If you were wondering what would have to happen tonight in order for the top story after the game to be something other than the return of Carmelo Anthony I think we found our answer. Carmelo played a very solid game, but the story of the night was the severity of the 127-91 drubbing the Nuggets laid down on the Mavericks.
I do not want to hear one word about how Dallas played in California last night and had to travel east to play at altitude on the second night of a back to back. The Nuggets were in a very similar position Saturday night as they played in Utah the night after winning in Los Angeles against the Lakers. While it is true the flight to Denver from the west coast is longer than the flight to Utah, the Nuggets had to play without their two all-stars. Denver did fall behind by 18, but fought back to get to within three. Dallas on the other hand folded like an origami swan.
The Nuggets did not do anything special on either end of the court. They ran their offense, moved the ball and made shots. Defensively, they switched the high screen with Dirk to ensure he did not get an open look on the pick and pop, but apart from that did a little less switching than normal. Afflalo and J.R. did a solid job of chasing Terry around the many screens that were laid in their path.
The bulk of the credit for the blowout I believe belongs to the Nuggets’ bigs who controlled the paint and dominated the Mavericks front line. The group of Nene, Chris Andersen, Johan Petro and Malik Allen out produced Dirk, Drew Gooden, Eduardo Najera and James Singleton by fifteen points, 54-39, and seven rebounds, 25-18. It was not a matter of floor time as both foursomes played a combined 96 minutes.
Of course, it was great to see Carmelo back on the court. I was worried about how patient he would be with his offense as there was the possibility that he would try to get himself going by taking many quick shots early on. Those fears proved to be unfounded as Melo looked to pass as often as he looked to shoot. Carmelo started off with a nice drop off to Chauncey who ran behind him to get room for a midrange jumper on the right side. He then fed Nene off a drive that earned the big man two free throws. He made another nice drop off to Chris Andersen that sent Birdman to the line for two free throws a few minutes later. Carmelo only attempted four shots in the first quarter, making two threes and missing two midrange jumpers, but he totaled three assists good for six points and that is not including the four points that were created by his passing that came from free throws by Nene and Birdman.
Carmelo ended the game with six assists and 19 points on 8-16 shooting. Carmelo mixed in some drives and post ups and he dealt adequately with the double teaming scheme the Mavs threw at him. Overall it was a very smooth return to action and with one game remaining before the All-Star break I expect we will see Carmelo hitting on all cylinders heading into the last two months of the season. Any concern about the ankle problem lingering ended in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Carmelo caught the ball just right of the top of the circle and blew past Josh Howard with a nice move where he stepped across Howards’ body with his left foot as he ripped the ball across to his right triggering a right handed drive that terminated at the rim with an uncontested layup.
If Melo wanted to wait until his explosiveness was back before he returned, it looks like he waited long enough.
Additional Game 52 Nuggets
- My favorite sequence of the game came with 3:03 left in the third quarter. J.R. Smith had just hit a three in transition to put Denver up 90-60. Coming out of a Mavericks’ timeout J.R. was hounding Jason Terry 40 feet from the basket, Johan Petro was all over Drew Gooden, who had the ball outside the three point line, and Carmelo stayed with Josh Howard tight enough when he tried cutting towards Gooden to get the ball that Gooden chose to call another timeout just ten seconds after the previous break. Of course after the second time out J.R. fouled Jason Terry shooting a three, which was not quite as high on my list of favorite moments, but I loved seeing the Nuggets playing that hard on defense with a 30 point lead.
- Did Dirk know that Kenyon Martin did not play tonight and that he was being guarded by Malik Allen for the first seven minutes of the game? Usually Dirk is a very smart and aggressive player. Against the Nuggets tonight he was overly content to toss up contested jumpers. Dirk is no jitterbug, but he sure as heck has a quickness advantage on Allen and I was shocked that Nowitzki never attacked Allen off the dribble.
- Anyone who watches the Nuggets on Altitude knows all about the four tacos for a dollar with the purchase of a drink promo when Denver scores over 100 points from Taco Bell. There needs to be a filet minion for a dollar with the purchase of a drink promo for when Johan Petro scores in double figures.
- When Petro gets important minutes he usually does not disappoint. Last season he was more than adequate covering Dwight Howard in the Nuggets big win in Orlando. Petro’s biggest problem is that his hands have a negative reaction to leather that causes the ball to repel from them when he tries to catch it. Tonight, he displayed very good hands latching on to passes and rebounds alike.
- Denver has had three incredible shooting performances from behind the arc over the past six games. In San Antonio on the final day of January they were 9-12. Five days later in Los Angeles they converted 15-22 against the Lakers and tonight versus Dallas they drained 11-18 three point attempts. Over their previous six games Denver has converted 45.6% of their threes. I do not recall a stretch like that ever although I am sure some of those great shooting teams of the 80’s had similar streaks.
- These two teams play one more time this season on March 29 in Dallas with the winner earning the tie breaker. The bad news is that game is the fifth game in seven nights, all of them on the road, for Denver while Dallas has a day off at home before the game.
- The Nuggets had possibly their best shooting night in years as they posted a true shooting percentage, which accounts for free throws and three pointers, of 71.3%. The closest they have been to 70% in the year and a half I have charted their game by game performances was last season when they posted a 69.6% true shooting percentage when they blew out the Raptors in the game that finally ended the Sam Mitchell era in Toronto.
- The Nuggets used to struggle mightily with zone defenses, but they seem to have overcome their inability to deal with them. The Mavs themselves have been able to frustrate Denver with their 2-3 zone, but ever since Chauncey arrived he has opened up the floor thanks to his shooting ability. As long as the Nuggets move without the ball and refrain from holding the ball for too long, they can tear any zone up quickly.
- By the way, Kenyon sat out with knee tendinitis while Dallas played without Shawn Marion, back tightness, and Erick Dampier who is suffering from a sore knee. Ty Lawson and Birdman deserve a mention for how well they played. Birdman is playing some of his best ball of his career over the past few games and Lawson followed up his stellar performance in Utah as a spot starter with a tremendous game tonight. He ran the one man fast break on a couple of occasions and did a very good job of setting up open teammates.
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