Danilo Gallinari Wins NBA Player of the Night After Halting Streaking Grizzlies

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Danilo Gallinari #8 of the Denver Nuggets during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on November 12, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Nuggets 110-100.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies are not a team you want to face when trying to end a three-game skid, but the Denver Nuggets had to. And Danilo Gallinari delivered.

It was a night that saw Ramon Sessions lead the Charlotte Bobcats to an impressive victory over the surprisingly dominant Milwaukee Bucks despite Monta Ellis' 31-point extravaganza.

It was also a night that saw Stephen Curry drop 31 points and David Lee grab 19 boards to lead the Golden State Warriors past the Dallas Mavericks in overtime.

Most notably, however, it was a night that saw the ever inconsistent Gallinari take over in the fourth quarter and lead a reeling Nuggets team to victory over the streaking Grizzlies on their own turf.

Stat Line: 26 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal on 46.7 percent shooting.

Denver's Italian forward has been anything but a source of certainty this season.

Yes, he's averaging over 15 points per contest and has improved his aggression on the glass, but he's shooting just 35.6 percent from the field and 22.6 percent from behind the arc. That's hardly the type of inefficient production the Nuggets need from one of their cornerstones.

However, Gallinari's continuous bout with efficiency didn't matter on Monday night.

The small forward connected on five of his first six shots heading into halftime, helping Denver cling to a three-point lead in the process. Such a lead disappeared early in the second half, though, as did Gallinari, who connected on just one of his next six shots.

But then came the fourth quarter, a time when Gallinari willed the struggling Nuggets to victory, mostly from the free-throw line.

Denver found itself down four with just over two minutes left to play before embarking on a 9-0 run that saw Gallo drop six points.

At that point, no one on the Nuggets seemed to want the responsibility of shooting. No one except Gallo, that is.

Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala repeatedly passed up open shots, while Ty Lawson would attack the rim only to dump the rock off in traffic, coughing it up five times throughout the game as a result.

Gallinari had no such reservations, though. He attacked the basket all night and it showed in the 11 free throws he attempted. If he wasn't busy connecting on 10 of those opportunities from the charity stripe, he was jacking it up from behind the arc as well.

Though he was just 2-of-6 from downtown Monday night, he nailed a deep three with less than 20 seconds remaining to put the Nuggets up by four and ultimately render the game out of reach for the Grizzlies.

It was a long ball that came on a possession created by Gallo himself, no less. He intercepted a Memphis pass while Denver was holding onto a one-point lead, forcing the Grizzlies into panic mode.

No, it wasn't the prettiest of nights for Gallinari. He started hot, but then went cold, seemingly disappearing when Denver needed a spark in the third quarter.

But he did step up when the Nuggets needed him most, when the call to action was louder than ever.

He was the one Denver turned to down the stretch. He was the one whose dribble penetration stopped the clock and allowed the Nuggets to reclaim the lead from the foul line. He was the one who hit a contested three to secure a victory moments after Iguodala caromed an open look off the rim.

He was the one who ended Denver's three-game slump, while knocking the Grizzlies off the pedestal that became their eight-game winning streak.

Simply put, Gallinari was the hero the Nuggets so desperately needed. The same hero that no one else on his team was willing to be.



All stats in this article are accurate as of November 20th, 2012.