Melo seemed a bit more comfortable shooting the ball from the outside and wasn’t working quite as hard getting himself into the lane, which is understandable coming off a knee injury. It was great to have Melo back on the floor and his return, for now, spelled the end of the short-lived Joey Graham era. Graham recorded a Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision and I was hoping that he would get some minutes after playing hard in Melo’s absence. I have been in favor of seeing J.R. Smith play some point guard and perhaps cut into Anthony Carter’s 18 minutes to get either Graham or Arron Afflalo more burn.

Afflalo played 31 minutes and led the Nuggets for a time in the scoring department with 15 points and I thought he was going to have a bigger game. Spellcheck finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block. Afflalo was carrying the Nuggets a bit in the first half and it was nice to see him get out and get a couple easy buckets on the fast break, another nice game for the hard working kid.

The Nuggets were out-rebounded 49-43 and were slaughtered on the defensive glass, as the Timberwolves were able to grab 21 offensive rebounds. Yes, 21 offensive rebounds! The two bright spots for Denver were Kenyon Martin (15 rebounds) and Chris Andersen (9 boards), but Kevin Love and Al Jefferson just feasted on the glass and seemed to get a hand on just about every missed shot.

The Nuggets started very slow once again tonight. Here is how things started:

  • Billups missed jumper.

  • Nene missed jumper.

  • Nene loses ball out of bounds (turnover).

  • Billups 2-2 from the foul line.

  • Billups airball.

  • Melo steal and Afflalo dunk.

  • Billups missed jumper.

  • Melo’s shot blocked on offensive rebound.

  • Afflalo loses ball out of bounds.
  • Melo misses three-pointer.
  • K-Mart dunks.
  • Nene goes 0-2 from free throw line.
  • Afflalo misses a three.
  • Melo turnover on a bad pass.

At this point Denver was losing 8-6 with just 5:40 left in the first quarter. Things were looking miserable and Denver was 2-6 from the foul line. Denver was able to get on track a bit offensively and won the quarter 20-15, but the slow starts against weak teams is very frustrating.

In the second quarter the Nuggets attempted to build a big lead, but Minnesota hung around thanks to Corey Brewer’s 18 points in the period. To plays that really stood out … Melo’s left handed dish to Bird for an easy dunk to give Denver a 27-19 lead and J.R. Smith’s steal off an inbounds pass which led to a beautiful reverse double-clutch dunk (47-35 Nuggets). But for all Denver’s effort, they just couldn’t get away from the Wolves and took only a 58-50 lead into the half.

Was I worried about Denver opening up the third quarter? Yes. Just a night removed from the third quarter collapse against the Kings, I was watching the Nuggets effort closely coming out of the break. Denver didn’t completely turn up the energy, but they did get some breathing room as they opened up a 16-point lead and took a 15-point lead into the decisive fourth quarter.

Like I mention in the title … the bulk of the excitement in the final period centered around Malik Allen hitting an outside jumper to ensure Taco Bell saw some ad time on the broadcast. The Nuggets cruised and it was good to see the team get a relatively easy win and to get a bit of rest down the stretch for a change.

Views you can use:

  • The Nuggets finished 10-28 from three-point land. I don’t like to see the Nuggets hoisting some many bombs as you live by the three and die by the three on most nights.

  • The Nuggets made 38 field goals and recorded 30 assists. Four Nuggets recorded 4+ assists on the night. (Billups with 10, J.R. with 6, Afflalo with 5 and A.C. with 4)

  • Kenyon Martin missed out his 12th double-double of the season with 8 points and 15 rebounds … good to see K-Mart still attacking the glass.





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Photo Courtesy of AP Photos: David Zalubowski