Denver’s diminutive point guard did his best Anthony impersonation in the final quarter of the Nuggets’ 117-108 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night.
With Anthony, J.R. Smith and Nene all receiving suspensions earlier in the day for their roles in a brawl against the New York Knicks on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, someone needed to step up.
Especially after the Wizards trimmed a 30-point lead early in the second quarter down to 93-91 with 5:36 left in the game.
So Boykins accepted the role that’s usually reserved for Anthony. He scored 15 of his season-high 29 points in the fourth quarter.
“He gave us great energy off the bench,” said Andre Miller, who scored 27 points.
Nuggets coach George Karl sounded almost prophetic before the game when he talked about how the suspensions could have a galvanizing affect on the team. He said it might be a good opportunity for Boykins, who’s been in a shooting slump, to regain his form. Boykins hit 7 of 18 shots from the field, and none bigger than a 3-pointer with 3:50 left to give the Nuggets a 102-91 lead.
“There’s going to be something good that comes out of this nightmare,” Karl said.
Gilbert Arenas doesn’t think the Nuggets lose that much with the suspension of Anthony, who started his 15-game suspension Monday night.
“They play better without Carmelo because the ball moves and everybody goes,” Arenas said. “They played well without him. It’s an emotional team right now. They will play hard. They are still a good team.”
Marcus Camby was simply listening to his own advice. Earlier in the day he said everyone had to pick it up a notch. Camby scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.
“We were missing 50 points with J.R. and Carmelo,” Camby said. “We didn’t just rely on one person to carry the load for us offensively. Guys took it upon themselves to make the extra effort and the extra pass to make the game easy for everybody.”
Denver accomplished something the Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t the night before—slow down Arenas. A night after scoring a franchise-record 60 points, Arenas was held to 23 against the Nuggets.
“We just tried to slow down Arenas some way,” Camby said. “He is one of the best scorers we have in this league.”
Karl isn’t new to playing with a depleted lineup. He had to do it all the time—in the Continental Basketball Association when he coached the Montana Golden Nuggets.
“I’d lose a guy to the NBA, another to Europe and another would just go home,” Karl said. “You’d go from an eight-man roster, three of your best players gone in one week, to bringing in three new guys and rebuilding.”
That’s what he’s doing—rebuilding on the fly.
“I always thought my CBA experiences would be very good for me,” Karl said. “A couple of guys (Monday) said, ‘Just coach like you’re in the CBA.”’
For the first contest without Anthony and Smith, who’s suspended 10 games, Karl will take it. Except maybe the lapse in the fourth quarter, when the Wizards briefly made a game of it.
“I think you saw a team that played with a lot of heart,” Karl said. “I think our team showed that no matter what happens we are gonna play with pride and an attitude. You better be ready to beat us. Washington scared us, but Earl made some big shots.”
That’s what happens when called upon to fill in for Anthony.
“I think this goes to show the depth of this team and the way that guys stick together,” Boykins said. “This was definitely a team win.”
The Nuggets are now 3-7 all-time when Anthony doesn’t play. … Denver is 7-0 this season when it has scored 115 or more points. … Yakhouba Diawara made his first career start and scored eight points. … Arenas tied a season-high with eight rebounds. … Nene was serving a one-game suspension for leaving the bench area against the Knicks. He’ll be back Wednesday against Phoenix.