Putting it lightly, the Nuggets have picked an awkward time to lose three straight games. Let's welcome Utah to joining us atop the Northwest Division standings.
As implied in the header for tonight's recap, the Nuggets got nothing out of their big men at the TD Banknorth Garden. That means you Nene, Johan Petro and Chris Andersen. Yes, the Celtics Kevin Garnett is one of the all-time greats. But nevertheless the Nuggets should be embarrassed that KG's performance on one leg far exceeded that of the Nuggets big man troika combined.
Beyond the absentee performance from the Nuggets three biggest players, our team did so many things wrong tonight that I think you have blame the team's collective lack of energy as the culprit for the defeat, as cliched as that sounds.
Having gotten themselves into an unnecessary dogfight with the lowly Knicks in New York the night before, the Nuggets were clearly gassed against the NBA's elder statesmen in the Celtics. From the opening tip onward, the Nuggets defenders were stuck in the mud, routinely being beaten on the glass (Boston had twice as many offensive rebounds as Denver) and allowing the Celtics offense to become a layup line drill throughout the first half.
By game's end, that lack of energy translated into being out-rebounded by nine and turning the ball over 17 times to the Celtics 11. And what about the 30 assists interim head coach Adrian Dantley said the Nuggets had to get during his first quarter interview on ESPN? Well, one team did...but it was the Celtics whose 30 assists topped the Nuggets total by nine.
In spite of the drubbing, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith gave a spirited effort to close the third quarter and almost made a game of it. But what was a seven-point Celtics lead entering the fourth quarter quickly ballooned back to double digits and then some. Unfortunately, basketball isn't played two-on-five.
Just when we thought the Nuggets might use head coach George Karl's absence as a source of inspiration to gut out a few extra wins, it appears as though an assortment of injuries, their head coach's absence and the overall weight of the season could finally be dragging them down. Is this interim coach Adrian Dantley's fault? Is this Chauncey Billups and Melo's fault for not taking more responsibility defensively? Is it management's fault for not stocking the lineup with an extra big man? Or Karl himself's fault for having such a tight lineup all season long that's finally being worn down? As I've always said, success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan - so let's not make any orphans here today. And lest we forget that - in theory - the Nuggets remain on pace to match last season's win total of 54 (as predicted by Nuggstradamus, by the way) and could still finish second in the Western Conference if they can right this ship sooner than later.
But regardless of who's to blame for the Nuggets sudden struggles, put me squarely in the "concerned" category. And I'm not alone. At game's end, ESPN announcer Hubie Brown said: "I'm worried about Denver. I'm worried about their body chemistry."
That makes thousands of us.
Non-Stiff of the Night
-The Celtics Big Four: When Rajon Rondo posts a triple double and is not the clear Non-Stiff of the Night, you know the Celtics had a balanced effort. Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce killed the Nuggets tonight.
Stiff of the Night
-The Nuggets "Big" Men: Nene, Johan Petro and Chris Andersen combined for 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, grabbed a semi-respectable 17 rebounds but pulled down a mere three offensive rebounds. The diminutive Rondo himself had six offensive boards.
Photo courtesy of AP: Elise Amendola