On December 11, 2000 ... the Denver Nuggets made national headlines when a boycott of practice, lead by Nick Van Exel occurred when then coach Dan Issel called an early morning practice the day after an excruciating 4 game road trip where the team went 0-4. Issel was angry at the team not taking games seriously, and berated center Raef Lafrentz in his post game comments (and on the floor) after losing to the Boston Celtics on the last game on the road trip. This controversy, ironically, galvanized the team and they went on an impressive winning streak post incident.
What's the point of this, you say? Well, I haven't seen a Nuggets team start games THIS disinterested since those days. While that sounds like an insult (that particular team was full of malcontents and was disinterestedly coached by Issel) it actually is more of a lesson. The Denver Nuggets had NO excuse to start tonight's loss to the same Boston Celtics that way. In no world is it ok to start a game down 14 - 0. There was ZERO excuse to be down 27 points in the first quarter.
As the rest of the game showed, the Celtics were neither more talented than this Nuggets team ... nor are they better coached. A second-consecutive lackluster start to a game leads me to wonder where the heart is of this particular team.
The Nuggets were down by 20 points entering Halftime, and subsequently went on a tremendous scoring blitz to cut the lead to 4 in the quarter. Things were looking good. Then, Ty Lawson (who had 20 points and 4 assists) came out of the game in the third quarter with what was said to be a hamstring issue and the team lost steam. While Boston's lead never got larger than 13 points from there on out, losing your best player and catalyst essentially killed any Nuggets comeback attempt. The team played a much better second half than a first half ... and still lost.
What you can't escape, however was the disinterested lack of effort that the Nuggets showed in the first half. Blah pick and roll coverage, lazy switch outs and half hearted attempts at energy in the first half doomed the team. Particularly Kenneth Faried, who had his second straight lackadaisical game with an inexcusable 4 points and 7 rebounds. It was Manimal's lazy defense, coupled with another bad offensive night from Wilson Chandler (7 points 8 rebounds) that kept the team at bay. J.J. Hickson was the only Nuggets player to really show any offensive effort in the first half (17 points 7 rebounds) but wasn't terribly effective guarding Jared Sullinger.
Everyone, it seemed, was off defensively. Timofey Mozgov seemed to be a step behind on the defensive end. Jordan Hamilton was so bad against Jeff Green in the first half I'm surprised coach Brian Shaw left him on the big wing man for as long as he did. Just ... the effort was disinterested. If you are a team that has aspirations for "banners" like owner Josh Kroenke says ... then efforts like tonight are inexcusable and should be.
I'd like to compliment the Celtics on their coaching and talent...but I can't. What I saw was a Nuggets team that came out as if they were still asleep in a Cleveland hotel and never made the flight to Boston. While players like Green, Sullinger and Jordan Crawford all had good games ... they were aided by poor effort all around from the Denver Nuggets.
If you don't have a superstar, games like this are infuriating. You HAVE to outwork the other team. With Ty Lawson getting injured, the Nuggets are going to be at that much of a disadvantage.
Tomorrow they play the Philadelphia 76ers on a back to back. Hopefully the Nuggets overcome their tiredness and just show a little heart. Something needs to bring this team together ... and it doesn't have to be like it was in 2000 for that to happen. Maybe Ty Lawson's injury can be that coming together moment.
One can only hope.
Nuggets of wisdom
On night's like tonight, the value of a player like Danilo Gallinari comes across. You need that player who is a "slump breaker" and for the last couple years, when right, Gallo was that player. With news today that Gallinari has started light running ... maybe we can see the downhill run in his ACL rehab. The Nuggets don't have enough fire power to overcome the absence of both Ty and Gallo for an extended period.
Nuggets need to find their grit somewhere. And fast.