Nuggets/Mavs Game 2 Recap
The Nuggets holding serve with style
Over a dozen years ago, the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques bolted the French provincial locale for the sunnier environs of Denver, Colorado. That next spring, the young, exciting hockey team brought the first major sports championship to a city infatuated with professional sports under the title, Colorado Avalanche. The previous decade for Denver had been riddled with football fantasies that always seem to come up a bit short. A certain tall-toothed quarterback and five appearances (all losses) in the NFL’s Super Bowl endeared the city to the team for all eternity. The years of Bronco love were rewarded not long after the Avalanche brought home Lord Stanley’s cup, by winning two-straight NFL championships in ‘97 and ’98.
Since then, the city has been pretty quiet come Playoff time.
Yes, two autumns ago, our silly baseball team some how made the World Series. However, any kind of late-playoff push by the terminally woeful, Denver Nuggets was sure to bring support, energy and passion from the city. When Carmelo Anthony brought perennial playoff positioning to this franchise five years ago, a potential championship seemed not too far away. But at this time last year, the boys in Gold and Powder Blue were stagnant, had little future prospect and were borderline the most successful laughing stock in the league.
Some frontcourt upheaval, a well-documented homecoming and a first-round triumph later, the Nuggets have become a legitimate contender to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
But as things lay out on Tuesday afternoon, there was still much to be determined. Although, already down one game, the Dallas Mavericks stood in between Denver and a Western Conference Final appearance. Game One was won by the inside dominance of Nene and the solid all-court contribution of the home team’s bench. Tonight, the Nuggets would be a bit hampered as Carmelo Anthony was somewhat diminished with an ill gut.
But it was just that very same player that shuck off three quarters of personal struggle and a pesky Maverick team to lead his team to 2-0 series lead with a 117-105 win. Carmelo scored the fourth quarter’s first five points and nine before the final stanza was three minutes old widening what began as just a three-point lead. Anthony finished the night with 25 and poured in 15 key points in the last quarter. JR Smith and Nene were the inside-outside production for Denver (who had five guys in double-figures) as the tandem finished with 21 points and 25, respectively.
Dirk Nowitzki was his usual deadly self, but with out the services of Josh Howard (sidelined just minutes into the game) and an inferior roster, the Mavericks could not match swing for swing with the Nuggets. Dirk finished with another truly admirable performance with 35 points (11-20) to go along with 9 rebounds. Jason Terry was the only other option for the Mavericks as the guard finished with 21 and was the main outside threat for the team through much of the game’s middle half.
The game got off to a slow start by both teams but was finally controlled when the Nuggets played a beautiful final five minutes of the first quarter. They were forcing tough shots, getting out in transition and taking the play to the hole to grab an eight-point lead after twelve minutes. Center Nene along with bench reserves, Chris Anderson and JR Smith were again at the forefront of the Denver surge, much like they had been just two days prior.
The visitors from North Texas went zone in the second quarter and were able to keep the game within range as Denver dictated play, but could never seem to truly “pull away,” as they were forced into settling for perimeter shots. Dirk was key, hitting big shots to break Nugget runs and also was a great playmaker in stretches largely finding reserve forward Brandon Bass open for easy looks.
The 2-3 zone was a perfect call as the Nuggets missed several shots from the perimeter, but were able to get some long-range assistance from their crazy-brilliant baller, JR Smith.
In a one-minute stretch (the half’s final one, mind you) perfectly portrayed Smith’s unbridled ferocity on the court. Smith checks in with just over one minute left in the half and promptly nailed a deep three-pointer to stop a 14-5 Dallas run which bumped the Denver lead back to five. Smith, then grabbed an insanely athletic rebound in front of the Dallas bigs; overdribbled, took a forced three-pointer with seven seconds left. The rebound was given to Jason Kidd who promptly nailed a buzzer-beating long-ball, lead back to three at 58-55.
That very same margin was all that separated the two teams with twelve minutes left in the game. Tonight, though, Anthony and the Nuggets wasted no time, blowing things wide open and making the margin twelve just three minutes in. No looking back.
Of course, the win means that the home team has just “held serve” at this point in the series. But, with the way his Denver Nuggets are playing and the fact that the teams won’t meet again until this Saturday, the joyous Melo should have plenty of time to rest his aching smile and stomach.
That and the city of Denver can start dreaming about bigger things for its Nuggets.