An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: Nuggets move within two games of Finals
Day 11 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets franchise has never won an NBA title, and has 10 playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: May 25, 2009
Situation:The No. 2 seed Denver Nuggets trail the No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers, 2-1, heading to Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
Context: George Karl’s Nuggets won the Northwest Division, finishing 54-28. Red hot entering the postseason — Denver won 14 of its final 17 regular season games — the Nuggets lost just two total games in eliminating the Hornets and Mavericks in the Western Conference first round and semifinals. Matched up with the Lakers in the conference finals, Denver managed to steal home court, splitting a pair of games in Los Angeles to kick off the series. In Game 3, though, Denver’s explosive offense was held under 100 points for just the second time in the postseason, and L.A. won by six to take a 2-1 series lead.
Recap: Despite an ineffective Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers never had a chance. Melo started 0-for-10 from the floor and finished just 3-for-16 for 15 points, but the supporting cast, namely Chris Andersen, Nene, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Chauncey Billups “whooped” the Lakers, as Kobe Bryant put it. Denver out-rebounded L.A., 58-40; they committed just six turnovers to the Lakers’ 10; the Nuggets hit 37 free throws, 13 more than their opponents; and they hung 43 points on L.A. in the final period to secure the 19-point win, knotting the series, 2-2. Denver won, 120-101
Top players: J.R. Smith scored 24 points off the bench. Chauncey Billups also scored 24. Chris Andersen, Nene and Kenyon Martin combined to pull down 42 rebounds, two more than the entire Lakers’ team. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 34 points.
After the game: Carmelo Anthony’s struggled continued into Games 5 and 6, the Nuggets’ superstar combining to shoot just 15-for-40 in the series’ final two games. Unlike Game 4, Denver’s supporting cast couldn’t pick up the slack, and Los Angeles won both games easily to advance to the finals. Denver was ousted in the first round of the playoffs the following year, and in the middle of the 2010-11 season, the team opted to trade Anthony. Back in the playoffs that year, Denver was again eliminated in the first round. In all, the Nuggets made the playoffs eight consecutive years from 2003-04 to 2010-11, making it out of the first round just once.
Check back tomorrow for the Mavericks.
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