Nuggets/Jazz Game 5 Recap
Carmelo and Chauncey extend Denver’s post-season.
by Sulaiman Folarin
DENVER, Colorado — Denver Nuggets opened Game 5 with an old school hit “Too Legit to Quit” from MC Hammer, which was quite poetic since the famous rapper and dancer turned minister went bankrupt. But the music changed to the popular pop hit from the Black Eye Peas “I got a Feeling.”
Smart you would say since they needed a win.
That was enough to elevate the team as Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 26 points to a 116-102 win over the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center to give Denver hope in their Western Conference series.
Maybe it was the music that reduced it to a 3-2 series, or that they needed to win to stay in the Playoff hunt. Either way Denver played “some” defense to keep the series alive again and they shared the ball a lot more than Game 4 in Salt Lake City.
“Every coach wants balance and tonight we ran the same offense and moved the ball a little bit better,” said Nuggets coach Adrian Dantley. “Anytime we get 20 assists or more, we usually win the majority of our basketball games.”
Even though they had one more assist compared to the Jazz, more Denver players were involved early when the game started.
Did Anthony’s message to his team after the Game 4 loss hit home?
“I think tonight we responded as a unit, everyone stepped up tonight, Anthony said. “I think as a team everybody played their role tonight.”
A major surprise was with 7:02 left in the first quarter Anthony only had one point with the Nuggets leading 12-10. Though early and still in the first, Arron Afflalo [who shot 5-5 from the field tonight] and Kenyon Martin had more points than Anthony; that was saying a lot about their ball movement early.
“We talked a lot about us playing together, moving the ball finding the open man,” Chauncey Billups said. “We have a lot of playmakers on this team. I thought today we did a good job of everybody being focused.”
Apart from Denver’s ball movement, Utah still played their game and kept it close with frequent lead changes thanks to Deron Williams, who fouled out but finished with game highs 34 points and 10 assists along with Carlos Boozer scoring 25 points and picking up 16 boards. As a result of that, nine of the game’s 12 lead changes occurred in the first quarter alone.
As always, Denver started hot leading certain parts of the first quarter like they have all series long, but at home, they went down 27-25. Making 9-20 attempts in the first quarter and 45 percent shooting, compared with Utah’s 67, Denver were either taking bad shots or not getting in rhythm early.
By the second quarter, Anthony was making shots and grabbing rebounds on both ends of the floor. He understood the magnitude of this game and how he still needed to respond regardless of what others did on his team.
“I think my focus was to do what I have to do to win the basketball game,” he said.
The Jazz made Denver sweat with Boozer scoring 15 points at the half and at a point in the game, nine straight points for Utah to keep them in it. At half, Utah looked like they wanted to close this series out with a 52-50 lead, but the second half was still to come.
Denver resumed the second half with a different energy and focus. Both Anthony and Billups carried the team and it reflected with their scoring. Billups scored 12 points and Anthony added 11 as the Nuggets won the third quarter 36-29.
“One of the things that hurt us tremendously was starting the third quarter, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “One of the first nine possessions they scored… I think our defense kind of broke down a little bit.”
“We talked about coming out and starting to have a good five minutes,” Williams said about Denver’s second half performance. “Chauncey had a good start. They kind of broke away though we got it down to three a couple of times.”
As the Nuggets kept up their scoring touch, the Jazz especially with Boozer and Williams continued to keep the game close. Both players had a combined 17 points in the third, but did not get much help from complementary players and their bench either.
“They did a good job at scoring,” Boozer said of the Nuggets third quarter. “They had 22 points in five minutes. Somebody scored every time down and we were playing from behind the rest of the game.”
“They had more contribution than we did,” said CJ Miles. “They [Nuggets] were balanced tonight.”
With Denver holding a slim five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, they needed to pull away, but every time the Nuggets was about to make a run, the Jazz made a play to keep it close. But with 7:13 left in the game, guard JR Smith nailed a 25-foot three-point shot that gave Denver a 99-92 lead and the game was never close after that.
That three point shot was also the eight straight for a team that started with 1-6 from beyond the arc in the game.
Though Denver lost Nene to a sprained left knee, other players stepped up and coach Dantley will need that on Friday in Salt Lake to force a possible Game 7.
“With the big loss of Nene tonight, going down early, Frenchie [Johan Petro] came in and stepped up, Bird [Chris Anderson] played the way he is supposed to be playing,” Anthony said of the backup centers.
For Game 5, similar to that line from the Black Eyed Peas song, from Will.I.Am’s crew, tonight was a good night.