The Post Up was fortunate enough to have our man Ryan Jones live on the scene in Denver, who offered to dish out his notes as the lead recap in today’s TPU. His words sum up the top game below, with Adam’s shorter recaps for the other contests following behind. And a huge thanks to Ryan for reaching out to contribute—always welcome.
by Ryan Jones & Adam Figman
I had barely reached my seat at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night when a Nuggets fan sitting behind me asked for the score of the Knicks-Magic game. I briefly wondered why he cared. Then I remembered.
From what I can tell, Denver fans these days hate the Knicks—by which I mean Carmelo Anthony—as much as they love their Nuggets. Especially these Nuggets. If you’ve watched Denver since the trade, you know they’re a youthful (if not actually that young), fast-paced bunch of gunners, currently averaging a League-best 107.6 points per game—a point and a half more than Mike D’Antoni’s ’bockers. These guys are easy to root for.
The Spurs aren’t so popular in the Mile High City, Manu Ginobili least of all. He was booed enthusiastically every time he touched the ball, and in the early going, a lot of those touches resulted in three-pointers. Thanks to Manu’s hot-shooting first half (and Gary Neal’s eventual team-high 25 points), the Spurs took a 4-3 lead in the opening minutes, built it into double digits, and held it until midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Nuggets, relentless all night, if not quite as efficient as the visitors, finally caught up.
Denver came away 115-112 winners, getting 27 points from Al Harrington and a clutch jumper from Wilson Chandler with about 30 seconds left to seal it. The game felt a bit silly at points—the teams shot a combined 25 of 53 from beyond the arc, including 6 of 8 from Gary Neal—and the Spurs’ various double-digit leads never felt remotely safe. The whole thing was a blast.
It’s hard to imagine the Nuggets keeping this up, of course, but you can’t blame their fans for riding the wave. Playing a San Antonio squad missing the hobbled Tim Duncan (not that that’s an excuse; TD was healthy last week when the Spurs lost by 30 in Miami), Denver saw its bench outscore its starters 63-52. George Karl will know he can’t count on that sort of production when the Playoffs start.
But for now? The Nuggets are 11-4 since Melo left, with wins over the Celtics and Spurs. They lack a star but are making up for it with fan favorites like JR Smith and that slew of forwards—Harrington, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari—who all seem capable of going for 25 or 30 on a given night. And who takes the last shot in a tight game? The answer seems to be “whoever ends up with the ball.”
The Spurs, meanwhile, still have the League’s best record, and their 8-4 mark in March is solid enough. But their last five losses—to the Bulls, Grizzlies, Lakers, Heat, and now the Nuggets—have all come against playoff teams, and none except Wednesday’s game in Denver was particularly close. I’m not sure what it says for the Spurs’ postseason chances, but the implications aren’t great.
The only thing Wednesday night’s game left me certain of? Nothing you didn’t already know: The Western Conference playoffs should be nuts.
On the other side of the country, the Knicks confirmed the fact that, thus far, Denver has gotten the winning side of that little deal the two teams made a few weeks back. New York continued its now-two-week stammer, falling to the Magic at home after Orlando shut them down with a strong fourth quarter. As would be expected, Dwight Howard (33 points, 11 boards, 3 blocks) beasted, and every other Magic starter scored in double figures as well. Carmelo Anthony played modestly and led the Knicks with 24, but it was Amar’e Stoudemire who didn’t come through at all, scoring only 13 on 6-20 shooting from the field.
The Hawks don’t seem to realize they’re in the middle of a Playoff push. Philly hosted them then sent ‘em packing last night, defeating the ice cold, Josh Smith-led Hawks (Smoove went for 33 and 12) behind a well-balanced offensive attack. All five Sixer starters and two bench guys scored 10-plus, and the team shot 48.8 percent from the field in the efficient W.
Despite the rough news that Rudy Gay won’t be playing anymore this season, the Grizzlies have maintained focus, and last night took down the No. 2 team in the East by using said focus. Somehow Memphis won despite nobody on its squad scoring more than 13, but Zach Randolph & Co. did indeed solidify their grasp on the eighth spot out West. Looks like the Celts are hitting that pre-Playoff, rest-up point.
The Pacers did the same as the Grizzlies out West, rolling through the Bobcats and upping their advantage on the team behind them by three games. Danny Granger scored 33, while Roy Hibbert put in 13 and snatched 12.
The Heat have been off for a few days, but they came back solid, er, solid enough to get a win against a generally lifeless Pistons group. They rallied late to earn that win, led by Dwyane Wade (24 points) and Chris Bosh (23).
With the exception of that whole leaving-Sacramento thing, it is an interesting time to be a Kings fan, because we’re starting to see that they’ve got some exciting up-and-coming talent. Marcus Thornton (27 points), specifically, has been playing great, putting up great stat lines night after night, win or lose. (Mostly, um, lose.) Beno Udrih added 25 as the Kings took down the Bucks in Milwaukee.
As of now, the Thunder have to look scarier to future Western Conference opponents than the Spurs, no? OKC took down Utah last night, receiving a combined 60 points from Russell Westbrook (31) and Kevin Durant (29). With Serge Ibaka (15 and 13) and a still-getting-used-to-the-new-team Kendrick Perkins in tow, I’d wanna avoid the Thunder as long as possible if I was, say, the Lakers.
Yes, the Rockets dropped 131 points straight on the Warriors’ collective domepiece. How? Well, Kevin Martin‘s 34 points, Courtney Lee‘s 25 and Luis Scola‘s 20 certainly helped. Houston dominated this high-scoring affair, shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and rolling past the Warriors.
This game will probably get no media love (including here), but come on, this is absurd. After last night’s triple-overtime craziness, the Suns flew home around 3 a.m., then come out (way) less than 24 hours later and faced the Raptors—and won! Wild. Aaron Brooks stepped up off the bench and led Phoenix with 25 points, allowing Suns’ vets like Steve Nash and Vince Carter to spend just 20 or so minutes on the court.
For all that he has accomplished, until last night, Blake Griffin still hadn’t notched a triple-double. He finally knocked that off his list of goals yesterday, putting up a 33-17-10 stat line in a double-OT thriller in L.A. It won’t get much attention, but John Wall put up a nice 32 points and 10 dimes in the loss. Hey, you want the limelight, gotta get that W. Props go out to Blake for his first triple-double.