Everyone in Denver knew it would be hard for the Denver Nuggets to keep their playoff dreams alive after falling to a 3-1 deficit to the Utah Jazz in the first-round series. But, game five was at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets tend to play better team basketball and feed off the crowd’s energy. That energy helped Denver pull off a 116-102 win over the Jazz, which sends the series back to Utah for another potential-elimination game Friday night.
The Denver Post points out that the Nuggets reached the magic number for assists—20—which was a big reason for the win. The Nuggets were 42-7 in the regular season with 20 or more assists, and they have proven again that they’re hard to beat when they play as a team. Carmelo Anthony tells the Post he feels like the team was back to normal after a rough couple of games in Utah that had squashed the Nuggets’ confidence.
Melo finished with 26 points and 11 assists in the win, leading the way for several other teammates finishing in double figures. The Denver Stiffs lists all the ways the Nuggets made them proud, highlighting the solid play of Melo, Chauncey Billups, with 21 points, and J.R. Smith, who overcame his tendency to shoot too quickly and put up 17 points—including 10 in the fourth quarter. The Associated Press notes that Kenyon Martin had 18 points–the highest he’s had in the playoffs since 2005—and Arron Afflalo was perfect from the floor.
It was a costly win for the Nuggets, though, as Nene went down with a hyper-extended left knee near halftime, which the Post says may be a torn ACL. Reserve center Johan Petro stepped in and played solid, which is what Denver will need again from the 7-foot Frenchman on Friday in Utah.