The Nuggets are mere hours from facing their toughest foe of the season for the first time and hopefully will continue to create what could be a great basketball rivalry with the Oklahoma City Thunder for years to come. The Thunder embody so much of what Denver is trying to accomplish: division leader, bona fide championship contender, possible perennial powerhouse. However, while the Thunder have been a consistent force to be reckoned with all season, the Nuggets have faltered as of late. Nuggets Nation is antsy, but fear not, this Denver team can and will compete for a championship.February 3rd: Denver is fresh off laying a beat down on the up and coming Los Angeles Clippers and a January where they went 12-5. They are 15-7 overall, good for second in the West. They are in the middle of their second back to back to back and facing the hated Lakers (13-9 at the time). 7 minutes into the game Timofey Mozgov goes down with an ankle injury, it will cost him 7 games. Harrington misses a three pointer with two seconds left that would have given Denver the lead. Nuggets lose 89-93
February 4th: Nuggets get killed by the Trail Blazers(13-10 at the time, 10-1 at home) on the third game of the B2B2B. Due to snow they didn't arrive in Portland until 4am.
February 6th: The Nuggets announce that in addition to Mozgov, Nene and Arron Afflalo are both out. Corey Brewer will not play due to the death of his father. 9:38 in the third quarter Denver loses their best player and top scorer Danillo Gallinari to a bad ankle sprain, it has cost him 6 games at the time of writing. The Nuggets lose by 9 to the Houston Rockets (14-11 at the time).
February 8th: Denver is without Mozgov, Gallinari and Brewer. They lose to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks (14-11 at the time) 105-95.
February 9th: On a back to back Denver is still missing Mozgov, Gallinari and Brewer. They stumble at home against the lowly Warriors(8-14 at the time). Really the only unacceptable loss.
February 11th and 14th: Nuggets win two games behind the inspiring return of Corey Brewer. One against the Indiana Pacers (17-9 at the time) and the other against the Phoenix Suns who had checked that game off as a loss before it had even started. Denver is still without Mozgov and Gallinari and just as they get Brewer back, Nene goes down to a calf strain.
February 15th: On a back to back, on the road, missing three starters (Nene, Gallinari and Mozgov) Denver gets blown out against the defending champion Mavericks (18-11 at the time).
February 17th: On the road, missing Gallinari and Nene and getting Mozgov back but on limited minutes, Denver plays the Memphis Grizzlies(16-14 at the time). Trailing by 23 points in the third quarter Denver comes alive behind the hot shooting of Corey Brewer and would come all the way back to take the lead only to lose when Memphis takes a 1pt lead with only .2seconds remaining.
That is what you call a brutal stretch. Since beating the Raptors the nuggets have won just three of twelve games. They have also only played two teams with a losing record. They also have only played three games with their full starting lineup. They have only played four games with more than three of their starters in the the actual starting lineup.
Don't give up hope. The future is bright.
March: Denver will play a 9 game home streak from March 5th through the 21st. March 5th will be the second night of the first of only two back to backs in March, and its against the lowly Sacramento Kings. Denver will then head on a six game road trip which will enter into April. Only half of the games on the trip will be against teams with winning records and one of those winning teams will be the Orlando Magic, most likely the post Dwight Howard trade Orlando Magic. Opponents also include on the road trip will include the 4-26 Charlotte Bobcats and the 7-23 New Orleans Hornets. The only sure fire loss in the entire month of March will be on the 26th when Denver will be in Chicago to face the Bulls on the second night of their second and final back to back of the month. March also will bring the expected returns of Danillo Gallinari from injury and Wilson Chandler from China.
April: Half of Denver's games are against teams who currently have losing records. Two of their games against a team with a winning record would again be the Magic which leaves the Nuggets with five games against tough opponents: Lakers, Rockets (twice), Clippers and Thunder . Denver will have to be road warriors, which they have been all season, as it is that 8 of their final 14 games will be on the road and half are against teams with winning records (however one is the Magic). The other four are against the Hornets, Warriors, Suns (sans Nash?) and Timberwolves.
So, if we find ourselves in the loss column against the West leading Thunder tonight, don't lose hope Nuggets Nation. We are in the toughest stretch of our season and have been hit by the injury bug at the same time. Don't be fooled by the words of me-first Kenyon Martin (still complaining about not getting an extension) and the return of shoot first JR Smith (15 points on 16 shots in his Knicks debut). This team has everything you need to win. Youth, talent, depth, height, a brilliant GM and yes, a great coach (who, in all likelihood, will become the winning-est coach in Nuggets history) .