The NBA: Denver Fading?

Gallo and the Nuggets are slowly letting the
playoffs slip away.

*Unless otherwise specified, all images are from the Associated Press.

“Tonight I just wanted to make it my mission to stop David Lee and help my team win.'' – Nuggets rookie Kenneth Faried after Denver blew the Warriors out , 123-84.

Yes, that’s good. Mission accomplished, young buck (or should it be young nugget?).

But how about the team’s bigger mission of reaching the playoffs?

Not quite there yet.

At 5 games above .500, the Nuggets are sitting pretty at 2nd place in the Northwest Division. At the same time, however, they’re also sitting precariously at the 8th and final playoff spot our West. Technically, they’re tied with Dallas for 7th with both the Suns and the Jazz hot at their heels.

Having versatile swingman Danilo Gallinari back in the fold should make Denver much better, though having Al Harrington play with a torn meniscus kinda balances things out in a bad way.

Still, these Nuggets should be able to contend for that final postseason ticket.

The numbers will show they deserve to play after their regular season schedule ends on April 27 (Manila time).

Denver is tops in the league in scoring, tops in the league in assists, and 4th in FG%. They’re also tops in free throw attempts, which is a testament to how aggressive they’ve been going to the hole. Of the 27 freebies they shoot per game, the Nuggets make just 74%, which is good for a dismal 24th, but that translates to about 20 “extra” points in every outing. For them to make the playoffs, they’ll have to keep on driving to the basket.

The one thing, really, that might hamper Denver’s homestretch is their really tough sked. Of their final 9 games, 7 are against teams currently .500 or better. They’ll face both LA teams, play the Rockets back-to-back, battle the Suns in a pivotal match-up, host Dwight Howard and the Magic, and travel to Oklahoma City (not necessarily in that order). Their other two games are both against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who aren’t exactly pushovers themselves.

And, yes, Wilson Chandler is still nursing his groin injury, and Rudy Fernandez won’t be back till next season.

Needless to say, the Nuggets have their work cut out for them. Can they measure up to the challenge, or will their sheen just fade away?

After the JUMP, April 8-9, 2012 stat-stuffers:

April 8, 2012 Game Recaps:
NYK over CHI, 100-99 (OT) 
Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 43 points, making the go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds left in overtime, and the New York Knicks spoiled a rusty Derrick Rose's return to the lineup to beat the Chicago Bulls 100-99 on Sunday. Rose scored 29 points after missing the previous 12 games with a strained right groin, but he shot only 8 of 26 from the field and missed a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left in regulation and the Bulls ahead by three. Anthony made a 3-pointer eight seconds later to tie it, and scored the final five points of the extra period as the Knicks pulled out a thriller in a possible playoff preview.

SAS over UTA, 114-104
Tony Parker scored 28 points and San Antonio won its 11th straight game, beating Utah to maintain its slim lead atop the Western Conference. Manu Ginobili added 23 points for the Spurs, who are now on their second 11-game win streak — a season best in the NBA. But unlike that first tear that started in January, the Spurs are now fighting off the Oklahoma City Thunder for first place instead of trying to catch them. Al Jefferson led the Jazz with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Utah dropped 1 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with nine games to go.

MIA over DET, 98-75
LeBron James scored 26 points, Chris Bosh finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, and Miami steadily pulled away to beat Detroit. James Jones scored 18 on 6-for-8 shooting from 3-point range for Miami, which played without Dwyane Wade for the 11th time this season. Wade sat out with right ankle soreness, which the team said was caused by an awkward landing on a dunk attempt against Memphis on Friday night. Miami (40-15) pulled within two games of Chicago (43-14) for the best record in the East.

OKC over TOR, 91-75
Kevin Durant scored 23 points and Oklahoma City had a 24-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to beat Toronto and end a season-worst three-game skid. Oklahoma City remained percentage points behind San Antonio for first place in the West after the Spurs beat Utah. Toronto trailed 58-55 with 6:05 left in the third quarter, but the Raptors didn't score again in the period. Oklahoma City then scored the last 12 points of the quarter and the first 12 of the fourth to take 27-point lead.

BOS over PHI, 103-79
Kevin Garnett scored 20 points and Rajon Rondo dished out double-digit assists for his 17th consecutive game, finishing with 15 to help lead Boston over Philadelphia. Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley each added 18 points, and Paul Pierce had 17 as the Celtics won for the seventh time in nine games, improving their Atlantic Division lead to three games over both the 76ers and Knicks. Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and Andre Iguodala added 13 for the 76ers, who have dropped 10 of 14 to fall out first place and are now competing for the final playoff spot in the East. They are tied with the Knicks for seventh place, one game ahead of Milwaukee.

