After starting out a difficult road trip with a 2-0 start, the Denver Nuggets fall back to Earth a bit and finish the four-game road swing with a 2-2 record after losing last night to the Orlando Magic and tonight to the villainous Miami Heat. Miami's Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh combine for 83 points in their teams 103-98 win.
The Heat players have made a big fuss that teams play them too hard and they get everyone's best shot. Well, tonight the Heat looked like they were out to make a statement against the Nuggets. James, who scored 33 points on 15-25 shooting, and Wade, who scored 32 points on 10-20 shooting, both were focused and played like men possessed tonight on their home floor. Maybe it's the Nuggets, who are now 9-4 post-trade, who will be getting the best shots from their opponents going forward.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy gushed over the Nuggets and their recent play Friday night and Denver wont be sneaking up on anybody anymore. The secret it out ... Denver has a mighty fine basketball team and their opponents have taken notice. ESPN and other major sports outlets might talk about how the Superstar laden team defeated The Team, but this game was more about what the Nuggets didn't do than what the Heat did.
Yes, Wade and James both shot lights out at 50% (49.6% on the season) and 60% (49% on the season) respectively. They both made a variety of shots and Wade was making some impossible ones throughout the night. But the two stars have to play like that every night in order for their team to stay in games. When Heat point guard Mario Chalmers was injured at the 1:07 mark of the first-quarter I was licking my chops knowing Mike Bibby would be logging heavy minutes against Ty Lawson. But Bibby shots lights out as well and was 4-8 from three-point land (rarely a hand in his face or even a body within the near vicinity) and dropped in 14 points. Bibby's timely makes were back-breaking ones.
The Nuggets got nice performances from Lawson (16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists), Danilo Gallinari (23 points, but just 2-6 from downtown) and J.R. Smith (27 points). But the Nuggets didn't put their typical stamp on this game.
Denver only had 4 offensive rebounds, 14 total team assists and took too many three-pointers at inopportune moments (10-24 from downtown on the night). Many of the Nuggets had trouble finishing at the rim and went for too many awkward layups when dunks or strong moves were needed. During the broadcast, Scott Hastings was begging for Nene to take over the game as the Heat don't have any big men that can defend him. Nene finished just 3-8 on the night for 10 points and as we all know from watching him ... he doesn't have that take-over gene in his basketball game.
The Heat did a great job turning the Nuggets into a jump shooting team and making life difficult for the Nuggets on the offensive end. The fastbreaking Nuggets didn't get much of a chance tonight with the Heat making 50.7% of their shots. The absense of Raymond Felton was probably felt a little bit tonight as his leadership on the floor is valuable to this team. But Lawson played a fantastic game. He was pushing the pace and practically begging his teammates to match his energy and Gallo was up to that challenge.
Gallo most definitely comes to play every time he laces up his sneakers. The 22 year-old kid plays the game like he is truly a foreigner. I say that because he has no fear of anyone he plays against and it's almost as if he has no clue who is on the other team. Gallo crossed-over "King" James on one particular drive and finished at the hoop for a nice layup. I quite enjoy his game and I'm learning to live with his quick trigger; I hope his teammates learn that when he gets it from the outside that he's going up with it and set up to rebound appropriately.
The Nuggets started the game off in a hole that they were never able to climb out of. Miami jumped on the Nuggets out of the gate and Wilson Chandler and the Nuggets were having a brickfest. A 10-0 lead ballooned to a 16-point lead a couple different times during the contest. I used this line before and I'll use it again ... tonight's game must have been secretly sponsored by Pepto Bismol because there were runs all over the place by both teams and nothing could stop them. Not even the delicious pink stomach relief medication that you can pick up at your local supermarket and select gas stations (maybe they weren't such a secret sponsor???).
Well, if you grabbed me by the sides of my face and screamed at me, "THE NUGGETS ARE GOING TO BE 2-2 ON THE ROAD TRIP!" I would have been slap me in the face and knock my teeth out happy. But part of me is disappointed as well. After going 2-0, Denver had a chance to be 4-0 or 3-1 and would have been the talk of the nation. The 2-2 trip is good and it's great that my expectations are so high for this team because their play on the floor demands it.
Denver returns home to face the Toronto Raptors Monday night and it's looking like I'll be in attendance for that one. No word yet on whether Felton or Arron Afflalo will be able to play in that one. Afflalo probably came back a bit too early from his hamstring injury and re-injured it at the 9:51 mark of the second-quarter. He may now be out longer than he was originally and that injury needs the proper time to heal before he comes back. George Karl turned to Gary Forbes and even Timofey Mozgov for three minutes apiece in the first half. J.R. Smith started the second half in Afflalo's place and Forbes played a few more minutes in the second half, but The Moz didn't return to action.
I told some of my friends last night that I'm basically living-and-dying with this team. I absolutely love watching this group play basketball. There were times against the Heat when the Nuggets could have given up and accepted a beating and a large one from Miami. But the heart of this team wouldn't allow them to quit ... the coaches and the players deserve great credit for that. There are only 12 games left in the season and I wish there were 100 more ... this group is a joy to watch ... win or lose.
Views you can use:
- Chris Bosh was 4-9 on the night, but finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Bosh and Wade were a combined 21-24 from the charity stripe ... Bosh was 10-11.
- Lawson played 44 of 48 minutes tonight with Felton's absence ... I wonder if he enjoyed it or wished Anthony Carter were still around? Again, Lawson played great.
- Wilson Chandler finished 5-15 shooting, but started the game missing Denver's first three shots. After that he was 5-12 ... same as Gallo. I'd love to see Ill-Will finish more with authority when he gets in the paint. Throw it down big fella ... throw it down!
- The Nuggets are now 0-7 since 1986 on March 19th ... there's always next year for my big birthday win.
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