By getting their asses kicked in Denver tonight, the Lakers validated all of my complaints about the Nuggets onerous schedule featuring 22 back-to-back games. It may sound like an old gambler's cliche, but having to go on the road against a great home team for the second of a back-to-back affair is almost a guaranteed loss (unless you're the Nuggets going into Portland, of course...hey-ohhhhh!).
But just like I've been saying since the season started, even among great home teams some back-to-backs are tougher than others. But don't ask me, ask a true expert. When I had lunch with George Karl for our interview on Monday (I have to keep teasing that, sorry...at least I'm not making you all buy a book to see how our conversation went down like Bill Simmons did after finally meeting his favorite punching bag, Isiah Thomas), Karl made it clear that the worst back-to-back in the NBA is playing an 8:30 national TV game one night and then having to play at Denver or at Utah the following night.
In other words, the mighty Lakers fell victim to tough scheduling as much as a spirited Nuggets effort, which leaves us two ways to interpret this victory.
On the one hand, you might argue that this was a true statement game that put the entire NBA on notice that the Nuggets mean business at home. Even though most people expected the Lakers to lose (the Vegas line was Denver -2...not that I cared or anything), no one expected them to get shellacked by 26.
On the other hand, you could argue that having no Pau Gasol and having played late last night did the Lakers in before the game even started, and therefore this game means very little in the grand scheme of things. Sitting right across from the Lakers bench, I must admit that their we-don't-give-a-shit-about-this-loss-because-we-know-when-we-have-one-day's-rest-and-Gasol-back-we're-going-to-kick-your-ass look on their faces has me somewhat concerned.
The interpretation lies somewhere in the middle. The Nuggets showed the Lakers tonight that whatever fear or intimidation factor that once existed when facing the Lakers has all but evaporated. But both teams clearly knew this wasn't a fair fight and a more interpretation-worthy duel is sure to come down the road.
That said, the Lakers were ill prepared for both Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson who give the Nuggets a new dynamic unseen last season. Lawson's thunderous fourth quarter dunk on Lakers center DJ Mbenga - more than being incredible (and right in front of me!) - means that this kid is full of surprises and the best it yet to come.
I could go on and on, but after traveling to four cities in the past seven days and seeing three straight Nuggets games in person, I believe I've earned a good night's sleep. And I'll sleep well knowing that we have a very good team on our hands for the second season in a row.
Photo courtesy of NBAE/Getty Images: Garrett Ellwood