Back in the Hunt

Billups driving past Roy for an And-1.

It was the perfect way for the Nuggets to get the monkey off their backs. Not only did they dominate the division-rival Blazers, but they snapped out of their scoring slump after putting up 109 points.

It also helped that the Mavericks lost to Orlando at home, which gives Denver a shot at overtaking the Mavs for the 2-spot. However, the most interesting part of the game was the officiating. It was as if they were telling Carmelo Anthony

Melo scored 13 points in the fourth quarter.

they weren’t going to be bullied, despite recent stories on his lack of respect from the officials. He was called for two offensive fouls and was called for three personals in the first half (four in three quarters), but it wasn’t until late in third quarter when the frustration boiled over and needless to say for the better.

With four fouls, Melo took the ball to the basket with the defender draped all over him and after scoring the basket he snagged the ball and tossed it to the official and was called for delay of game (Nuggets second of the game, which resulted in a technical foul) by Eli Roe. Nuggets promptly put their star on the bench and when he returned in the fourth quarter, the officials were his best friend. He shot five free throws in the final quarter (zero going into the quarter) and drew four fouls in the quarter (he for some strange reason only drew two in the first three quarters).

Highlights

  • The Nuggets had three players score more than 20 points in the contest, Melo, Chauncey Billups and Nene.
  • Billups, who has been struggling shooting the ball recently, had a few nice drives and some big plays on defense. It’s nice not to see him settling for the three. He finished the game with 21 points and six assists.
  • Nene  did a good job working off of Billups and scored 22 points, had five assists and three blocks in the contest.
  • Melo scored 13 points in the final quarter, compared to the Blazers 16 points as a team.
  • The second unit, which featured Ty Lawson, JR Smith, Anthony Carter, Chris Andersen and Nene provided a spark in the second unit and helped Denver go up by seven in the second.
  • For the first time in a while it seemed like the rotation had a sense of rhythm and Adrian Dantley went with eight players through much of the game and played Lawson, Joey Graham and Malik Allen when he had to.
  • Arron Afflalo played tenacious defense on Brandon Roy, making the star work for every shot. Roy was 3-of-13 for 14 points.

Arron Afflalo made Brandon Roy work the entire game.

Lowlights

  • JR Smith made only 2 of 7 shots in the second half and only made one of his five threes in the second half. I really wish when he is struggling he will drive instead of shoot an outside jumper.
  • Johan Petro was bullied in the post by the Blazers point guard (and former Nugget) Andre Miller early in the game and had four fouls at halftime. Miller led the Blazers with 24 points (13 in the first half).
  • Former Nugget Marcus Camby hit all five of his shots in the first half, including one to beat the buzzer at the end of the second. However, Camby made only 1-of-2 shots in the second half and was called for three fouls.
  • Martel Webster scored 12 points in the first half and pestered Anthony the entire game before fouling out in the fourth.
  • The officials continue to have inconsistent calls and aren’t showing Melo respect like other superstars.

Tidbits

  • ESPN journalist Rick Reilly attended the game with former Broncos great John Elway. And just down the row from them was former Bronco Dre Bly. Reilly chatted it up with Miller in the first half.
  • Chris Andersen left the game in the fourth quarter after twisting his ankle.
  • Juwan Howard, Camby and Miller each played with the Nuggets. Howard and Camby were teammates with Nene and Chris Andersen in 2002, while Camby and Miller were teammates in Denver from 2003 to 2006.
  • The Blazers had won nine of their previous 12 road games going into the contest.
  • Denver won the season series with Portland 3-1.

Playoff race

  • Denver (49-27)- For the best chance at winning the 2-spot the Nuggets need to go 6-0. WINS: LA Clippers, San Antonio, Memphis; WINNABLE: At Oklahoma City; TOUGHEST: Lakers, At Phoenix. 54-28/53-29/52-30
  • Dallas (50-26)- The Mavericks need to lose three of their final six games for the Nuggets to have a shot. The Magic game tonight is logical, so are away games at Portland and Sacramento and at least a home games against Memphis and San Antonio. WINS: Oklahoma City, Memphis, At LA Clippers, San Antonio:WINNABLE:At Sacramento; TOUGHEST: At Portland. 55-27/54-28
  • Utah (50-26)- Currently the Jazz are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Nuggets and since they own the tiebreaker they need Utah to at least drop  three of their final six. Games at the Lakers and a back-to-back against New Orleans and home against the Thunder could be chalked up in the loss column. WINNABLE: At Golden State, At New Orleans, Phoenix, At Houston; TOUGHEST: At LA Lakers, Oklahoma City. 54-28/53-29
  • Phoenix (49-26) – The Suns also need to drop three of their final games. Road games at Utah, Milwaukee and Oklahoma CIty will be tough for the aging Suns.WINS: At Detroit, Houston. WINNABLE: San Antonio, Denver, At Oklahoma City.TOUGHEST: At Milwaukee and At Utah.

Photos are the courtesy of Jonathan Maness

Topics: Anthony Carter, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Denver Nuggets, Johan Petro, JR Smith, Melo, Nene, Ty Lawson

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