While a 16-7 record after 23 games is nothing to snub your nose at, the Nuggets have alarmingly lost five games to bad teams and haven't really been tested at home yet. Three tests are coming up...
Just when we thought the unacceptable loss to the Timberwolves a few weeks ago was the wake up the Nuggets needed to start playing better, we collectively fear that it may have just been a precursor of more bad outings to come. As I wrote at that time, there's a difference between good losses, bad losses and unacceptable losses. When you're playing the second of a back-to-back on the road against a sub-.500 opponent whose had a day or rest and end up losing (like the Nuggets did to the Bobcats on Tuesday), that's a bad loss. But when you're the team whose had a day of rest and your injury depleted opponent is playing the second of a back-to-bad and you still lose (like the Nuggets did to the Pistons last night), that's an unacceptable loss.
As I wrote after the Wolves loss, these types of defeats come back to haunt you later in the season. If you're scoring at home, the Nuggets were also 16-7 at this point last season en route to a magical 54-game, WCF run. But with the exception of an early season loss to a healthy Golden State team while the Nuggets were undermanned due to the Allen Iverson trade, the Nuggets didn't lose to any sub-.500 teams during those first 23 games. In fact, in 2008-09 the Nuggets would play nearly three-and-a-half months before losing to a sub-.500 team. And this year, they already five such losses on their ledger: at Milwaukee, at the Clippers, home against Minnesota, at Charlotte and now at Detroit. Yikes.
Does this mean that the 2009-10 Nuggets are inferior to their 2008-09 predecessors? It's too early to tell. And it should be noted that the Nuggets have attempted to make up for those five bad losses by winning two games no one counted on them winning: impressively at Portland and at San Antonio.
What's of equal concern to me beyond those bad losses is that the Nuggets haven't really been tested at home. And no, the Lakers game didn't count for much of a test: the Lakers were without Pau Gasol and had played very late the night before.
So I suppose it's fitting that while college students across America prepare and take their final exams right now, the Nuggets at last have three home tests themselves: Phoenix tomorrow, Oklahoma City on Monday and Houston on Wednesday. These three squads aren't lottery denizens like the last two teams that embarrassed the Nuggets, so hopefully we as fans will see a better effort from the boys in powder blue and gold. Most fortunately for the Nuggets, all three opponents will be playing the Nuggets as the second game of a back-to-back. And thus, if the Nuggets don't win all three games, consider the exam failed.
On a side note, I'll be at all three games and can't wait! Who's with me?!
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Duane Burleson