The Nuggets are such a deep team that despite not having Arron Afflalo and losing Kenyon Martin (flu-like symptoms), after just 6 minutes of play, they were able to come back to defeat the Sacramento Kings. Denver Stiffs also boasts a deep roster and despite losing Andrew Feinstein (flu-like symptoms), we were still able to recap this 104-90 victory!
This game was truly a tale of two halves. The Nuggets were down 51-41 after the first half and the team was shooting a dreadful 36.6% from the field. Ty Lawson led the team in scoring heading into the break with 10 points (all in the second quarter) and J.R. Smith was right on his heels with 9 points of his own. In that first half, Lawson and Smith shot 8-10 from the field, while their teammates were just 7-31, yikes.
Sacramento came into Denver on a bit of a hot streak, as Feinstein pointed out in his preview. They played Tuesday night (March 29th) at the Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento and the Kings defeated the Suns 116-113; to give the Kings their fourth win in a row. Marcus Thornton (27 points) and Company got off to a quick start at the Pepsi Center, and they would need a large lead as they were playing the second of a back-to-back in the dreaded altitude. Unfortunately for the Kings, their 10 point halftime lead was not going to be large enough.
In the third quarter the game changed as the Nuggets' defense came to life. Midway through the third, Lawson found himself rotating to an open Samuel Dalembert underneath the hoop. Instead of conceding a layup or dunk, Lawson challenged the seven-footer and forced Dalembert into an uncomfortable bunny attempt that he left short. Nuggets ball. On another play just a few possessions later, Danilo Gallinari chased down a streaking Tyreke Evans and instead of giving up an uncontested dunk, Gallo made a heck of an effort to try to block the jam. Evans completed the throw-down (64-63), but Gallo's effort told me that the Nuggets were not going to lose this game.
The Kings may have believed they were still in the game as the thrid quarter ended and the scoreboard read 74-71 in the Nuggets' favor, but the momentum had shifted as Denver's defensive intensity spread like the perspiration in the T-shirt of a Biggest Loser contestant.
Ty Lawson said it best after the game in his postgame interview with Altitude's Maya Starks, "You gotta let your defense take you through the game."
The Nuggets offensive struggles didn't go away in the final quarter as the team started the period just 2-11 before J.R. Swish came through with yet another pull-up jumper off his killer crossover to give Denver a 80-77 lead. As the rest of the Nuggets not named Smith or Lawson struggled, the duo kept making shots for the team. At the 6:00 mark the Altitude crew put up a stat indicating Lawson and Smith were now 15-18 from the field and the rest of the team was a miserable 14-53.
Over the final six minutes that trusty defense came through again for the Nuggets and allowed them to break this contest wide open. At the 5:28 mark Gallo completed a fastbreak dunk (where he was fouled hard) that was set up when Wilson Chandler went up for a block on a Dalembert layup and came down with the ball. Chandler fed Lawson, who pushed the ball ahead to Nene, who found a streaking Gallo for the circus dunk that send the home crowd into a frenzy.
At the 4:09 mark it was again a defensive play that fueled a nice offensive finish. This time it was a Nene block on DeMarcus Cousins jumper from the elbow, with the shot clock winding down, that led to Lawson feeding Nene in a pick-and-roll on the other end for a power dunk. The Nuggets were up 88-81 and never looked back. Gallo and Raymond Felton hit back-to-back three-pointers to drive the final daggers into the Kings chances of winning and gave the Nuggets a 94-83 lead with just 4:11 to play. From there the two teams basically went through the motions as the Nuggets improved to 31-7 on their home floor (3rd best in the NBA) and 45-29 overall.
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets outscored the Kings in the second half: 63-39.
- How about this: in the Nuggets 13 wins A.M. (After Melo) they are averaging 26.23 assists. In their 4 losses they average 18.75 assists per game.
- Thornton and Evans combined for 49 points and 9 assists for the Kings.
- Lawson and Smith finished the night 15-20 from the field and the rest of the Nuggets were 23-61 or 37.7% from the field.
- Lawson and Smith combined for 37 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and just 3 turnovers.
- Gallo finished the game with 17 points and 9 rebounds, narrowly missing what would have been just his third double-double this season and his first as a Nugget.
- Nene was a monster tonight with15 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks to go along with 12 points.
- Denver's free throw shooting continues to be worrisome as they finished the game 22-32 from the charity stripe, good for just 68.8% on their makes. Could be a huge playoff bugaboo.
- The Nuggets finished the month of March with 10 wins. Here is how I described this double-digit win scenario back on March 1st, 2011:
The "I think I sh*t my pants I'm so happy!" scenario: If Denver can get double-digit wins this month, then they would surely be the most talked about team in the NBA. On paper, and if I super-glue my Powder Blue colored glasses to my dome, I could see the Nuggets grabbing 10 wins. Here is how: take care of the Bobcats on Wednesday (1), steal one against the demoralized Jazz in a tough back-to-back (2), dig deep and out-energize the young Clippers in L.A. (3), stun the surging Suns in their building (4), pound the Pistons at home (5), grab a big win in Atlanta (6), return home and use defense to beat the Raptors (7), out Spur the Spurs on ESPN (8), don't give the Wizards hope (9) and take care of the ball hoggin' Kings (10). You hopefully can see how this would be a tough task.
I had this month pegged just about right - sub out the Clippers for the Hornets and I'm a genius. If only the Nuggets had scored 110 points against the Kings then Taco Bell could have assured us the "I think I sh*t my pants..." part.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter