The Denver Nuggets moved up to the No. 6 seed with their win over the Houston Rockets, coupled with a Dallas Mavericks triple-overtime loss to the Utah Jazz. If the playoffs were to start today, Denver would face Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers ... a playoff match-up with plenty of intrigue. But how far would the Nuggets go against L.A. in Round 1 by finishing games with 6'9'' Al Harrington covering 7'1" and 285 pound Bynum? Or would we see JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov, or Kenneth Faried in there instead? Who knows, as the Nuggets lack a set rotation.
The whole point of the Nuggets attack this season is that they have so much depth, you never know what lineup to expect.
And perhaps the biggest flaw with the Nuggets is that the players never know when their number is going to be called.
Yes, when you're a professional hoopster you should always be ready when your coach calls your name, but there is something to be said about a set rotation and knowing your role. Taking a quick look around the league, you see that the top teams always finish games with certain players on the floor.
Would the Oklahoma City Thunder dare sit Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, or Serge Ibaka at the end of games? Gregg Popovich will always have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili on the floor late in the fourth. The Lakers can be expected to have Kobe Bryant, Bynum, Gasol, and Metta World Peace out there in crunch time. What about the Nuggets?
The only players we know for sure that will be on the floor late - Harrington and Andre Miller. On only the rarest of occasions has George Karl sat Miller with the game still in doubt. And while Harrington and Miller have done pretty remarkable jobs this season, the issue is with who will be out there with them come playoff time?
If the Nuggets draw the Lakers in the first round, they will certainly be forced to play big against Bynum and Gasol. Why have we not seen the Nuggets prepare for this by giving some of their true big men (sorry, Big Al and Manimal don't count here) a chance late in games? The lineup that makes the most sense against the Lakers late? Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Big Al / Danilo Gallinari, Faried, and either McGee, K2, or Mozzy. Those guys could definitely use some time on the floor together before playoff time. But the glaring omission there is obvious ... where does Miller fit in?
If the Nuggets draw the Spurs in the first round, Karl might be baited by Popovich to play small-ball. This is something the Spurs try to trick teams into as they lack the interior presence to compete with the bigger teams. We just saw the Bryant-less Lakers stomp the Spurs 98-84 on April 11th with Bynum collecting 30 rebounds (8 offensive) and his team out-rebounding the smallish Spurs 44-32 and 16-1 on the offensive glass.
The Memphis Grizzlies showed last season, when they took out the 61-21 Spurs in the first round, that going big and playing physical with Pop's bunch is the key to defeating the boys from San Antonio. The same crunch-time lineup mentioned against the Lakers of Lawson, AAA, Big Al / Gallo, Faried, and Center J, K, or T would surely present issues for the Spurs late. But again the glaring omission coupled with the itch to play small-ball is present.
The lack of a set rotation is an alarming one and it's something the Nuggets coaching staff will have issues with once the post-season begins ... if the Nuggets make the post-season.
On to the Links ...
Utah Jazz 123, Dallas Mavericks 121: A fighter's chance - Mavs Moneyball
Spurs dominate tanking Warriors 120-99, climb to first in the West - Pounding the Rock
Mavericks Dr. Delonte West performs an ear exam on Gordon Hayward - SLC Dunk
Funny video of West giving Hayward a "wet-willy"... for real.
Karl's streak of winning season intact - Denver Post
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