2009-10 Game 54: Denver Nuggets 118 – Cleveland Cavaliers 116 OT

Box Score | Highlights

If you did not enjoy that game, you probably should not bother watching basketball anymore. When Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James first entered the NBA, tonight’s game is what the league had in mind. Two all-stars at the top of their game playing for two contenders going at each other possession after possession in a tight nationally televised game.

Ultimately, it was Carmelo Anthony who made the game winning jumper when LeBron’s last second heave, that was dangerously close to going in, bounced off the rim.

The final Nuggets possession was very fascinating to watch. It looked to me like Carmelo set a screen that was just bad enough to ensure LeBron did not have to switch onto Chauncey and then immediately set himself up for a pass from Chauncey. He did not think of rolling and having the Cavs defense collapse on him and thus take away his chance to take the final shot. Carmelo had been driving by LeBron regularly and in his post game confab with Craig Sager shared that he knew LeBron would expect him to drive. Melo gave him a jab step and to get just enough room to get the shot off and drained it in LeBron’s face.

It was a magnificent shot and even more so for the way Carmelo chose what he wanted to do, set it up and then calmly knocked it down.

You can read my thoughts about Carmelo announcing his return to the upper echelon of super stars on the Daily Dime (box 9), plus I answered a bunch of trade deadline related questions during the game in the Daily Dime Chat so check that out too.

Apart from the incredible back and forth between LeBron and Carmelo another part of the game I was interested to see was how would the Nuggets react to all the distractions that have surrounded them the previous few days not only with the shocking announcement by Karl on Tuesday, but with the trade deadline passing.

I fully expected Denver to come out and play hard for Coach Karl and they certainly did not disappoint. Their intensity and effort in the first quarter was sensational. I also thought it was interesting to see Karl let Denver play. With the Nuggets having the ball in a tie game at the end of both regulation and overtime George Karl chose to let the possession play out and not call a timeout. I liked the decision both times. There was plenty of time to work with and why let the Cavs take time to discuss exactly what they want to do. Plus with Carmelo and Chauncey on the floor, you know one of them will get a makeable shot.

I think the situation with Coach Karl will help keep this team focused. They obviously respect him and I think they will go their best to give their all for him.

The other distraction for the Nuggets was the passing of the trade deadline. They could have sulked about how they did not make a move to improve the roster, but it was almost as if the trade deadline did not ever exist. Then again with what little the Nuggets had to offer other teams, the existence of the trade deadline was somewhat fictional for Denver. Still, it is a stressful day for players and coaches alike.

All in all it was a great win for Denver. The played well on both ends of the floor and earned a win against a team that had won 13 straight and is nearly impossible to beat at home.

Additional Game 54 Nuggets

  • Carmelo and LeBron combined for 63 points in the second half and overtime.
  • Sebastian Pruiti of Nets are Scorching, started a side project called NBA Playbook where he details interesting plays and end game situations. He noticed in the all-star game George Karl had Kevin Durant play LeBron instead of pressuring the inbounder and as a result LeBron could not receive the inbounds pass. He wondered if this scheme would be implemented to stop LeBron in late game situations. Well tonight the very same coach, George Karl, guarded the inbounds pass and did not provide help when LeBron flashed to the ball to receive the inbounds pass. During the all-star game there were almost six more seconds on the clock and thus more of a risk LeBron catches the ball and gets a very good shot off or makes a pass to an open teammate. Still, I find it intriguing that Karl used two completely different tactics on LeBron in less than a week.
  • Birdman left the game early with a back strain. No word as of yet as to his status for tomorrow, but to my knowledge Andersen does not have any kind of history of back trouble.

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