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2001-2002 Game Summaries

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Game: Denver at Philadelphia 76ers (02/19/02)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets loss: 77-108

LA Lakers at Denver
Allen Iverson, sore toe and all, single-handedly destroyed the Nuggets in Philly.

The road trip that faded

The road trip started off so promising with solid wins against Memphis and Minnesota. Then the Nuggets seemed to tire as a team and remember their tendancy for playing on the road the past few years - losing.

After missing the previous game, and being listed as day-to-day with a sprained big toe, Allen Iverson ended up playing in this game and tore up the Nuggets with 27 points in 36 minutes along with 9 rebounds and 8 assists. Ex-Nugget Mt. Dikembe Mutombo had a stellar game with 20 points on perfect shooting (9-9 from the floor, 2-2 from the line) and 10 rebounds.

The Nuggets didn't put up much of a fight. They shot just .368 from the floor, were outscored in the first 3 quarters 54-86, and looked lethargic from start to finish.

In my opinion, Avery Johnson has been the MVP of the Nuggets so far this season, but he needs to be the back-up, not the main guy so that his minutes stay around 30 or less per game. Kenny Satterfield is not ready to back him up quite yet, but he at least has gotten some real experience in the past few games.

The Nuggets will be happy to return home, even against Utah, and they just might receive a huge lift by seeing Antonio for the first time all season in a game.


Nick Van Exel missed his fourth straight game with inflammation in his left elbow. Ryan Bowen missed his 2nd game with a sprained left ankle. To be honest, I think this team really missed Ryan the past two games because they really could have used his infusion of energy and hustle. Without him, the Nuggets seemed to be moving in slow motion.

Til next game,


Game: Denver at Los Angeles Lakers (01/22/02)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets win: 107-91

LA Lakers at Denver
Would you believe that Voshon gave Kobe all he could handle and more? When you believe that, you'll also realize that somehow, someway, the Nuggets beat the Lakers, in LA!

Now this was truly a beautiful game

I was ready to turn the TV off after Raef LaFrentz hit his first two shots and the Nuggets were up 4-0. Call the game, it's over, the Nuggets are winning, and they can't keep that up against the mighty Lakers. I'm glad I decided to keep watching.

This was a huge win in the midst of a frustrating, turmoil ridden Nuggets season. Let's list some of the streaks and trends the Nuggets broke on this night:

  • 1st Nuggets road win in the last 15 games

  • 1st win in LA since January, 1996 when Nick Van Exel still played for the Lakers

  • Only the 2nd time the Nuggets shot over 50% (56.5%) for the season, against one of the NBA's best defenses.

  • Shaq returned from his 3 game suspension, scored 40 points, and somehow the Nuggets won going away.

When Raef scored 6 points early in the 1st quarter, I took that as a sign of good things to come, as Raef had struggled the past few games. Raef only scored 2 more points, but he did what he could to slow down Shaq, earning a shiner and a scratch from his ear to his chin on one side of his face.

The young pups of the Nuggets are starting to show their contributions and were evident in this game. Chris Anderson, playing with a bone chip in his right wrist had two monster dunks and threw his athletic and wiry frame around with abandon, making good things happen. His best highlight was his underhanded free throw that went in when he was fouled at the end of the first half. Zendon Hamilton has found growing confidence and consistent inside rebounding toughness and scoring ability - earning several recent starts with Scott Williams still out with a sore back. Zendon's 17 points was a career high, and he has pulled in double digit rebounds in 3 of the last 4 games.

Okay, I can't ignore shooting guard Voshon Lenard any longer. He was easily the MVP of this game with his scoring, hitting 9 of 11 shots for 29 points. Earlier in the season, when Tariq was actually healthy for a short while, Voshon was completely out of the playing rotation and got few minutes under Issels final weeks at the helm. Did Voshon complain about his lack of playing time, ala George McCloud style? When Mike Evans took over, Voshon started getting more playing time, and the Nuggets best shooter started taking some of the pressure off of Nick by providing scoring help. Voshon has been key in several of the recent Nuggets victories. In this game, with Kobe Bryant defending him, he was actually able to abuse the NBA 1st team defender a few times, using his strength to get his fade-away off against the taller Kobe. So, thanks Voshon, for being a professional, and stepping up to help the Nuggets win a few games once you were given a chance.