NJN over CLE, 122-117 (OT) 
Gerald Green scored a season-high 32 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 36.7 seconds left in regulation and a high-flying dunk in overtime, leading New Jersey to a win over Cleveland. Anthony Morrow scored 24 points, Deron Williams had 18 points and 10 assists, and Kris Humphries added 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Nets won a season-best third straight at home. Antawn Jamison scored a season high-tying 34 points, Lester Hudson had 26 and Alonzo Gee added 22 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland, which lost for the 10th time in 11 games.

HOU over SAC, 104-87
Courtney Lee scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half, leading Houston over Sacramento. Goran Dragic had 15 points and nine assists, and Chase Budinger also scored 15 as Houston won its third straight and fourth in five games. Terrence Williams had a season-high 21 points and eight rebounds for the Kings, losers of four straight and nine of 11. Rookie guard Jimmer Fredette made three 3-pointers and finished with 17 points in a season-high 37 minutes.
April 9, 2012 Game Recaps:
WAS over CHA, 113-85
Seven different Wizards finished in double figures as Washington dominated the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan Crawford led the way with 20 points and Cartier Martin followed closely behind with 19. James Singleton poured in 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while John Wall scored just two points but did hand out 12 assists as the Wizards snapped a five-game losing streak. Corey Maggette scored a game-high 23 points and Kemba Walker finished with 16 points, seven boards and seven assists, but the Bobcats continued to skid, dropping their 12th straight contest.

IND over TOR, 103-98
Danny Granger and George Hill scored 18 points apiece to guide the Indiana Pacers past the Raptors. Hill, starting in place of the injured Darren Collison, also had seven rebounds and four assists. Paul George netted 15 points and Leandro Barbosa supplied 14 for the Pacers, who have won five of six to solidify their third- place position in the Eastern Conference. Linas Kleiza paced the Raptors with 18 points off the bench and Alan Anderson donated 17 for Toronto, which has dropped its last three.

ORL over DET, 119-89
Jason Richardson scored 22 points, J.J. Redick had 20 and the Orlando Magic rolled to a win over the Detroit Pistons despite missing the biggest piece of their team. The Magic set a season-high in points scored without the services of center Dwight Howard, who sat out with back spasms. Jameer Nelson added 18 points and nine assists while Glen Davis went for 16 points and 16 rebounds to pick up some of the slack in Howard's absence. Tayshaun Prince had 21 points and eight rebounds to lead the Pistons, who have lost three in a row to start a four- game road trip. The Magic hadn't scored so many points since dropping 120 in an overtime loss at Golden State on March 11, 2011.

MEM over LAC, 94-85
Marc Gasol scored 18 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out seven assists as the Memphis Grizzlies withstood a late push by the Los Angeles Clippers to escape with a victory. Rudy Gay added 16 points while Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo contributed 13 apiece for the Grizzlies, who earned their third straight win to stay entrenched in the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Chris Paul paced the Clippers with 21 points and Blake Griffin finished with 19 as Los Angeles had its two-game win streak snapped and fell to 1 1/2 games behind the Lakers for the top spot in the Pacific Division. DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 14 rebounds in a losing effort.

OKC over MIL, 109-89
Russell Westbrook scored 26 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while Kevin Durant netted 19 points to go with eight assists and four boards as the Oklahoma City Thunder routed the Milwaukee Bucks. James Harden added 16 points off the bench for Oklahoma City, which has won two straight on the heels of a three-game losing streak. The Thunder scored 25 points off 17 Milwaukee turnovers. The Thunder are tied with the Spurs for the top record in the Western Conference after San Antonio saw its 11-game winning streak come to an end in Utah. Ersan Ilyasova had 18 points for the Bucks, who fell 1 1/2 games behind the Knicks and 76ers for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Monta Ellis scored just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field.

LAL over NOH, 93-91
Kobe Bryant missed his second straight game with a shin injury, but Metta World Peace played the role of hero quite nicely on Monday as he drained the go-ahead three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:26 to play and the Los Angeles Lakers held on for a win over the New Orleans Hornets. World Peace finished with eight points -- six in the final quarter -- Pau Gasol netted 25 points to go with nine rebounds, Andrew Bynum added 18 and 11 boards and Ramon Sessions finished with 17 to go with six rebounds and six assists for the Lakers, who snapped a brief two-game skid. Carl Landry paced the Hornets with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Marco Belinelli added 20 points and Greivis Vasquez added 18 with 11 assists in defeat. New Orleans has lost five of its last seven games.

DEN over GSW, 123-84
Kenneth Faired scored 27 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets pulverized the Golden State Warriors. Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari scored 15 points apiece, JaVale McGee and Corey Brewer both netted 13 and Al Harrington and Ty Lawson each finished with 10 for the Nuggets, who avenged a 112-97 loss to the Warriors on Saturday. Denver retained its one-game lead on Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with the victory. Klay Thompson supplied 17 points and Nate Robinson donated 16 for Golden State, which has lost two of three.

