Nuggets/Jazz Game 1 Recap
Carmelo Anthony records Playoff career-high in Nuggets win.
by Sulaiman Folarin
DENVER, Colorado — Carmelo Anthony wanted to give his Denver fans something to cheer about despite their fourth seed in the West and their humiliating season finale loss to the Phoenix Suns.
A career-high 42 points in the post-season to begin the 2010 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz was the outcome no one expected. The Nuggets handled the Jazz 126-113 in their NBA Playoff home opener in front of a loud crowd at the Pepsi Center.
“He played great the whole game, but in the fourth quarter he just got cooking,” Jazz forward Carlos Boozer said of Anthony’s performance. “That’s where we miss AK’s length.”
Anthony scored 15 of his 42 points in the first half as he set the tempo for the series. “It’s the Playoff,” Anthony said with a big smile. “Tonight shots were falling; I was patient and took advantage of what they were doing.”
But Anthony was not the only Nugget who had a good game Saturday night. Great performances from guards JR Smith and Ty Lawson off the bench helped push Denver to their win even though they did not play great defense.
“We did a bad job on the pick and roll and also transition defense,” coach Adrian Dantley said of his team’s performance.
With Chauncey Billups in foul trouble early, – though he had a great game also – Dantley sent in his rookie point guard Lawson who did not disappoint.
“I thought I would get 15 minutes, but you got to be ready for it. Chauncey can go down any time,” Lawson said of his minutes and filling in for Billups.
Lawson finished the game with 11 points, 6 assists, but a more important stat on the sheet was he did not have a single turnover. He contributed to the overall performance of the Nuggets and that was crucial.
“I think I did good, besides getting my shot blocked three times,” Lawson joked about his performance. “I think I did well, I got the team involved.”
Smith on the other hand started off cold. By the third quarter, he was shooting 1-for-5 with two points, but heated up in the fourth as he finished the game with 20 points.
“JR made some big threes, kind of got the crowd into it and it kind of spiraled down from there,” said Jazz guard Deron Williams.
Though Billups was in foul trouble, he was aggressive early. Billups looked like a younger version of the player we remember from Detroit where he earned the nickname “Mr. Big Shot.” Though it also got him in foul trouble on defense, offensively his shot selection were a lot better as he finished with 15 points and eight assists.
The Jazz did keep the game close at half time only down by one 57-56. At the half, their star guard Williams was held to only six points [Denver’s Arron Afflalo started off guarding Williams as he held him to only four points in the first quarter].
Once the second half begun, Williams’ shooting improved, scoring 13 points in the third quarter and finishing the game with 26 as the Jazz pushed the Nuggets down the wire in the third till Smith heated up.
Denver’s coach Dantley acknowledged Williams was a thorn in the Nuggets flesh.
“When you’re defending against a guy like that, you need five players, Dantley said of Williams’ second half performance.
Though Game 1 started as a loss, veteran coach Jerry Sloan felt his played did their best.
“I was proud of the fact that our guys hung in there. It looked like they were trying to give themselves a chance,” Sloan said.
Even before the game, Utah was hindered with the injury to Andrei Kirilenko and in the second quarter it only got worse.
Center Mehmet Okur fell awkwardly driving to the basket with 8:04 left in the second quarter. He re-injured his left Achilles and did not return to the game.
“I was driving to the basket and slipped. Then I felt pain because all my weight was on my left side,” Okur said.
The Jazz will have an MRI Sunday to determine Okur’s status for the rest of the series and maybe the post-season.
Boozer thinks the Okur injury, depending on the MRI outcome will affect their post-season.
“Hopefully he will be alright. It’s tough without him. He is a big presence for us, hits threes spread the defense out for us and he does a good job helping us rebound the boards,” Boozer said of his injured team mate.
Swingman CJ Miles also went down when he collided with Billups with only 10:43 left in the third, but returned even with his nausea problem.
Jazz players seemed concerned about missing key players, but coach Sloan either did a good job concealing his worries about the injuries or he put a target on the back of younger players with his response at the press conference.
“This is where you get a chance to play, younger guys get put out on the floor, they get a chance to compete, Sloan said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself. I hate the thought that we were not going to come and play because of injuries.”
Dantley knows that though the Jazz have injuries, and the Nuggets won Game 1, he agrees the series is far from being over.
“The series is not over. I know Jerry Sloan… he is not going to let them just quit,” Dantley said.