Race for the finish

Arron Afflalo recorded a career-high nine rebounds to help the Nuggets rally from a 21-point deficit.

The dangerous thing about the Nuggets is that they can turn it on and off, and that can be a good thing or bad thing – much like they proved Saturday night.

Denver trailed the miserable Clippers by 21 points in the first half, but just like that they took the game over in the second. Thanks in large part to the play of seldom used Center Johan “Big Sexy” Petro. Big Sexy scored 12 of his 14 points in the third quarter and Denver held Los Angeles to only 35 points in the second half. That same Clippers squad scored 34 in just the first quarter.

Obviously it is frustrating to watch a championship-squad struggle against a team destined for the lottery, but it didn’t help that the Clippers wouldn’t miss. They hit their first three shots, and made 5-of-6 from behind the arc. Former Nuggets point guard Steve Blake hit all three of his treys in the first quarter and Los Angeles was shooting at an credible 81 percent rate early in the second quarter. It wasn’t until late in the second quarter when the Clippers started to cool off.

The best part about the victory was that both the Suns and Mavericks lost Saturday, which forced a four-way tie for second place. And to think just a week ago, everybody saw the Nuggets as the squad outside looking in.

Game tidbits

  • The Suns, Mavericks, Jazz and Nuggets each are tied for second place with a 50-27 record. Nuggets are the No. 3 seed in that situation.
  • Blake played for the Nuggets for half a season in 2006.
  • Drew Gooden was the third pick in the 2002 Draft, four picks before Nene. Since than Gooden has played for eight teams, Nene has played for one (he was drafted by the Knicks and traded with Marcus Camby to the Nuggets for Antonio McDyess on draft day).
  • Carmelo Anthony was drafted three picks before Chris Kaman in the 2003 Draft.
  • Eric Gordon stated last year that Chauncey Billups is his favorite players and he models his game after the veteran point guard.
  • The Clippers’ interim coach Kim Hughes was the Nuggets assistant coach for five years.
  • George Karl’s life partner said that Karl probably won’t coach in the first round of the playoffs.
  • Chris Andersen couldn’t go after twisting his ankle Thursday night.
  • The Nuggets won 50-games for the third consecutive season.

Highlights

  • No better way to start than with the 7-foot Center from French. Petro went head-to-head against the Clippers All-Star Center Chris Kaman and didn’t disappoint. Both big man finished the game with 14 points, but Frenchy made 7 of his 10 shots while Kaman went 7-for-16.
  • Carmelo Anthony once again had a solid game, despite not getting respect from the officials. Melo scored 25 points on 11-of-21 shots and ONLY attempted two free throws. Five players in the contest shot more free throws than him, while he attempted the most shots. He also grabbed four rebounds, dished out five assists, picked up a steal and blocked two shots.
  • Nene continued his strong play, scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds and recording four steals. He also made/attempted just as many free throws as the entire Clippers team. Over his previous five games he has averaged 17.4 points, 7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals.
  • Arron Afflalo’s hustle was a big reason why the Nuggets came back in the contest. He grabbed a career-high nine rebounds and nailed a pair of treys.
  • Ty Lawson was another catalyst for the rally. The rookie point guard proved why he is so valuable for the Nuggets, he finished the contest with a plus-11 ratio. While he only scored eight points, he did dish out four assists and grabbed three rebounds in the contest.
  • Renaldo Balkman, aka Kool, finally saw the floor after missing the previous 12 games. Of course it was only three minutes, but hey it is a start.

Lowlights

  • JR Smith has struggled the last two games, he averaged only 11.5 points and made only 9 of 27 shots and missed 14 of his 17 from behind the arc. Saturday, he was held to only eight points and missed six of his seven treys and eight of his 11 shots. It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t settle for outside shots so much. He is so talented that he could easily take defenders off the dribble and it would help on nights like tonight when he is off.
  • Billups has been off the last couple of games, but it wasn’t all bad. He helped his team out by dishing the ball and hit some key 3-pointers. He had six assists and no turnovers and hit two treys in the fourth quarter.
  • Malik Allen went 0-for-4 from the field and was pretty much useless last night.
  • Not sure what it is about Adrian Dantley, but he would be good high school or junior high coach. He makes sure everybody gets their minutes. I’m just not sure playing Anthony Carter six minutes or Joey Graham nine minutes or Kool just three minutes helps the team win.

Playoff race

  • Denver (50-27)- For the best chance at winning the 2-spot the Nuggets need to go 5-0. WINS: Memphis; WINNABLE: At Oklahoma City, San Antonio; TOUGHEST: Lakers, At Phoenix. IDEAL OUTCOMES54-28/53-29/52-30
  • Dallas (50-27)- The Mavericks need to lose two of their final five games for the Nuggets to have a shot. The Mavs could easily lose their away games at Portland and Sacramento and home games against Memphis and San Antonio could be potential losses. WINS: Memphis, At LA ClippersWINNABLE: San Antonio, At SacramentoTOUGHEST: At PortlandIDEAL OUTCOMES: 54-28/53-29
  • Phoenix (50-27) – The Suns also need to drop two of their final five games to help the Nuggets. Road games at Utah and Oklahoma CIty will be tough for the aging Suns.WINS: HoustonWINNABLE: San Antonio, Denver, At Oklahoma City.TOUGHEST: At Utah. IDEAL OUTCOMES: 53-29/52-30
  • Utah (50-27)- To get some separation with the Jazz, the Nuggets need Utah to at least drop  two of their final five. Having to play back-to-back games against the Thunder at home Tuesday and than at Houston Wednesday will be a tough trip for the Jazz. WINNABLE: At Golden State, At New Orleans, Phoenix, At Houston; TOUGHEST: Oklahoma City. IDEAL OUTCOMES: 54-28/53-29/52-30

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Maness

Topics: Adrian Dantley, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Chris Kaman, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Eric Gordon, Johan Petro, JR Smith, Los Angeles Clippers, Malik Allen, Nene, Phoenix Suns, Renaldo Balkman, Steve Blake, Ty Lawson, Utah Jazz

Want more from Nugg Love?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.