Lastly, Posey also had a great night scoring 23, including a clutch 3 pointer late in the 4th when the Lakers threatened to get close. Nick was Nick, scoring 17 points and handing out 12 dimes.

Til next game,


Game: Sacramento Kings at Denver (01/16/02)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets lose: 107-112

LA Lakers at Denver
Ken Benson and I were fired up to get our mitts on Doug Moe Bobbleheads, although we refute the accuracy of his attire. Oh, and the Nuggets were entertaining also...

Doug Moe Bobblehead Night

With the only nationally televised Nuggets game of the season (TNT), free Bobbleheads of Doug Moe, one of the last successful Nuggets coaches, and an outing with one of my longest and best friends, it was bound to be an excellent night.

I was sure we would see a spectacular game from Nick, as he would use the opportunity to showcase his talents for the trade he has been requesting this season. Instead, he sat out with a "sore jaw" that he suffered during the Utah game. Huh?

The extremely undermanned Nuggets gave a valiant effort against one of the best teams in the NBA. The Nuggets went into half-time behind by only 1 point, and they reversed the score by the end of the third quarter - finding themselves up by 3.

Much of the effort came from Raef LaFrentz and Avery Johnson, who both had stellar outings. Raef poured in 30, had 10 rebounds, and had 6 blocks to continue his run at finishing #1 in blocks per game for the NBA. Avery had 23 points and 12 assists.

In the end, the Kings made it look easy by shifting into another gear that the Nuggets just couldn't match. The score was close, but you could tell the Kings were in control. Another loss, but a highly entertaining game, and a glimpse at a possible Western Conference Finals team.

Final thoughts: If only Raef could put consistent outings like this together. How great of an off-season pick-up has Avery Johnson been?

Til next game,


Game: Dallas Mavericks at Denver (01/08/02)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets lose: 94-95

LA Lakers at Denver
Dirk Nowitzki celebrates after hitting the free throw that put the Mavs up with less than 7 seconds left.

Finding ways to lose

Another game, another similar ending.

In the past 4 games, the Nuggets have lost 3 of them by a combined total of 4 points. If the game is close, the Nuggets seem to be finding ways to lose. Maybe they are just always out of gas, because to get into games we usually are coming from behind in the 4th quarter.

The Dallas game was a little different. Yes, we were behind by 12 points, 40-52 at half-time. But we made all of that up in the 3rd and early 4th quarters, and were playing with a lead thru-out most of the 2nd half of the fourth.

With 1:13 left, we had a 5 point advantage - 92-87. Suddenly are shots stop falling, and Dallas hits a lay-up, followed by a quick transition 3 from Dirk. Avery Johnson comes thru and hits a tough layup with less than 20 seconds to go, Nuggets lead by 2. With Dallas on offense, Dirk gets the ball and goes to work. Ryan Bowen, all skinny 6-9' of him is guarding 7' Dirk, and he has no help. Isn't zone defense legal? It's not like Dirk is the quickest guy on the court, he's making a gradual big-man spin move to the middle of the court! Dirk pump fakes, knowing Ryan has to leave his feet to have a chance at defending a good shooter. Dirk waits til Ryan awkwardly falls into him, and calmly makes the hoop and one. Ballgame. Nick gets off a fading-away 3-pointer at the buzzer while being contested by Steve Nash and it falls harmlessly to the floor - airball. Argh.

A couple of quick things. Why, oh why did we cut Shawnelle Scott? Granted, he was not the future of the Nuggets at the center position, and he was not the most athletic guy, but he was definitely servicable enough to start 10 games for us before he was waived this past week so we didn't have to give him a contract for the rest of the season. There were a few smaller, comparable guys on the roster at the loaded forward position that could have easily be waived in his place. Hmmm, suddenly we are getting outrebounded (nearly doubled up by the Hornets the other game in a bad loss) and the coaching staff is talking about toughness and lack of physical presence. We just cut the biggest, toughest guy on the roster! In the last three games James Posey (love the guy) a skinny, 6-7 hustling small forward has led the team in rebounds - that's not right.

Til next game,


Game: Minnesota T-Wolves at Denver (12/26/01)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets lose: 91-94

LA Lakers at Denver
Mike Evans took over the reigns after Issel officially resigned before the game.

