Even though I predicted the Nuggets would lose to the Detroit Pistons tonight
(so much for my attempt at a reverse jinx), I was infuriated by the total lack of commitment on both ends of the floor in the first half. You see, I had tonight's game penciled in as one of the Nuggets two big "road revenge" games before the season started.
The first of these two games was at New York on November 6th
to avenge the "Madison Square Garden Melee
" on December 16, 2006. Not that Nuggets fans need a reminder, but the "Melee game" in New York cost Carmelo Anthony 15 games and J.R. Smith 10 via suspension when Coach Karl - perhaps sticking up for his friend Larry Brown who had been ousted after the previous season - kept the Nuggets starters on the floor with a minute and fifteen seconds left in a blowout win over the Knicks
. By doing so, Karl goaded all-time-worst-person-in-NBA-history Isiah Thomas into sending his goon squad after Smith, and thus precipitating the biggest NBA brawl since the "Malice at the Palace
" of 2004.
While I only blame Karl partially for the brawl (after all, it was Isiah who - allegedly - gave the order to Mardy
Collins to clobber Smith), you have to at least know the risks involved when you're coaching against a guy who bankrupted the CBA
- a 54-year-old basketball league - in just two years. (As a quick side note, I give Karl major props for publicly calling a Isiah "a jerk"
after the incident.)
Anyway, going into 2007-08 I assumed the Nuggets would wax the Knicks
in New York. Just wax them. A guaranteed victory. Instead, the Nuggets blew a 10-point lead going into into the fourth quarter, gave up 37 points in that quarter, and lost. What's worse is that you couldn't even chalk this loss up to road fatigue or the usual excuses thrown about by Karl defenders, as the game was the Nuggets first of an East Coast road trip, coming off a two day rest.
I was able to block that game out of my memory (until now) knowing that the Nuggets had one more "road revenge" game on the horizon when they'd return to Auburn Hills to face the Pistons tonight. For those who may not remember, the Nuggets lost to the Pistons in March of last year
due to a truly bizarre and completely unforeseen circumstance. Even though the Nuggets were ahead for most of the fourth quarter, they allowed the Pistons to get within three points. But when Detroit's Chauncey Billups
missed a three-pointer and the Nuggets grabbed the rebound with 1.5 seconds to go, all the Nuggets had to do was inbound the ball (Karl - correctly in my opinion - even called a timeout just to make sure they inbounded the ball properly).
Instead of simply wrapping up the game, however, Marcus Camby's
inbound pass was tipped by Tayshaun
Prince and somehow Rasheed
Wallace ended up with the ball, and chucked an underhanded, 60-FOOT shot towards the basket and...it went in!
You can still see "the shot" on YouTube
prayer forced the game into overtime, where the Nuggets ultimately lost. And how would the Nuggets react to this fluke / humiliating loss to the Pistons? By dropping both
games to Detroit this season.
Why am I pouring salt into us Nuggets fans already deep wounds? I just want to point out that while every team - even great teams - blow games and don't show up every night, the Nuggets have a nasty habit of losing games when more than just a win or loss is on the line (the recent Utah game
was yet another example of this).
Is this the coach's fault? The players? Just an anomaly in the course of the season? I'll let you debate that. But as long as the Nuggets continue to fail in big "road revenge" games like tonight, we as fans will remain skeptical about how this team being prepared.