The Denver Nuggets find themselves down 2-1 to the Golden State Warriors. If Denver can comeback and win this series, it would build a lot of character and could propel the Nuggets to something special. Overcoming adversity as a group can do wonderful things.
Would the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Lakers have been easier opponents for the Nuggets? Good things don't come easy. With David Lee being out, the Nuggets were already granted a tragic gift. Is George Karl's team missing Danilo Gallinari? Of course. The Nuggets looked like a promising team when they went into Oklahoma City on March 19th and put a 114-104 beating on the Thunder.
That game in OKC was the second of a back-to-back and got people starting to think, "Could this team win the title?" When Gallo went down on April 4th against the Dallas Mavericks, those title hopes were curbed. The team would have to re-group. Are we seeing the ramifications of Gallo's injury starting to take a toll on the team?
The Nuggets have ran into a lot of problems thus far in the post-season. The reaction to David Lee's injury caused Mark Jackson to play a brand of small-ball that has given the Nuggets fits. Karl's reaction to Jackson was seen at the start of Game 3 -- Karl chose to go small, too with Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried getting the starts as the power forward and center.
If you just flipped on the TV during these games, you'd likely think the Warriors were the higher seeded team and the biggest problem: you'd think the Warriors were the veteran playoff team, too. Golden State has played confident, smart, aggressive, and together. The Nuggets have been lacking in all the areas just mentioned.
This is another playoff series where Denver has also allowed the opponent to dictate the way in which the game will be played. We have yet to see the Nuggets put together a complete game in their own style. While Jackson has played a variety of guys and received good play from young faces, Karl has seemed to be jugging different faces in-and-out of the rotation and not getting solid play from the guys he's turning to.
We've seen Andre Miller go from hero to scapegoat in the matter of two games. Miller's 2-13 shooting performance in Game 3 (7 points, 4 assists) is the easiest thing to point to and scream, "That's why Denver lost!" But the truth is, it's not one person's fault. There is plenty of room for improvement from a number of guys. This team was built on the "teamness" concept. They must heal as a team.
(Sidenote: Miller has played 27 minutes in each game against the Warriors, his regular season minutes average was 26.2 minutes.)
We saw Ty Lawson step up his offensive play in the absence of other options last night. The Nuggets are just 3-4 in playoff games where Lawson scores 20-plus points. It's almost as if the team is not getting enough offense in the games where Lawson goes-off and his brilliant performances have been wasted more than half of the time.
Lawson's career 20-plus point playoff game performances:
Again, the Nuggets are built and have been build off a team concept since 2011 and if they don't play well together, they will not win. I enjoy seeing the team basketball that is played by the Nuggets. When the team is working well, there isn't a better team to watch in the league. We just have not seen that team show itself and for a variety of reasons.
Where has the rebounding gone? What has happened to the defense? Might we see some rotation stability now that Faried is looking healthy? The team cannot afford to be too unselfish -- take the easy shots and trust your shots. I want to see the Nuggets attack the paint for four quarters and attack the boards like they did in the regular season. No need to play tight, just play your game.
One thing that bothered me was hearing Andre Iguodala talk about, and a lot of veterans have uttered these words over the years, how young guys think they have endless opportunities to win in the NBA. Windows to win in the post-season are rare and small.
In the 2007-08 season a young New Orleans Hornets team went 56-26 and lost in the Western Conference Semi-Finals (Round 2) to the San Antonio Spurs 4-3. That series went seven games and everyone thought the Hornets were going to be a special team for a number of years. The next season? The Bugs got squashed by the Nuggets in just five games (4-1) and were never really heard from again.
It was pretty much the same story with our 2008-09 Nuggets. They ended the Hornets' run and as we all know, lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers and were expected to do big things the next season -- they lost to the Jazz in the first round.
These Nuggets -- most of them -- took the Lakers to seven games last year, set the franchise win mark this season with 57 victories, and now have taken the role of underdog in this first round series. What will be the fate of this team?
Denver shouldn't be in this position, but they are. It's time to dig out.
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