Close and definitely no cigar

This was one of the quotes following the game from discontent Nuggets point guard, Nick Van Exel.

I took my Dad and grandfather to this holiday game. Before the game I told them I couldn't promise a victory, but I promised them an exciting game. Unfortunately, I was right on both counts - the Nuggets lost a close, exciting game, as they have a penchant for coming from behind this season.

Unfortunately, when you come from behind as often as this year's Nuggets do, you sometimes don't have enough gas left in the tank at the end.

Battling back from a 13 point 4th quarter deficit, the Nuggets went up by 1 after 6 points from James Posey, and 3 by Nick late in the game. The T-wolves answered the challenge by coming down and getting a basket from Joe Smith with seconds left on the shot clock. The Nuggets called their final time-out and interim coach Mike Evans drew up a play. The play panned out as designed, with a wide open three-pointer from the corner for Voshon Lenard. Unfortunately, the gauge was empty, and Voshon missed the shot. After the Nuggets fouled Anthony Peeler and he hit both free throws, they had one final hope, down by three points. Unfortunately, with no time outs, Nick was only able to get off a difficult shot and it bounced harmlessly off the rim and to the floor as time expired.

As most of you know, Issel formally announced his resignation as Nuggets Head Coach and President just hours before the game. The odd part is that he was not present for the announcement, as it was relayed by GM Kiki Vandeweghe.

Most of the Nuggets seemed relieved to have this particular chapter behind them, as they were happy that Issel had made his decision.

Ex-Nugget Chauncey Billups had a killer game against us, scoring 12 points in the 1st quarter and 22 and 8 assists for the game. A fan behind me shouted it out the best - "Chauncey, if you had played like this for us every night, you would still be in Denver!"

Ryan Bowen and T-wolves player Gary Trent got into a scuffle in the 4th quarter. As the action was away from the ball, I only saw Bowen on the ground with Trent standing over him. The crowd and Nuggets players went crazy and the refs called a flagrant foul on Trent. I asked Bowen about the incident at the Nuggets Open House the following day and he said that Gary took his head and slammed it against the court. He has a black eye to prove it, and you can see the picture by following the link on the Multimedia page.

Til next game,


Game: Phoenix Suns at Denver (12/15/01)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets win: 106-98

LA Lakers at Denver
Mike Evans is 2-0 as his first two games as an interim NBA coach.

Wins are the best medicine

Mike Evans has held the reigns well.

With Dan Issel halfway thru his 4-game suspension, long time assistance coach, Mike Evans has filled in well. As in perfect, with a 2-0 record. Okay, the first victory was at home against bottom dweller Memphis Grizzlies, but after 5 straight losses, and losing 9 of 10, any victory is huge.

After a win over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, Evans and the Nuggets players should be beaming.

This game was won in the 4th quarter by the Nuggets, with Van Exel leading the show as usual. During the Nuggets losing streak, his heroics were not enough, but on this night Nick had a little help from his friends.

Voshon Lenard has stepped up his scoring the past few games, and he has been rewarded with more playing time. Raef LaFrentz got the Nuggets going in the 4th with a pair of 3-pointers that helped ignite a 17-2 Nuggets run over the last 4 minutes of the game. Nick had a hand in all of it, as he continues to be Mr. 4th quarter. Would you pick anyone else in the NBA right now to be on the floor when you needed a basket in crunch time? I would even pick Nick over his Airness, at least this year's model. No disrespect intended MJ, Van Exel is just that good right now.

There was even a Calbert Cheaney sighting in this game. An often maligned roster spot on the Nuggets, (especially by me) Calbert played 22 minutes, scoring 10 on 5-7 shooting and hauled in 7 rebounds. He was tired at the end, shooting 2 free throws at the very end (that we luckily didn't need) that made Shaq's free throws look like things of beauty. The Nuggets as a whole played with good energy thru-out the game, especially in the 4th quarter when they could have written the game off as another loss.

I know that Assistant Coach Mike Evans did not want his first shot at coaching in the NBA under these kind of circumstances, but he's proven himself well so far, and deserves a real shot someday... maybe when Issel steps down in the next year or two with his pride intact?

