January 6 2010, 9:04 AM
When times get tough and the Denver Nuggets need someone to step up and make clutch-free throws, the team usually doesn't count on guard J.R. Smith. The tattooed scorer is known for pulling off acrobatic shots from a distance, but he's equally well-known for his inexplicable, 68 percent free-throw average. Yet, there he was last night, at the Pepsi Center, with the ball in his hands at the end of a thrilling game against the Golden State Warriors that resulted in the Nuggets winning 123-122 (recap via The Denver Post). Warriors coach Don Nelson tells the Associated Press his team lost despite deserving to win, which he attributes to the fact that the Warriors aren't a good team overall and don't get the breaks. The game was played, once again, without the Nuggets' two biggest stars, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, both nursing persistent injuries, as well as without Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who is also injured. Denver has struggled when playing without Melo and Chauncey, and things almost got worse last night when Nene rolled his ankle. He gutted it out and returned to the game, but it shows just how vulnerable the Nuggets are right now. To make matters worse, Nuggets' rookie point guard Ty Lawson, a sparkplug who has kept the team in several recent games, twisted an ankle, which could keep him off the floor for a period (via Denver Stiffs). Let's hope that's not the case. Bleacher Report suggests the Nuggets should use a $3.2 million trade exception they have until Thursday to bring more depth to the center, but the pickings are slim right now.