Game Notes: Jazz at Nuggets
Carmelo leads Nuggets to opening night win.
by Sulaiman Folarin
DENVER, CO – When the Denver Nuggets were introduced for their home opener at the Pepsi Center, head coach George Karl, who was returning to the team, got the most ovation from the emotional fans in the Nuggets 110-88 win over their divisional rivals the Utah Jazz.
“It was definitely good to have him back,” Chauncey Billups said of Coach Karl returning. “I’ve said it all along: He’s our leader. He’s the captain, he’s the voice and it was good to hear him back over there, just to see his enthusiasm.”
Denver’s Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 23 points, but only had 10 at the half in a dominating performance by the Nuggets, who are keeping a positive outlook regardless of their superstar’s status.
“I take my hat off to the team for playing the way we played,” Anthony said of their season opening win. “We shared the ball, we defended and anytime we can hold a team like Utah to 38 percent on the field for the game, you got to commend our defense.”
To start the game, Denver’s defense that Anthony mentioned and their ability to get any shot they wanted helped the team get off to a fast start. Also in the first quarter, Utah was scoreless on their first eight possessions. From Utah’s turnovers to bad shots and the Nuggets’ defense, Denver went on a 9-0 run to begin a new season. Off-season acquisition Al Harrington scored 8 of the Nuggets’ 29 points in the first quarter.
“I’m not sure why our energy level wasn’t higher,’ Utah’s coach Jerry Sloan said of his team’s performance. “I thought we were still in preseason. They double-teamed Al Jefferson and got us out of our offense.”
Though Denver did play great defense, they crashed the boards just like the Jazz did. It was also Denver’s shooting percentage that was way better than the visitor’s, at 40 percent compared to Jerry Sloan’s team which was shooting a measly 27.8 percent, to start the game.
“First of all, let’s give Denver credit, the season is not over though,” Sloan said. “They’re a great team. I don’t take anything away from them. They did a very good job, they hit their shots, did exactly what they wanted to do on offense. If they wanted to post a guy, they posted him up. They beat us on the dribble.”
Like coach Sloan pointed out, Denver out-muscled his team though the Jazz had the bigger players with Al Jefferson, Francisco Elson and Kyrylo Fesenko. The Jazz also struggled to match the tempo of the Nuggets as Karl’s team kept the game at a fast pace rather than the half court set, which would have been more suitable for the Jazz.
Jefferson also did not do well for Utah. The center only finished the game with 6 points, though he grabbed 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
“Well, [Jefferson] had 6 points so we didn’t get [the offensive post game] going,” Deron Williams said of his new teammate. “It’s going to come with time. He’s going to learn when that double team comes to kick it out and we’ll get it right back to him.”
Early in the game, two Nuggets picked up minor injuries, but that didn’t keep either player’s off the court for long. Billups got elbowed in the mouth by Williams and Nene was banged up for a bit. Both players returned, though.
“I got elbowed early in the game and it went all the way through, so yes I had to get stitches, like three or four on the outside,” Billups said of his injury. “It wasn’t really painful, just shocked it opened up.”
Utah’s Williams only had 4 points at the half, but by the end of the third quarter, he had his final point total of 17 points, because he, along with other starters, didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
“Early I was trying to run the offense, trying to get everybody involved. I wasn’t really aggressive to start the ball game, which was my fault,” Williams said. “We had some good shots early, and we just missed them; things were short.”
His attempt along with Raja Bell’s and Paul Millsap’s were not enough by the end of the third as the Nuggets’ lead had gone up to 21 points. “I just don’t think we played hard enough. Our timing was off on offense and gave up too many points on defense,” said Williams. “You not gonna win many ball games like that.”
Bell had a complimentary game finishing with 12 points, but thought the chemistry on the team still needed some work.
“I think everyone here knows there will be some growing pains,” Bell said. “To what extent remains to be seen, but we would all be a little naïve if we thought we were going to come out here and just run the table and be the greatest thing since slice bread.”
Though some sections of the fans showed their discontent with Anthony not signing the contract extension, Coach Karl joked that Anthony was going to be a Nugget in his opinion. “We are going to keep [Anthony] here, whether he knows it or not,” he said.
Coach Karl, Anthony and Billups were all impressed by Shelden Williams’ performance with 16 rebounds along with his 8 points.
Anthony was impressed with his team’s performance, and everyone was thrilled to see the bench score 30 points with Harrington leading the way.
“Al looked good. He’s still not where he wants to be at. Not even close,” Billups said. “I’ve seen a couple of glimpses of what he is going to be able to bring us. He does not surprise me in what he can do, I know his game well, but he’s going to be a pleasant surprise for all the Nuggets fans around here.”
Pick up your Los Angeles Lakers special swag
If you watched the NBA’s Opening Night on Tuesday, especially the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, you would have noticed that not only did the players look great receiving their new rings, they were also donning some special track jackets as well.
For all who love the Lakers, the players were wearing a special jacket to commemorate the night and also their 16th Championship.
Regardless of how you feel about the organization, it is an achievement that they were celebrating that illustrious 16th Championship and the special jackets say it all. The jackets, with satin patches of the different banners come in purple and in gold. So if you prefer one or the other, you do have options. They are also available at the NBA Store online as well as the Staples Center for $125; not a bad get for a collector’s item.