates did a good job creating shots on their own, but they needed Wall's dribble-drives to create sustained offense. Wall finished with 10 points, 13 assists and 5 rebounds, but he also had 4 turnovers and 5 fouls. Billups did a nice job drawing some veteran fouls on the rookie. An interesting note ... Altitude TV's Scott Hastings said after the game that Washington has always had stat friendly scorers ... taking a shot at Wall's 13 total assists (they are determined by in-house score keepers).
-On the other side of the ball, Ty Lawson had a great game. Lawson continues to make other guards look like they are wearing bricks on the feet. Lawson blew by Wall a couple times and whomever else tried to guard him. Ty scored 17 points and had just 2 assists, but he really did a great job running the offense and taking over the flow of the game when he was on the floor.
Views you can use:
The Nuggets combined for 23 assists tonight on 41 made field goals ... it was just the 9th time in 19 road games where they have put up 20+ assists. Denver is now 5-4 on the road when they have 20+ assists.
Al Harrington went 6-8 from downtown tonight (7-12 shooting on the night) and led the bench with 21 points. The Nuggets had 6 players score 15+ points tonight. Check it out.
There wasn't a ton of defense tonight ... Denver shot 50.6% on the night and Washington was even better shooting 51.2% on the night.
The Nuggets outscored the Wizards 36-6 from downtown tonight. Denver shot 12-23 from deep and the Wiz were just 2-13 from deep.
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