Melo Scores 28 Points, Nuggets Trounce Grizzlies, 115-98Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points in his return to action after a 15 game suspension and his Denver Nuggets beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 115-98. "It's like a new beginning for us. We're going to give you all something to cheer for," Carmelo Anthony said to the Denver crowd before the opening tip-off. Anthony shot 10-25 from the field and had six assists and five rebounds in only 33 minutes of action. Allen Iverson had 23 points, seven assists and four rebounds, J.R. Smith scored 19 points despite shooting just 4-14 from three point range and Marcus Camby added 17 points, 17 rebounds, three blocked shots and three assists. Pau Gasol led Memphis with 23 points and 15 rebounds, adding six assists (one behind Chucky Atkins for team-high honors in that category).
Anthony scored the game's first basket, converting an alley-oop pass from Camby. The Grizzlies looked lethargic at the start of the game and interim Coach Tony Barone benched three of his starters at the 8:30 mark, by which time Memphis already trailed 10-2. Memphis cut the lead to 18-14, but Denver closed the quarter with a 20-4 run. Iverson and Smith each had 11 first quarter points, while Anthony scored six points.
The Grizzlies went on a 7-0 run in the first minute and a half of the second quarter; throughout the game, Nuggets Coach George Karl emphasized to his players that they must focus more on their transition play and on their defense. Anthony ended Memphis' spurt with an emphatic dunk that he delivered after weaving through most of Memphis' team. The Nuggets never found the rhythm on offense and defense that they enjoyed during the first quarter, shooting only 7-22 from the field and allowing Memphis to score 29 points, the Grizzlies' best quarter of the game. Denver still led 59-47 at the half despite these lapses. Anthony led both teams with 15 points. Memphis kept in contact by scoring 18 points off of turnovers.
The Grizzlies played very well for the first six minutes of the third quarter, cutting Denver's lead to 68-63. After that, though, Denver pulled away quickly, closing the period with a 20-7 run. Smith scored eight of the points and Camby added five. That stretch basically sealed the outcome of the game; Memphis got no closer than 10 points (90-80) in the fourth quarter.
What did we learn from Carmelo Anthony's much anticipated first game as a teammate of Allen Iverson? Obviously, the Nuggets have a lot of firepower. In addition to Anthony and Iverson's well documented ability to put the ball in the hoop, their presence opens up the court for Camby, Smith and the rest of the Nuggets. Memphis had some success in slowing Denver down by employing a zone defense and other teams may have to resort to this as well, packing their defenders into the lane and daring the Nuggets to make outside shots. On the other hand, while Denver poses severe matchup problems for most teams, the Nuggets are not great defensively. Yes, Camby blocks shots and Iverson can be disruptive in the passing lanes but Denver's overall defense is not good. Keep in mind that Memphis has the worst record in the NBA; they "achieved" most of their record while Gasol was on the shelf with a broken foot but they have not been lighting up the league even after he returned and Coach Mike Fratello was fired; the Grizzlies are just 3-7 in their last 10 games. I will remain skeptical of Denver's ability to seriously contend for the NBA title until the Nuggets show that they can beat teams like Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix in a seven game series. Those teams will provide much more resistance--on both ends of the court--than the Grizzlies, who are no more threatening than teddy bears this season.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:03 AM