Rather than celebrate the Nuggets fourth consecutive 50-plus win season, I get to lose sleep over Ty Lawson's injury and the fact that we'll be playing the Thunder instead of the Mavericks in the playoffs this weekend.
The Nuggets had ONE job to do on Wednesday night and, no, it wasn't to beat the Jazz in Utah.
The Nuggets' sole job was to not let anyone get hurt. And they failed at it miserably.
Early in the second quarter, Denver dynamo Ty Lawson attempted to defend a Gordon Hayward jump shot and the diminutive point guard landed awkwardly on Hayward's foot, causing what looked like a pretty nasty ankle sprain. Ironically, this happened just minutes after Altitude broadcaster Scott Hastings advocated for key Nuggets personnel "not to jump" in a meaningless game, because bad things can happen when your body is in the air.
You can't blame Lawson for attempting to contest a jump shot in a meaningless game. Lawson has spent a lifetime conditioned to contest opponents' shots to the point that it's instinct now (an instinct never developed by, say, Carmelo Anthony...sorry...I had to). But on Wednesday night Lawson's good instincts resulted in an ankle sprain. Without knowing the severity of the sprain, if I were a glass-is-half-full person I'd say that Lawson will be ready for Game 1 this weekend because a) he's young, b) he's pretty compact (not fragile like a Stephen Curry per se) and, c) the Nuggets will have at least two if not three days off before Game 1.
But if by chance the Nuggets have no Lawson (ankle), no Arron Afflalo (hamstring), no Timofey Mozgov (ankle and knee) plus an already banged up Nene (groin) and Danilo Gallinari (ankle) entering Game 1 against the Thunder at Oklahoma City, we're screwed.
On a positive note, it sure is fun watching how interchangeable this Nuggets roster is. Did you guys enjoy watching the Kosta Koufos, Chris Andersen, Gary Forbes, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith lineup as much as I did? And I stand (a bit) corrected on Koufos, who I unfairly labeled a Big Stiff upon his arrival and he has gone on to prove me wrong for two consecutive games. That said, you just know Koufos will find his way into the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame some day.
Now, the Nuggets had a second job to pull off tonight: to root for Dallas to lose. They miffed on that one, too.
And thus, as I'll get into more in tomorrow's 2011 playoff preview (to be published around noon), the Nuggets have a most daunting challenge ahead in the Oklahoma City Thunder. But until then, let's congratulate our Nuggets on a great regular season. It was a most memorable one!
Non-Stiff(s) of the Night
-Gordon Hayward: Hayward deserves credit for having a relatively quiet rookie season but he never gave up and turned in some good games lately, including tonight's 34-point effort against our Nuggets on an impressive 12-17 shooting from the field.
-All the Nuggets Who Played: It's tempting to give Al Harrington the "Stiff of the Night" label, but with Lawson going down early and only seven Nuggets logging substantive minutes, the "leftover" Nuggets deserve props for a gutty effort despite losing the game at the very end.
I hope the epitaph for the Nuggets 2010-11 season is written a month-and-a-half from now as opposed to two weeks from now, but with Lawson and Afflalo possibly hurt, count me in as scared entering the weekend's action.