The atmosphere outside was rainy and depressing but once inside, the Pepsi Center was rocking like never before. This was the most important game in Denver Nuggets history, and the Nuggets came to play. For the 2nd time in as many playoff series, a stomach virus had gotten to a player on the Nuggets. This time it wasn’t a 20 minute per game spark plug, but a bona fide superstar, Carmelo Anthony. If this wasn’t bad enough, in the 1st half he also sprained his ankle. Carmelo Anthony finished with a dreadful 15 points on 3-16 shooting. He didn’t add anything with his passing or defense either. Fortunately for Denver fans, every other Nuggets player stepped up in his absence.
Chauncey Billups – He finally realized that after 3 straight games, his jumper wasn’t falling and started taking it to the rack and drawing fouls (9-9 from the line).
Kenyon Martin – He was carrying the team early with his offense (9 points in the first quarter) and igniting the crowd with a couple of blocks.
Nene – While Kenyon made his mark on the defensive glass, the Brazilian Hammer did it on the offensive (7 O-Boards). Most of these rebounds came as tips out to the guards on the perimeter and not the put back dunk variety as Denver Stiffs also points out.
Chris Andersen – He played solid man defense, had a nice alley-oop dunk from JR Smith, tip dunk, and the best block in the playoffs so far against an unsuspecting Shannon Brown, which kareemed off the backboard.
Dahntay Jones – 3 dunks and 6-6 from the line. What more can you ask for from him. He didn’t settle for any jumpers and put pressure on the LA defense by driving to the basket.
Linas Kleiza – He didn’t play a lot of minutes, but picked up right where he left off, scoring 10 points in only 13 minutes.
George Karl – Despite your lack of an inbounds play, you have outcoached a man with 9 rings. You have made perfect adjustments from game to game, including not playing AC with Chauncey Billups, and telling your big men not to go for the blocks, but to stay down for the defensive rebounds. I’ve been head of the Fire George Karl fan club for most of this year (I didn’t make a website for it though), but you’ve proved me wrong in the playoffs. I’m still confused by some of your decisions, but, In George Karl, I Trust.
And last but certainly not least
JR Smith – As I mentioned here, it looked as if JR had finally showed up. He sure make his presence known in this game, scoring 24 on 9-17 shooting. What’s good about these numbers are that he wasn’t relying solely on his 3-point shot, but what shooting mid-range jumpers and getting to the hoop with ease. He continued to dish to the open big man after attacking the basket as well (4 assists, which should have been more like 7 if K-Mart and co. could finish down low). His only blemish was his FT shooting (2-6 from the line). How does such a pure shooter, shoot worse than Birdman from the line? If I were you, I’d get in the gym and shoot FTs, not fadeaway 3′s from out of bounds in your off time.
All in all, the Nuggets finished with 7 players scoring in double figures and 23 assists overall. They still couldn’t find their range from the 3-point line until late in the 4th, but only committed 6 TOs in the entire game. This is coming from a team that earlier in the year would amass that in only a quarter.
As for the Los Angeles Lakers, I think everyone but Kobe and Pau had already left for home. Pau was money from down low. Even with some good defense by K-Mart and Nene, he was making everything from his spin move off the board to his baby hook shot, to his reverse layup?!!?. He also was controlling on the defensive end getting 3 blocks and 10 rebounds. Kobe was his usual Kobe self. Despite being booed every time he touched the ball, and the fans chanting things such as “Kobe Sucks” and “No Means No”, he was able to get his 34 points on 10-26 shooting (2-10 from 3-pt), 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Even with this great line, Kobe had a few choice words about the game.
“They kicked our ass, they whooped us, they played better, period.”
It looks like Bynum is still in Phil Jackson’s doghouse for not playing defense. He started the game, went 6-7 from the field and 2-3 from the line, but only played 23 minutes. Phil, if you want to win this series, Bynum will need to be a bigger part of the rotation. He provides mismatches in the paint playing alongside Pau.
Final Score – 120-101
Even being one of the biggest Nuggets fans, I didn’t think they could beat the LA Lakers in the playoffs. This is the matchup I had been fearful of since the brackets were set in stone. I thought the Lakers were coached too well, were too tall, passed too well, and ohh yeah, have a guy named Kobe Bryant. After watching these first 4 games, it’s clear that Denver has the better team. The Lakers don’t come out to play every night, and that’s going to hurt them in game 5 when they try to turn on the switch, and they still can’t compete. I’m predicting a Nuggets win in their house for game 5 and for them to close it out on their homecourt on Friday.
Dahntay Jones – The league is probably going to review a trip that took down Kobe slashing to the lane. I don’t expect a flagrant much less a suspension.
Phil Jackson – Staying true to form, Phil wouldn’t take responsibility for his team’s poor play, by blaming the officials. He went on to call the play in which Dahntay tripped Kobe, “Unacceptable defense.”
Anthony Carter Watch – 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 fouls, and 1 turnover. He showed some confidence, making a jump shot, but the matchups weren’t really there for him to play many minutes. In his 6 minutes, he guarded Kobe to no avail. He does well to stay with him, but Kobe knows he can just shoot over the top of him whenever he feels like, with no chance of him blocking it.
Rebounding – I thought the Lakers were supposed to have the best front line in the NBA with two 7 footers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, with the 6’11″ Lamar Odom coming off the bench. They were outplayed and outsmarted on the glass tonight losing the rebounding battle 58-40!
JR Smith – He’s going to be making an appearance on First Take this morning.
Tags: Anthony Carter Birdman Carmelo Anthony Chauncey Billups Chris Andersen Dahntay Jones Denver Nuggets George Karl JR Smith Kenyon Martin Kobe Bryant Linas Kleiza Los Angeles Lakers Melo Nene Pau Gasol Phil Jackson Western Conference Finals