Maybe Santa bringing Nick a late Christmas present of an all-star game berth will finally foil his desire of being traded to another team?

Til next game,


Game: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver (11/25/01)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets lose: 98-105

LA Lakers at Denver
Raef and the Nuggets stood up to the powerful force of the Lakers.

Moral victories don't count

Yes, I know... it doesn't help at all at the end of the season when the judges tally the wins and losses and award teams playoff spots based solely on the final standings.

As long as the Nuggets don't go thru too many more of these close losses, they should be able to build on a game like this. The Lakers are the best team in the NBA and are working hard to establish themselves for a run at a third title. Jackson, the ultimate motivator, has the Lakers already operating smoothly like an oiled machine in the early going of this 2001-2002 season.

With the Nuggets playing great small-ball this year, with Nick at the helm, a team like the Lakers could really threaten to blow out our undersized team. With the Nuggets fresh off of a near all-time scoring low at home against the Lakers just last week, this game could have gotten ugly. It looked like it would several times in the first half - with the Nuggets falling behind by 10-14-points at times.

The third quarter was a different story, with Van Exel and Posey combining for a 1-2 scoring punch that led the Nuggets to outscoring the Lakers 29-16. Unfortunately, that wasn't the story of the game. Derek Fisher, returning from injury for his first game of the season was the difference maker for the Lakers. Yes, Kobe and Shaq got their points, but Fisher hit the big shots - going 4-4 from 3-point land.

With the game tied 96-96 with less than 2 minutes to go, Raef LaFrentz and Scott Williams fought each other for a missed free throw courtesy of Shaq. When neither grabbed the ball, the Lakers George hit the short shot. On the other end, Williams fouled Shaq, sending him to the line again. This time, he made the Nuggets pay with two free throws in a row - a more impressive feat than any of his monster dunks. With the Nuggets now trailing by four, they worked to get the ball in at the half court. James Posey ran down to set a pick on Fisher and they collided. Posey was called for the questionable offensive foul, and when Kobe got the hoop and the harm on the other side, the game was effectively over. A great battle, but the Lakers experience took over down the stretch.

Consider the upcoming home game against the Pacers a must win for the Nuggets still fragile psyche.

Til next game,


Game: New Jersey Nets at Denver (11/19/01)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets win: 99-96

New Jersey at Denver
When the pressure mounted against the Nets, Nick stepped up... big.

And now, the latest episode of Nick at Nite

Who would have thought this would be a big, exciting game against the New Jersey Nets. Well, it was.

The Nets were off to their best start in years, are being led by the newly acquired Jason Kidd. Even with Kidd shooting just 2-14 in the game, he is dangerous any time he has the ball in his hands, especially in crunch time situations. One of those two shots was a long distance bomb to tie the game and help send it into overtime. The Nets had chipped away at an 11 point lead in the fourth quarter and looked strong going into the extra five minutes. Except, they don't have Nick.

Give Nick Van Exel a wide open look at the basket in the first quarter, and he is probably going to make it about 30% of the time. Give Nick the ball with a man or two draped all over him, the shot clock winding down, and a Nuggets win hanging in the balance, and Nick will hit the shot 8 out of 10 times. Nick has that crunch time prowess that you associate with only a few guys in this league - namely a guy they call MJ.

It is not sacrilege to make this kind of analogy. Nick is that good when the pressure is on, and he's been doing it for years. His team expects it. Coach Issel expects it. The fans expect it, and time after time, Nick delivers. You get the feeling this year that Nuggets fans might be in for something different, if the Nick and his merry band can keep up this level of intensity and skill until and after McDyess gets back.

Before I get too far off into dream land, let's talk about the Nets game a little. Issel mixed things up by starting Ryan Bowen at forward in George McCloud's spot. I'm not sure I like that switch every game because Bowen is the prototypical bench player - providing sparks of energy when the starters become stagnant and start standing around. Ah, but NBA basketball is all about keeping a team happy and if any bench player had earned a start from his efforts this season - it's Bowen. Nuggets fans know that Bowen has been the team's Energizer Bunny for the past 3 seasons, but he seems to be doing his thing better than ever this year, earning more and more minutes on the floor. Good things just happen when he's out there - a steal, a broken up layup, an offensive board, even tough defense on the other's teams big guard or small forward. Bowen is one of those guys that has answered the call of picking up the slack in McDyess's absence.

