Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row.
He had missed his last 4 free throws. His team’s free throw shooting has been their achillies’ heel all season. They are ranked dead last in the NBA. But Andre Iguodala stood at the charity stripe with .4 seconds left on the clock and a chance to win the game. He stood there because of an excellent last second play drawn up by George Karl. He stood there because of his own excellent defense. He stood there because of the Nuggets abhorrent shooting down the stretch that allowed the Pacers to use a 13-0 run to get back into the game. He stood there because of the Nuggets own, typical, terrible free throw shooting...
Nothing but net. Nuggets win.
It was a tough start to the night for the Denver Nuggets, (28-18) losing JaVale McGee before tipoff and losing Keneth Faried at the 9:33 mark in the 1st quarter after picking up his second foul. He would fight foul trouble all night long and, except for a short but important stretch in the 3rd quarter, would be a non-factor. The Pacers got off to a nice start, leading 29-24 after the 1st quarter, largely due to their3pt shooting. They may have fallen in love too much with the shot in the middle of the game, though, when the Nuggets outscored them 58-45 in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined.
Ty Lawson dominated the game early with 10 points, 7 assists, and 3 steals all in the first half. The diming would stall in the second but he would remain a factor on the scoreboard finishing with 18. His speed was clearly a problem for the Pacers helping to lead the Nuggets to 21 fast break points on a team that only gives up about 9 a game.
Lawson’s most reliable finisher would emerge, as Danilo Gallinari’s scoring held the Nuggets up in the second half. He would finish the game with 27 points (leading the Nuggets) on 9-16 shooting and 3-6 from 3pt.
Indiana (26-19) was led by Lance Stephenson (20/8/4) and Paul George (23/10/5) and a solid game from David West (17/5/4) and got hot as a team in the 4th quarter right when it looked like the Nuggets had the game in hand. But it wouldn't quite be enough as Iggy's final two plays of the game would stop them from ever taking the lead late.
Corey Brewer, and his amazing goatee, brought great energy off the bench and he would finish with 16 points and was 3-5 from behind the arc. But the night would belong to the birthday boy.
Andre Iguodala’s free throw put the team up for good, but his steal on the prior possession is what won the game. He had been flirting with a triple double all night, ending with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists all while playing superb defense, and with the clock ticking down from the teens into the single digits and the game tied at 101-101, Paul George was sizing up the Nuggets defense waiting for the right time to take what he hoped would be the game winner. Andre Iguodala was sizing up Paul George. And quicker than you can say "4 straight missed" Andre Iguodala had stripped the ball from George and called a timeout in a single motion.
Karl takes out his sharpie, draws some X’s and some O’s and a play that has to get someone going to the hoop for a tip-in because there are only 5 tenths of a second on the game clock. A few backscreens for Andre Iguodala and Paul George gets lost for just a moment, over-corrects, and undercuts Iguodala.
Whistle. Foul. Swish.
And then, ironically, Iguodala needed to miss on purpose so Indiana would have no chance at a last second miracle shot.
Clank. Time. Buzz. 1-5 on free ones in the clutch.
Nuggets win! Nuggets win!