Don’t Stop Believin’
That was the memo that the Denver Nuggets sent to their faithful Monday night. And Nuggets’ forward Danilo Gallinari made sure the fans got the message after the Game 4 win by saying ‘See you soon’.
The newly energized Nuggets took Game 4, but they aren’t going to the NBA Finals this season and they aren’t likely to come back and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the best-of-seven series, but they proved Monday that the future is bright at the Pepsi Center.
The two building blocks of the Nuggets future, Gallinari and Ty Lawson, were also the catalysts to the victory.
Lawson, 23 years old,
has struggled at times against the bigger and more athletic Russell Westbrook, but on Monday he was the more aggressive guard. He kept attacking the basket and finished with a career-high 27 points in a very consistent fashion (8-of-16 from field, 2-for-4 3s and hit all nine of his free throws). As has been said here many times before, Lawson is the key to the Nuggets team and they will only go as far as he will lead them.
Lawson was the leader, but Gallinari, 22, was the spark to the Nuggets victory. He struggled through an Achilles injury and had the tough task of defending Kevin Durant, but he also scored all 18 of his points in the second half. He hit some timely jumpers and sealed the game with a trey to force a Thunder timeout in the fourth quarter and forced a Game 5.
Lawson and Gallinari’s counterparts combined to score 61 points (Durant 31, Westbrook 30), but they also shot the ball 48 times and had six turnovers and 10 fouls in the game.
The rest of the Nuggets weren’t that bad, either:
- Nene struggled through foul troubles and free throws (once again) to finish the game with 10 points and nine rebounds. Outside of missing free throws Nene has had a pretty good playoff series. He is averaging 15.8 points, 9 rebounds and a 1 block in the series.
- Kenyon Martin also struggled with foul troubles Monday, but he hit some timely jumpers in the first half to keep the Nuggets in the game and was once again great on help defense and key double teams on Westbrook late in the contest.
- Arron Afflalo once again tweaked his ankle and had to sit out the second half. However, he did play some great defense on Westbrook and finished the ball well in the first half.
- Chris Andersen wasn’t great offensively, but was huge on defense. He had two big blocks in the second half and grabbed six rebounds. Andersen blocked Westbrook to close out the first half and during his second half tenure the Nuggets outscored the Thunder by 12.
- Al Harrington missed all four of his shots, but helped in other ways during his short time on the floor. He also had two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
- Wilson Chandler has struggled shooting throughout the series. He missed all four of his shots in his eight minutes on Monday. In the series, he has missed 13 of his past 14 shots. Expect his minutes to diminish, unless the bad JR Smith returns.
- Smith was the spark off the bench on Monday. He played his best game of the series and led the second unit in scoring with 15 points. He played some key minutes in the second half, hitting some big shots and played tough defense against Westbrook and Durant.
- Raymond Felton hasn’t really brought his ‘A’ game into the series. He constantly thinks shoot first and hasn’t tried and get his teammates involved. Monday, he shot the ball 10 times (making only three baskets) and only dished out three assists. George Karl has faith in him during crunch time, but the Nuggets faithful have fallen out of favor of the former Tar Heel.
The Game 4 win was step one in a four-step process and now the Nuggets have to find a way to steal a win in Oklahoma City to keep hope alive.
Tags: Al Harrington Arron Afflalo Carmelo Anthony Chris Andersen Danilo Gallinari Denver Nuggets George Karl J.R. Smith JR Smith Kenyon Martin Kevin Durant Nene Oklahoma City Thunder Raymond Felton Russell Westbrook Ty Lawson Wilson Chandler