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Game 4 Nuggets vs Thunder recap: Nuggets step up ... finally

Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson stepped up for the Nuggets in Game 4, along with some of their other teammates.
Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson stepped up for the Nuggets in Game 4, along with some of their other teammates.

At the half Ty Lawson had 14 points and Kenyon Martin had 11 points of his own. Their teammates: Danilo Gallinari, J.R. Smith, and Nene had a combined 6 points. In the second half however, the aforementioned trio exploded for 37 points and helped lead the way to the Nuggets' 104-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Game 4 had a lot in common with Game 3 in the first half, but we finally were able to see the Nuggets with some second half success. The mantra going forward: one game at a time.

I was waiting for a game in which the Nuggets could play with a bit of a lead and finally get the court slanted in a downhill motion when the Nuggets were on the attack. Meaning, the Nuggets needed to push and control the tempo of the game and get the Thunder playing on their heels (as much as possible). 

Throughout much of this series the Thunder defense has done a great job of contesting shots and not letting the Nuggets get much the easy way. Also, the Thunder have hit so many key shots that they allow themselves time to get back on defense and really have prevented the Nuggets from getting their transition game going. 

Tonight Lawson played in that aggressive style that eats teams up. He was attacking the paint and drawing contact throughout the game and was a difference maker. His 14 first half points were added to to the tune of 13 more in the second half, giving him 27 points on the night to go along with 3 assists (very low) and just 1 turnover. Ty was 8-16 from the field (2-4 from deep) and an impressive 9-9 from the foul line. Without this type of game from Lawson tonight, the Nuggets season would have ended. He didn't rack up a lot of assists, but his scoring was desperately needed and he helped slant the court in the Nuggets favor and got the Thunder playing on their heels.

But Lawson couldn't do it alone and he didn't have to. Martin had his ugly jumper working early and scored 9 points in the first quarter and provided the Nuggets with a reliable scorer to carry the team early. K-Mart also had 9 rebounds (1 offensive) and was the anchor the team steadied itself with. 

As well as the Nuggets played in the first quarter, up 26-20, the game just had a funny feeling to it. Wilson Chandler's struggles continued and George Karl was forced to sit Chandler. He played just 8 minutes and was 0-4 from the field with 1 turnover. He did do some work on the boards grabbing 3 rebounds (2 offensive), but Chandler's confidence is clearly shaken and would not be trusted with the season on the line to snap out of his funk. When Chandler entered the game, along with some other reserves, the Nuggets went cold and things started to fall apart. Denver scored just 19 points in the second quarter and the Thunder did a great job riding the initial wave from the home team and the home crowd and stayed in position to make a run in the second half with the game tied 45-45 heading into the locker rooms.

Looking over the stats from the first half, I was worried that the reserves were struggling as I felt K-Mart and Lawson were going to need some serious help. Who would step up for the Nuggets to extend the season? Luckily, Lawson kept up his aggressive play, Gallo awoke from a two game slump, J.R. Swish made an appearance, Nene battled his free throw demons, second chance opportunities arose with some help from Chris Andersen, and the Denver defense buckled down a bit. 

Gallinari bounced back from his 0 point first half to score 11 points in the third quarter and 7 more in the fouth quarter. The third belonged to the Italian kid and his herky-jerky style. Gallo scored on wild drives to the rim, hit some contested jumpers, and buried a key three-pointer as well. On the night he finished 6-13 from the field (3-4 from deep and 3-5 from the foul line) for 18 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, had 4 assists, 1 steal, and just 1 turnover. His offensive spark was just what the Nuggets needed and was something we hadn't seen for a few games. New York fans tried to warn us that Gallo was a streaky player and perhaps he's coming around at just the right time. I was worried the playoff lights were shining too bright in his first post-season trip, but perhaps they are starting to turn into more of a spotlight for Danilo. 

J.R. Swish is a player who typically has the spotlight on him, for good and bad reasons. Tonight J.R. showed why he's such an intriguing player and a fan favorite (as well as a pest for the opposition). He defended well, got to the rim when he desired, and hit some key bombs as well. It was like whenever the Nuggets needed somebody to step up there was a man available tonight. For the first time in the series the Nuggets showed why their depth is their strength and how a team can win games. I was told by Andrew Feinstein that when J.R. was pulled in favor of Raymond "I like to miss free throws" Felton at the 1:54 mark that Smith was not happy and was visibly upset on the bench - so much so that Gary Forbes was trying to coax him back to being that normally good teammate that he is. 

If there is one thing we know about Karl it's that he trusts certain lineups to close out games and he's grown quite fond of having Lawson and Felton on the court together to close things out. Felton was 4-6 at the foul line in the final 00:23 seconds and failed to ice the game for the Nuggets on his last trip to the free throw line (making just 1-2 and giving OKC a shot to tie it). Felton had yet another unimpressive game going 2-10 from the field (1-3 from deep and 6-9 free throws) for 11 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 1 turnover. Felton over-dribbled the ball, looked for his own shot for much of his time on the floor, and wasn't hitting the shots he took. He is a vocal leader, but he also should be showing us why he was an All-Star snub (to some) and not a back-up point guard like he doesn't want to be. Lawson has become the Nuggets' most reliable free throw shooter while Felton has joined the Adventures in Foul Shooting Club. Karl's decision to take out J.R. for Felton was expected given Karl's coaching pattern and Raymond is a good ball handler to have out there for inbounding play situations, but his foul shooting needs not to be an issue. 

I loved the battling of Nene and Birdman tonight. The two combined for 15 rebounds and 6 of those came in the form of offensive boards. Birdman came up with 2 blocks and 1 steal as well, but only scored 1 point on the night. Again, Andersen isn't an offensive weapon, but he can change the game in other ways and he did that tonight. Al Harrington continues to make me wonder what Kosta Koufos would do in this series. Big Al finished 0-4 shooting (3-4 from the foul line) 3 points with 2 rebounds in 16 minutes. I still wonder if Koufos would provide better inside presence and rebounding as Chandler and Harrington are basically the same players out there. 

Arron Afflalo played pretty well despite being less than 100% out there. In 22 minutes (and spraining his right ankle) he scored just 6 points on 2-7 shooting (0-1 from deep and 2-2 free throws) with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. I still maintain that Afflalo is a difference maker and a key player for the Nuggets on the floor. He offers a better defensive body to put on Westbrook than Lawson or Felton and seems to have a calming presence on the floor. 

The Nuggets won a game in this series and have extended their season to at least one more game. If the Nuggets media members thought Oklahoma City Arena was loud in the first two games of this series, I'd hate to see their reactions to how Game 5 is going to be. Ear plugs might be a must for the players and coaches. 

The Thunder did an excellent job staying in this game and coming back at the end with some mad dashes of their own. That team doesn't quit and doesn't take games for granted. Kevin Durant and his squad wanted to close this series out in Denver and they almost got it done. Unlike Game 3 it was the Nuggets who made a push in the second half and found a way to hang on for the win.

Denver lives to see another day and it was nice to see the team fight and earn the win in Game 4. 

 

Views you can use:

 

  • The Nuggets were 17-41 shooting in the first half and just 15-42 in the second half ... seems weird - Denver didn't make more field goals in the second half? Sure felt like it.
  • The Nuggets were 2-6 from three point land in the first half and 7-13 from deep in the second half. Finally the Nuggets shooting from outside heated up and didn't cool off as the game wore on.
  • The Nuggets were 9-14 from the foul line in the first half and 22-30 from the freebie line in the second half. Lots of free throws ... too many for my taste. I wish the refs would let both teams play a bit more.
  • Weird how Russell Westbrook took some questionable shots down the stretch when KD was burying everything he was putting up. 

 

 

 

Nate_Timmons
ntimmons73@yahoo.com