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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Grisly Performance: Denver Loses at Home to Memphis, 108-96

Prior to Tuesday, the Memphis Grizzlies were 0-7 on the road, 0-7 versus the Western Conference, had yet to win a game in 15 tries at the Pepsi Center and were tied with the Charlotte Bobcats for the worst record in the NBA (3-10). On the other hand, the 8-4 Denver Nuggets had won five straight and ranked first in the NBA in scoring. So what would happen when these two teams going in opposite directions faced off in the Pepsi Center? As Chris Berman loves to say, "THAT'S why they play the games!" Memphis overcame a slow start--and 37 points by Carmelo Anthony--to post a 108-96 win. Hakim Warrick led the Grizzlies with 25 points, Chucky Atkins added 22 points and five assists and Mike Miller contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and a career-high 14 assists. Anthony had nine rebounds and seven assists in addition to his game-high scoring total. He shot 17-30 from the field but only 3-8 from the free throw line. Marcus Camby had 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots, while Andre Miller had five points, five rebounds and 13 assists.

Anthony scored 14 points in the first quarter and 22 points in the first half. He had six points in less than three minutes to open the game as Denver took an 8-2 lead. The early moments of the game were almost comical due to the completely opposite styles preferred by Denver Coach George Karl and Memphis Coach Mike Fratello. Karl wants his team to push the ball up the floor and shoot quickly, while Fratello's squad squeezes the air out of the ball until it is almost flat, usually not shooting until right before the shot clock expires. Only eight Grizzlies played against Denver and the Grizzlies will be without the services of injured All-Star Pau Gasol for at least a few more weeks, so they hardly have the depth that uptempo teams like Phoenix and Denver do. Denver led 25-17 after the first quarter.

Memphis went ahead 35-34 with 6:13 remaining in the second quarter after Dahntay Jones sank two free throws. Memphis pushed the margin to as much as five but Anthony's layup with :29 remaining brought the Nuggets to within 53-52.

The Nuggets began the third quarter just like they started the game, going on an 8-2 run and taking a 60-55 lead. Early in the period, Memphis' Stromile Swift tried to convert a powerful two hand dunk but instead he slammed the ball with so much force that it caromed off of the back of the rim and flew into the stands. Shortly after that miscue, though, the Grizzlies went on a 13-5 run to take a 68-65 lead and they were still ahead 81-80 at the end of the quarter.

Memphis owned the fourth quarter, outscoring Denver 27-16. Ironically, the Grizzlies managed to win the type of high scoring game that Karl normally seeks and Fratello tries to avoid. The Nuggets' problem is that their defense is every bit as bad as their offense is good, so on the nights that only Anthony can really get it going on offense Denver can lose to anyone. Shooting guard J.R. Smith, the team's second leading scorer at 17.9 ppg, managed just five points on 2-8 shooting, committed five turnovers--and didn't exactly make up for these offensive lapses by playing well on defense, either.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:21 AM

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