Other guys are also becoming consistent contributors - Abdul-Wahad, Posey, and LaFrentz. Tariq had a horrible season last year, with a variety of maladies that may have stemmed from coming into the season out of shape. Not so this year - he's beginning to look like a higher leaping version of ex-Nugget Bryant Stith... a big guard that can post-up, hit jumpers from close in, grab offensive rebounds, and play tough physical defense. Posey gets better every year - and he contributes like Bowen, in a variety of ways that don't always include big scoring. LaFrentz has shook off a rough start and is having a good year, providing number 2 scoring, and playing more aggressive, more often. As an undersized center with good quickness and shooting ability, he has to do this to be effective and help open up his outside game.

Finally, this game was won by Nick. He had a game high 30 points, just beating out the Nets Kenyon Martin. Nick's big points came when they were needed the most, hitting a three pointer and two free throws late in overtime to hold off the Nets.

Til next game,


Game: Orlando Magic at Denver (11/15/01)
result.gif (1312 bytes) Nuggets lose: 82-101

Orlando at Denver
While the entire Nuggets team struggled to find its shot, Grant Hill found his

Nuggets can't hit the broad side of the barn

As much as I hate to write about Nuggets losses, I told myself before this game that it would by my first new game summary in over a year. It's good to be back.

With new seats in the Pepsi Center that are a few rows closer to the floor, and now behind the visiting team's bench, I treated my Dad to a Nuggets game.

Based on the first few games I've been to this year, I promised a Nuggets squad that was playing well, even without All-Star McDyess, by bringing good energy and effort on both ends of the court.

The Nuggets started the game with cold shooting, and never seemed to warm-up. The lack of outside shooting infected the bench too - Rider, Williams, and Avery all came in and continued the theme of poor shooting thru-out the game. You know the team is a bit off offensively when Ryan Bowen scores 14 (a career high) and leads the team is scoring. This isn't meant as a knock on Bowen, but I think he would readily admit that he doesn't expect the team to count on his scoring most nights. Bowen is the master at infusing energy in this team when it's most needed - he has an amazing knack for making the hustle plays look easy - scrapping for a loose ball, making a steal, tracking down an offensive rebound.

Van Exel, who has been leading the team in scoring every game so far this year, with a 27.0 per game average, had only 13 points tonight. Nick is not the best shooter in the world - but he can get hotter than most guys in the league from time to time. He has the ability to hit the tough shot more often than the easy one. I was expecting Nick to have an off night one of these nights, but I didn't expect the rest of the team to follow his lead. Guys like Raef, Tariq, and James Posey had all come off of several good games in a row - none of them could get it going this game.

The Nuggets scrapped and worked hard thru-out the first half to stay with Orlando. The Magic obliged by not taking advantage of every opportunity, and the Nuggets went into the locker room at half-time trailing by only 6.

When the Nuggets started off the second half just as cold as the first, the Magic finally started taking advantage. McGrady scored 8 points in the third, and Grant widened the margin in the fourth when he scored 12 of his 23 points. The Nuggets couldn't find anyone to answer and faded further and further away, never mounting a serious challenge.

Until McDyess gets back on the court, this is Nick's team - good and bad. It would be nice to find a few guys though that could consistently hit their shots when Nick dishes it to them. I don't think we can expect Nick to score 28+ points every night.

Til next game,


Non-game Notes:

Bertha Lynn, a local news reporter sat in our row, just a few seats down from us. Rocky the Mascot was in our section, saw her, and made a big deal out of it. At half-time, Rocky hit his third over-his-head, backwards, half-court, underhand shot of the young season. Amazing! During one of the 2nd quarter time-outs, Rocky did one of his standard gag-skits - a camera that he points at the crowd while the video displays on the Pepsi Center jumbotron, showing "KISS!" around the picture. The theme song from Disney's Little Mermaid - "Kiss the Girl" plays in the background. Towards the end, he usually has a little fun with the refs. For once, one of the refs actually played along and planted a big kiss on the cheek of the other ref. (neither were refs I know the names of - it was NOT Steve Javie!) The entire event made it on to SportsCenter coverage for the game...