Fast Breaks: Jazz-Nuggets, Game 2
Carmelo Anthony made a costly decision when he committed his sixth foul
Anthony played brilliantly until fouling out and should continue to lead the Nuggets
The Nuggets could not contain Deron Williams, the NBA's best point guard
DENVER -- Who said injuries were an issue in the NBA playoffs? One day after the Trail Blazers stunned the Suns in Phoenix, banged up Utah pulled off an upset of their own, outlasting Denver 114-111 to tie their first-round series.
Carmelo Anthony made the play of the game ... for the Jazz. With the Nuggets trailing by one with 30 seconds left, Anthony was called for his sixth foul after inexplicably riding C.J. Miles in the backcourt. Two free throws by Miles pushed the Jazz lead to three and deprived Denver of its best offensive threat for the final two possessions. Anthony played a strong game up to that point (see below) but his brain cramp left the Nuggets shorthanded at the worst possible time.
That said: Anthony was made for the playoffs. Anthony takes a beating, no doubt about it. It seems the NBA's rules on hand checking and bumping on the perimeter go out the window when 'Melo has the ball. But Anthony responds to contact as well as any player in the NBA, finishing Game 2 with 32 points (albeit on 9-for-25 shooting), including 14-for-15 from the free throw line. The Jazz -- who have been getting tutorials on 'Melo D from ex-teammate-turned-broadcaster Matt Harpring -- are going to continue banging bodies (and likely get away with it) with Anthony for the rest of the series. But that's the kind of style that brings out the best in 'Melo's game.
Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA. Prior to the game, Nuggets coach Adrian Dantley expressed concern over Denver's ability to contain Williams. Consider his fears justified. Williams finished the game with 33 points (on 7-for-14 shooting), 14 assists and 18 free throw attempts (with 16 makes). Williams orchestrated the Jazz offense with near flawless execution and his control of the game was evident throughout his 45 minutes of play.
"Their system is one of the best in the NBA," said Chauncey Billups. "It doesn't get enough credit."
This series has become a heavyweight fight. Bone-jarring screens. A paint that looked like a mosh pit. Bodies sprayed all over the floor. Elbows and shoulders wielded as weapons. Sixty-seven total fouls, including one flagrant (on Anthony) and several more of the rough variety, that resulted in a combined 91 free throws for both teams. The Nuggets came into this series with a reputation for physical play but the undermanned Jazz -- who are without starters Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and Mehmet Okur (Achilles) -- have taken Denver's best shot and thrown back a few good ones of their own. They answered every Nuggets surge with a timely bucket, never allowing Denver to build momentum to pull away. Noted enforcer Kenyon Martin did his best to bully Paul Millsap all game, but Millsap never got rattled, finishing with 18 points and five rebounds. "Sometimes we get tired of taking a butt-kicking," said Utah coach Jerry Sloan. "We have to step up and fight back."
Kyrylo Fesenko is not Okur. But that could be OK. After a rocky start (two fouls and a few deer-in-the-headlights looks in the first five minutes), Fesenko settled down and gave the Jazz 20 quality minutes, totaling four points and two rebounds and finishing with a team-high plus-10. Utah loses a lot of offense without the floor spacing Okur, but the presence of 7-foot-1, 300-pound Fesenko in the paint is another big body Denver has to be aware of. Fesenko doesn't have to play 35 minutes this series; the lions share of the frontcourt minutes are going to Boozer and Millsap. All Fesenko has to do is give the Jazz the kind of minutes he did Monday.
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