The surging Denver Nuggets team made up some ground on the Oklahoma City Thunder by getting a key win over the Los Angeles Lakers (95-90) on Sunday and are now three games behind the division-leading with a big game on Tuesday at the Pepsi Center against the Thunder.
However, the Nuggets aren’t the only ones chasing the Thunder. The red-hot Blazers are only 2 1/2 games behind the Nuggets and also got a key win Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.
But on Sunday the only thing that mattered was the Nuggets got arguably their best win of the season, ending the Lakers nine-game winning streak and extending their own to six games.
Danilo Gallinari was the catalyst for most of the game, finishing the contest with 22 points. However, the Italian, who is an 86% free throw shooter, missed five free throws in the game.
Gallinari scored nine points in the opening quarter and Timofey Mozgov made a hook shot to give the Nuggets a 21-20 advantage.
Gallinari added five more points in the second period, but he also missed three free throws at the end of the second period and the Nuggets were down 47-40 at halftime.
Kenyon Martin, Nene and Raymond Felton starting to get going in the third quarter. Martin and Nene each scored eight points in the third and Felton added seven. K-Mart started things off with dunk off of Gallinari’s pass to start the second half and finished the third by hitting an 18-foot jumper to tie the game at 69.
The Nuggets got off to a slow start to start the fourth quarter, spotting the Lakers six points. But Ty Lawson and Felton sparked an 8-2 run to tie the game. Lawson found a very rare clear path to the basket and than Felton nailed a trey to even the game up.
A three-point play (off of a fancy pass from Smith) put Denver up by three and Denver never looked back.
- Nene – The Brazilian started the game slow, making only one of five baskets in the first half. But he made all four shots in the second and also came up with a key block and steal in the fourth quarter.
- Martin – K-Mart went for 18 and 8, and did it (as he should) working off of his teammates, cutting to the basket and attacking the offensive glass. In fact, his offensive rebound in the closing minutes sealed the victory for the Nuggets. However, does seem to struggle defending the much taller Pau Gasol.
- Gallinari – Gallo played arguably his best game with the Nuggets, despite missing five of his 11 free throws. When this young player puts it all together it will be scary.
- Wilson Chandler – Starting in place of Arron Afflalo (out with ankle injury), Chandler did a solid spectacular job defending Bryant. The one advantage Chandler has is his length, but he still struggled to stop the Future Hall of Famer.
- Lawson – Fisher seemed to put an emphasis on not letting Lawson drive or facilitate the offense. Anytime Lawson did anything Fisher would bump foul him and frustrate the young point guard. Lawson was a spectator for the final few minutes of the game.
- Mozgov – The big Russian played his first quality minutes for the Nuggets and did a splendid job. He didn’t back down from Andrew Bynum or Gasol and wasn’t intimated when the calls (goaltending, fouls, no-calls) went his way. In 15 minutes he scored six points and grabbed five rebounds.
- Al Harrington – Harrington tried his best to match his counterpart (Lamar Odom), but to no luck. Al Buckets (as Jeff Van Gundy calls him) got out and ran early for a basket and nailed a trey and scored all six of his points in the first half. But Harrington was nowhere to be seen in the second half (outside of a missed three and a turnover in the fourth quarter).
- JR Smith – Smith battled through foul trouble most of the game, and part of the problem is his lack of fundamentals on defense. Smith is a great off the ball defender, but still struggles sometimes with concept of being a one-on-one defender. Too often Smith gets beat off the dribble and either fouls or let the player beat him to the basket.
Offensively, he also went away from what he was doing so well in the previous games and one has to wonder if the early foul trouble got to him. He didn’t the game come to him. After hitting his first basket he missed his next three baskets. He did do a good job in the fourth quarter working the pick and roll with Mozgov. Setting up the rookie for an And-1 and then an easy basket.
- Felton – Once again Felton just got better as the game went along. He scored all of his 16 points in the second half. He hit a three-pointer to give the Nuggets the lead for good and fed Chandler and Martin to push Denver’s advantage to six points.
MVP: Gallinari was the best player on the Nuggets for the entire game, he scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He was the only Denver player that seemed to buy a basket in the first half. Felton should get some consideration as well for breaking down the Lakers defense in the second half. Fans tend to forget Los Angeles had interest in Felton in the offseason. Martin also should get some consideration for being around the rim late in the game.
LOWLIGHTS: Gallinari and Nene missing a combined nine free throws, Lawson having five turnovers, Nuggets as a team having 16 turnovers. The Nuggets back court of Chandler and Lawson went a combined 4-15. Smith picking up five fouls and going 2-8.
Topics: Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Andersen, Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, George Karl, J.R. Smith, JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Nene, Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler