Four days later, but it looked like the same game. The Nuggets were able to get up early but could not hit the shots to put them over the hump to stretch an 8 point lead into a 15 point lead like they had in the earlier rounds. Carmelo Anthony got off to a great start, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Nene was hitting his 17 ft. jump shot with ease and Chris Andersen was throwing down emphatic dunks. Birdman was also playing solid defense on Pau Gasol not letting him use his spin move which was so effective in game 2. This had all the makings for a Nuggets victory, and then the 4th quarter started.
The Nuggets had a 79-71 lead going into this quarter thanks to a JR Smith desperation 3 to end the 3rd. Of course George Karl, with his infinite wisdom decided to go with Anthony Carter, Chauncey Billups, Linas Kleiza, Chris Andersen, and JR Smith. The lineup that baffles Nuggets fans to no end is when Anthony Carter and Chauncey Billups are in the game together. Within 5 minutes, a clutch Trevor Ariza 3 pointer had given the Lakers their first lead since 7 minutes left in the 1st quarter to cap a 10-1 run. This run was made possible because of the Nuggets’ many missed layups and dumb turnovers. The teams traded baskets up until 37 seconds left in the game. In almost the exact same situation, the Nuggets were going to inbounds the ball and try to get to the basket quick going for a 2 for 1. Of course after the backlash Karl got from letting the tiny Anthony Carter try to inbounds it against the 6’11″ Lamar Odom in game 1, he put in a much taller Kenyon Martin to take the ball out. After not being able to find an open man, Kenyon did the best thing he could and called a time out. Surely they’d be able to draw up something that could get the ball in this time. After a 20 second time out, Kenyon was still throwing the ball in, and the play looked exactly the same as the play that didn’t work in game 1. Right on cue, Ariza had another steal and a chance to seal the game with a couple of free throws. He went to the line and calmly hit 2 clutch free throws with the entire city of Denver screaming at him. Game Over
The Nuggets didn’t lose this game because of their 3 point shooting (although it was horrendous, 5-27), they didn’t lose it because of officiating (although Karl seemed to think so with 45 Laker attempts), and they didn’t even lose it because of the lack of an inbounds play. The reason the Nuggets lost was because Carmelo Anthony dissapeared after the 1st quarter and the Nuggets didn’t have Melo confident in the 4th. The Nuggets were able to scrap and find ways to score in the 2nd and 3rd but the 4th quarter is a totally different story. This is when teams step up the defense and you need your best player to touch the ball every time down the court and play off of him. If they’re going to lay off of Melo, he can shoot his 19 ft. jumper. If they get up on him, he can just drive and look for contact at the basket. And if he’s doubled, Melo should have the court vision to find the open man squaring up for a jumper or a big man on the baseline looking for a jam.
Anthony Carter Watch – 0 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, 1 steal. If you had never seen him play before this series, you’d wonder why this guy is even in the league. He’s a much better player than he has shown lately, but his confidence is in the tank right now. A few times on fast breaks with numbers he refused to take the easy layup by making 1 or 2 too many passes resulting in a turnover or allowing the defense to get back. If he can regain his confidence, he can be an adequate stopgap while Billups is resting. Just don’t let him guard Kobe anymore.
JR Smith – JR finally showed up to this series (technical and all) at the end of the 3rd quarter with a fade away 3 as time expired. In the 4th he drained 2 clutch shots and made smart passes after attacking the basket and drawing the defense to him. He finished with 10 points, 6 assists, 3 boards and only 1 turnover.
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