I'll get into this more when I complete my story about my time spent with Nuggets head coach George Karl this week. But on Monday, Karl and I actually debated his quote about how if the Nuggets won half their road games on this six-game trip, it would be deemed "a great success." His argument was that if you win half your road games, that's a great success in the NBA. And over 41 road games, I agree with him. My counter, however, was that when you're playing the Nets (an injury-riddled bad team), the Pacers (an injury-riddled bad team), the Heat (a mediocre team), the Hawks (a tough match up, no question about it), the Bulls (another mediocre team) and the Bucks (an up-and-coming but young team with no bench), anything short of 4-2 can't be considered "a great success."
Agree to disagree, I suppose.
But let's be clear about something: George Karl didn't lose tonight's game. In fact, he drew up some great end-of-game plays that almost salvaged an overall poor performance by our Nuggets. The Nuggets lost because they played crappy defense (in spite of Carmelo Anthony's two amazing blocks) and missed a ton of good shots. Kenyon Martin missed at least four layups (and then compounded his poor shooting performance by begging Bennett Salvatore for a technical foul which he promptly received at the worst possible time). Same with Melo. And Chauncey Billups missed about four potential wide open "daggers" that would have swayed the game Denver's way. Even my Benedict Arnold Lakers fan of a brother - who was in the stands with me on our annual visit grandma tour - said: "the Nuggets looked well coached tonight." Oh, and did I mention that Brandon Jennings is really fucking good?
Beyond the starters, Chris "Birdman" Andersen is yet to regain his swagger from last season (we're already hearing whispers among the fan's about Birdman not living up to his new contract) and this can't be discounted. Birdman single-handedly changed the energy of games throughout 2008-09, and he's yet to do so once nine games into this one. And Ty Lawson had first off night as a pro as he's probably not used to playing in four back-to-backs (including the preseason finale against the Lakers) within three or so weeks.
And I hate to bag on the refs but...oh screw it...I'll bag on the refs. It was a very inconsistently called game (with Salvatore involved, I'm shocked!). Lots of non-calls that became calls. Inconsistency on charges versus blocking fouls. And a ton of make up calls that threw the game somewhat out of whack. But made shots and stingy defense overcomes bad officiating, and the Nuggets had neither going for them tonight.
Back to that Brandon Jennings kid. Wow. Just wow. It's an obvious statement but he had his finest game as a rookie and the Nuggets ultimately paid the price for it.
Bottom line is when your team shoots 39.8% from the field and your opponent shoots 48.8%, you're not going to win very often. And thus, the six-game road trip ends with a respectable, albeit somewhat disappointing, 3-3 split. Nine games in at 6-3 is nothing to be ashamed of, but I think we can hold off on any "great success" quotes until the Nuggets get back on the road and do some real damage.
(Pardon the brief recap, but I have to catch a 6am flight back to Denver tomorrow and have a ton of writing to do to recap this entire trip!)
Photo courtesy of AP: Darren Hauck