Call me the Nuggets Curmudgeon from now on, because I've had it with the way this team is playing. Going back to the Nuggets no-show performance against the Heat in Miami at the beginning of the month, the Nuggets nasty habit of waltzing through games against lesser competition finally bit them in the ass tonight. Could this be the wake up call the Nuggets needed moving forward? Or was tonight's unacceptable (I'll get to why it's unacceptable in a moment) loss to the god awful Timberwolves be the continuation of a pattern that we'll be seeing all season long?
Sitting at 12-5, in theory there shouldn't be much to complain about. In theory. But among those 17 games played, only five - home against Utah and the Lakers, on the road against Portland, Miami and Atlanta - were against teams that actually scare anyone in the NBA, and including Miami in that fivesome is a stretch. While the Nuggets have been cursed with a league high 22 back-to-backs, they were also given a blessing by getting 13 weak opponents out of their first 18 games (Golden State being the 13th weak opponent...coming into Pepsi Center on Tuesday).
But rather than take advantage of these circumstances and pad the win column early as they did admirably last season, the Nuggets have pissed away two should've/could've/gift wrapped victories (at the Clippers last week against an injury-depleted Clips squad and tonight against the lowly Wolves) and almost gave away a third to the Knicks on Friday night.
Before everyone says I'm being too negative, allow me to explain the difference between a good loss, a bad loss and an unacceptable loss.
When the Nuggets lost to the Bucks in Milwaukee, I'd call that a good loss. The Nuggets were wrapping up a tough road trip that included three pairs of back-to-back games, and even though the Bucks were the more energized team the Nuggets dug deep and put up a fight through the very end of the game.
When the Nuggets lost to the injury-rattled Clippers in Los Angeles last week, that was a bad loss. The Nuggets had been off for two days, had played only twice in eight days (both at home) prior to that game and both those games were walkover, no-energy-needed contests. But they were on the road and anything can happen on the road.
Tonight's game falls into the nether regions known as an unacceptable loss. Entering tonight's contest, the Nuggets had a day off, last played at home and, oh yeah, the Wolves were 1-and-fucking-15 before tonight! All the Nuggets had to do was watch game tape of their easy victory against the Wolves in Minneapolis last week to further exploit the Wolves myriad problems, pound the ball inside and play halfway decent defense.
So who were the culprits for tonight's embarrassing home defeat? In no particular order, allow me...
...head coach George Karl, for waiting until the five or so minute mark remaining in the game to demand that his team start playing harder and turn up the pressure on the Wolves (according to Altitude's Maya Starks).
...Carmelo Anthony, for continuing his El Matador-style defense for the second game in a row turning Ryan Gomes into an All-Star while getting to the free throw line for a mere five attempts. Five attempts?!!
...Chauncey Billups, for continually chucking three's even though he made just 25% of them tonight and finished a ghastly 2-13 overall (and yes, I had claimed Chauncey's shot was back after the Knicks game...shows you what I know).
...J.R. Smith for playing defense so erratically, I thought he might take out all his teammates on several possessions like a bowling ball crashing into the pins.
...Ty Lawson for being so careless with the ball, I thought Anthony Carter had suddenly reemerged as the backup point guard.
...Chris Andersen for remaining grounded as teams take it right at him inside with no fear whatsoever. Three @#$%& rebounds? Three?!!
Ok. Deep breath. My venting is over (for now). I still have the utmost confidence that this Nuggets team can make noise when it counts. But when they finish one game behind Portland or Dallas for homecourt advantage in the second round of the playoffs (forget the Nuggets catching the Lakers by season's end, that ain't happening) remember this loss. This unacceptable, unwarranted, inexcusable, horrible loss.
Photo courtesy of AP: David Zalubowski