PHX over MIN, 114-90
Markieff Morris led five players in double figures with 21 points and six rebounds as the Phoenix Suns routed the Minnesota Timberwolves. Shannon Brown finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, Steve Nash added 14 points and five assists, Sebastian Telfair donated 14 points and seven assists, and Michael Redd rounded out the double-figure scorers in the Suns' fifth win in their last six games with 13 points. Kevin Love poured in a game-high 25 points and ripped down 13 rebounds, while J.J. Barea added 16 points and five assists for the Timberwolves, who have lost six consecutive games. Michael Beasley contributed 12 points and Nikola Pekovic donated 11 in the loss.

UTA over SAS, 91-84
Devin Harris netted a game-high 25 points as the Utah Jazz snapped the San Antonio Spurs' second 11-game win streak of the year. Paul Millsap added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Gordon Hayward had 16 points and Al Jefferson contributed 12 points and 10 boards for the Jazz, who won for the third time in five games. Utah remained a game and a half behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference after the Nuggets dominated the Golden State Warriors, 123-84, on Monday. Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter scored 14 points apiece to pace San Antonio, which was playing without stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as they did not travel with the team due to head coach Gregg Popovich giving them all the day off. The Spurs also won 11 straight from January 30-February 20 earlier this season.

HOU over POR, 94-89
Goran Dragic scored 22 points and dished out seven assists, and the Houston Rockets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers. Chase Budinger netted 15 points off the bench while Kyle Lowry added 13 points for the Rockets, who just completed a 4-0 road trip. Marcus Camby, playing his first game in Portland since being traded to Houston at the trade deadline, grabbed 11 rebounds. The Rockets are one game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for sixth place in the Western Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge netted 20 points to go with six rebounds for Portland, which shot just 39.8 percent from the floor and 6-of-21 from beyond the arc. The Blazers are currently 4 1/2 games behind the Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
April 8: Carmelo Anthony (NYK) – 43 
April 9: Kenneth Faried (DEN) - 27

Melo mesmerized the MSG after hitting the game-winner against
the East-leading Chicago Bulls.
(image by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
April 8: Tim Duncan (SAS), Tyson Chandler (NYK), & Carlos Boozer (CHI) – 16 
April 9: Kenneth Faried (DEN) - 17 

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
April 8: Rajon Rondo (BOS) – 15 
April 9: Jose Calderon  (TOR) – 14

You gotta hand it to Jose Calderon. He still
finds a reason to smile while the Raps fall
out of playoff contention.

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
April 8: A LOT with 4!!!
April 9: Thabo Sefolosha (OKC) – 7

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
April 8: Serge Ibaka (OKC) – 5 
April 9: Serge Ibaka (OKC) & Chris Kaman (NOH) – 5

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
April 8: Lester Hudson (CLE) & James Jones (MIA) – 6 
April 9: Jason Richardson (ORL) – 6 

April 8, 2012 First Five
C – Tristan Thompson (CLE) – 15pts, 15rebs, 2asts, 2blks, 1stl
F – Antawn Jamison (CLE) – 34pts, 4 treys, 3rebs, 3asts, 1stl
F – Carmelo Anthony (NYK) – 43pts, 7rebs, 4 treys, 3asts, 1stl, 1blk
G – Gerald Green (NJN) – 32pts, 5 treys, 4rebs, 1ast
G – Alonzo Gee (CLE) – 22pts, 11rebs, 5asts

Honorable Mention:
Tony Parker (SAS) – 28pts, 3rebs, 3asts, 2stls
Courtney Lee (HOU) – 25pts, 4stls, 3 treys, 2rebs, 2asts
Jose Calderon (TOR) – 19pts, 6asts, 3 treys, 2rebs, 2stls

Daily Zap:

April 9, 2012 First Five
C – Pau Gasol (LAL) – 25pts, 9rebs, 4asts, 2blks, 1stl
F – Kenneth Faried (DEN) – 27pts, 17rebs, 2stls, 1ast, 1blk
F – Carl Landry (NOH) – 20pts, 11rebs, 5asts
G – Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 26pts, 7rebs, 3asts, 3 treys, 1stl
G – Goran Dragic (HOU) – 22pts, 7asts, 4 treys, 3stls, 2rebs

Kenneth Faried had a career game against the
Warriors. Can he keep up the intensity?

Honorable Mention:
James Singleton (WAS) – 18pts, 12rebs, 3asts, 2stls, 2blks
Glen Davis (ORL) – 16pts, 16rebs, 5asts, 1stl, 1blk
Kevin Love (MIN) – 25pts, 13rebs, 2asts, 2stls

Daily Zap:


*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Associated Press and the Sports Network.

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