The NBA, and sports in general, are chock-full of unpredictability. I suppose that’s why we enjoy them so much. The ’11/12 season, though? It’s almost become predictably unpredictable. I mean, damn, I feel like I’m reporting some sort of major unforeseen development every single day. I think we all expected things to get a little weird due to the lockout, but with one shocking storyline after another… it’s just been bizarre, really. From the Chris Paul ordeal, to Linsanity, to the Derek Fisher trade, we NBA fans have been caught off guard time and time again. So, when I say Wednesday night’s Pistons/Nuggets game was one of the strangest that I’ve seen this year, I’m really trying to tell you something: this game was downright mind-boggling.
Denver got off to a quick start on their home floor, opening the game on a 7-0 run. Detroit, on the other hand, struggled mightily to remove the lid from their basket. Without second-leading scorer Rodney Stuckey, and playing in their fifth road game in ten days… I think it’s obvious why I didn’t bother to check back in on the game until the third quarter.
As I flipped back and forth between a variety of other match ups, the Nuggets, fueled by 10 early points from Ty Lawson, lit up the Pepsi Center scoreboards for 40 in the first quarter alone. Although Ben Gordon was already halfway to his per-game scoring average with 6 of Detroit’s 18, I don’t think anyone was thinking much of it. Gordon hasn’t been the same player since he signed with the Pistons as a free agent back in ’09, and folks don’t fear his scoring outbursts like they used to, because, well, they simply don’t happen very often anymore. Maybe he even caught the Nuggets off guard.
BG went off for 21 in the second quarter, including five triples on five tries. That gave him a total of 27 in the game and brought his Pistons to within five points. Fittingly, the only shots he missed in the quarter were a layup and a free throw. Meanwhile, Javale McGee was busy making his McNugget debut. He dunked a few balls, committed a few fouls, you know… typical Javale McGee sh!t. His presence alone added a comical element to the whole thing. For example, I can’t remember exactly when this happened, but at some juncture he attempted one of his signature stretch-armstrong-inspector-gadget dunks… and bricked the hell out of it. Why the camera didn’t pan to a shot of George Karl’s face immediately afterward, I have no idea.
The game got reeeal interesting in the third quarter as Gordon poured in another 15 points, including three more triples on the same number of attempts. Denver began to send multiple defenders at Gordon, but he dished the ball effectively as Detroit put another 34 points on the board. They took their first lead of the game, but weren’t able to pull away. It was basically a seesaw affair from the beginning of the third right through the final buzzer.
Credit the Nuggets for holding Gordon to just three points in the fourth. Credit Gordon too, though, for finding another way to contribute. He dished three more assists on consecutive possessions a couple of minutes after re-entering the game (yes, Lawrance Frank actually sat him on 42 points for nearly four minutes). Jonas Jerebko was the main benefactor, nailing back-to-back jumpers. Gordon then connected on his final three-ball with 2:51 to play. It came from the wing, as had all eight of the ones he’d previously knocked down, and it gave the Pistons a three-point advantage. Wilson Chandler immediately brought the Nuggets back to within one, though, with a layup that had no business ending up in the basket. Ill Will had gotten himself turned around in the air, and he actually threw the shot up while facing the opposite hoop. Meh, no matter… Brandon Knight was right there to answer back with a three. Knight leads all rookies in three-point makes, and this one happened to put his squad up four with just two minutes to go. However, the Pistons would give the Nuggets a few golden opportunities as they struggled to find a dagger in the closing moments.
Finally, it appeared that the game would ultimately come down to an Arron Afflalo free throw. Ben Gordon, who had 45 and 8 at this point, committed a stupid reaching foul as Afflalo drove through the paint with five seconds on the clock. Had Gordon simply let him score the layup the game probably would’ve been over, ’cause the Nuggs trailed by three, not two. Oh, and I suppose Greg Monroe must’ve been watching when Afflalo hit those three FTs to take a game to OT a few weeks ago, ’cause he didn’t box out…
Javale McGee, the walking brain fart, makes a smart decision (notice how he waits for the ball to leave the cylinder before slamming it… a goaltend there would’ve been the most Javale McGee thing ever) and a game-winning basket… on the same play… in his McNugget debut.
I’m convinced that the basketball gods are just f@cking with us at this point. Had they not been f@cking with us Ben Gordon wouldn’t have dropped 45 only to rim out the game’s final shot. I mean, sh!t, the dude goes 13-22–on ALL jumpers (well, minus 10 free throws)–and he misses a 20-footer at the buzzer?! I was shocked. I was glad it wasn’t a three, though, because he still hadn’t bricked a single one of those all night long. His 9-9 from downtown actually matched Latrell Sprewell’s NBA record for threes made in a game without a miss.
I’d like to reiterate that all 13 of Gordon’s buckets were jump shots. That’s crazier than McGee not being stupid. To score 45 points on 22 shots without a single field goal in the paint… has that ever even been done before? How about the 42 he had on 17 shots through the third quarter? There has to be some sort of obscure record here.
From a personal perspective, the parts of this game I saw were extremely refreshing. Every single day I wake up hoping to find that I’ve been transported back to 2006. Ben Gordon exploding for 45 big ones is about as 2006 as it gets.