Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: DENVER WORKS ORLANDO IN THE FOURTHThere are nights, where the Denver Nuggets look like one of the two or three best teams in the West. Unfortunately for the Magic, this was one of those nights.
The Nuggets can explode on you with offense in bunches, but what won them this game was quality defense down the stretch. Orlando couldn't score and on the flip side, couldn't stop Denver.
With six minutes left, it was a one-point edge for the Nuggets and it looked like we were going to have a tight finish. Instead, Denver closed the game on a 19-3 run and completely bullied the Magic.
Playing without Chauncey Billups, George Karl got creative with his lineups, using a combination Anthony Carter, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony and Nene down the stretch. He mixed a number of small-ball lineups in against the Magic, playing Carmelo at power forward for a lot of the night. Which meant Carmelo had Rashard Lewis on him, which then meant Carmelo abused the Magic's four-man. Melo finished with 35 points and pretty much took over in the second half.
But for the Magic it was really more of the same. Late in the game, each offensive possession was almost hard to watch. The Magic ran three things: 1) Jameer Nelson dribble up and after zero passes, 3-point shot. 2) Dump down to Howard, Nuggets double, Howard forces shot. And 3) 15 passes around the perimeter with no one making any progress at the basket, eventually ending the possession with a contested jumper.
When pushed, Orlando just doesn't know what to do offensively late. The first three quarters was all about the sharp ball movement, quick shots and most importantly, making shots. In the fourth, the Nuggets were the ones doing that.
I imagine Stan Van Gundy is going to yell loudly at his team more about their porous defense down the stretch more than their offense. Both were an issue for them, but it didn't help things playing a loaded offensive team like the Nuggets. Denver got it rolling late and the Magic just didn't have the guns to keep up.
GO-GO-GADGET LINESMonta Ellis went all 48 minutes for the Warriors in their 108-99 win over the Timberwolves. Ellis dropped 34 points on 13-24 shooting, dished out six assists and grabbed four rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony dropped 35 on the Magic, hitting 14-21 from the field while also grabbing 11 rebounds. A gold star for him indeed. Plus, he almost got traded!
J.J. Redick was a bright spot for the Magic, scoring 29 points on 9-12 shooting.
Charlie Villanueva had 23 points, 11 rebounds and a +29 for the Pistons.
Kris Humphries in a loss: 1-10 from the field, two points, 13 rebounds in 21 minutes. I can't decide if that's good or bad.
BYNUM'S BACKAndrew Bynum is back and his return was... normal. About what you might expect from a guy playing in his first game after knee surgery. Seventeen minutes, seven points (1-5 from the field), four rebounds and two blocks for the Laker big man. Nothing special, but certainly reason to be encouraged. Especially because Pau Gasol only played 31 minutes, something Bynum is really going to help get under control.
Bynum didn't have to factor in that much for the Lakers though as they cruised past the John Wall-less Wizards 103-89. And that was with only scoring 11 points the fourth quarter. One semi-crazy stat from the game though: The Wizards pulled in 19 offensive boards and had 16 more attempts than the Lakers. Obviously they didn't take advantage of those extra possessions, but something to note regardless.
THAT'S RANDOMLed by a bench that had plus/minuses of +29, +25, +23 and +20, the Detroit Pistons absolutely walloped the Atlanta Hawks. How in the heck did that happen?
Villanueva led things with 23 points and Tracy McGrady finally did something, throwing up 16 points in 26 minutes. The Piston bench outscored the Hawks second unit 46-14.
After the Hawks outscored Detroit by nine in the third, the game was close heading to the fourth with the Pistons only up three. But the Hawks imploded in the fourth. The Pistons took the quarter 39-19 and punctuated the victory with a buzzer-beating 3 from Villanueva to win by 23.