It was only eight or so months ago when the Philadelphia 76ers, a squad arguably featuring more talent than this present day 76ers team, visited the Pepsi Center and found themselves up by 5 points with 14 seconds to go. Victory was well at hand that night for the 76ers, and the Pepsi Center crowd at the time indicated as such by quickly heading for the exits.
What proceeded from there was one of the most bizarre sequences one can see in 14 seconds of professional basketball. To make a long story short, the Nuggets erased that 5-point deficit thanks to a three-pointer from Corey Brewer, 2 missed free throws by 76er Evan Turner and a three-point attempt by Brewer with 2.7 seconds left that resulted in a foul, sending Brewer to the line for 3 free throws ... which he calmly sunk. An Anthony Randolph-block-on-Damien-Wilkins later and the Nuggets escaped with their 14th straight victory. One victory shy of a Nuggets NBA franchise-breaking 15th straight victory that would come in the next game.
Back then ... way back then, it seems ... the Nuggets had a knack for finding a way to win. Today, and it cannot be more obviously stated, our Nuggets have a knack for finding ways to lose, as evident by tonight's 114-102 loss to a 76ers squad trying to lose basketball games!
The Nuggets were befallen by the usual culprits in this game: matador-style defense and horrible outside shooting. Thanks to both, the Nuggets allowed the 76ers to erupt with a season-high 44-point second quarter which put Denver in a 12-point halftime hole that they never climbed out of.
Interestingly, the Nuggets finished the first quarter ahead by 6 thanks to decent play from their starters, something we haven't seen a lot of this season. But unlike what we've seen to date this season, the Nuggets bench didn't come through whatsoever, combining to shoot 8-25 and including a DNP-CD for veteran backup point guard Andre Miller (a move that several in-stadium observers told me Miller was NOT happy about in the least). Meanwhile, the 76ers bench - featuring no-name youngsters - combined to shoot 14-27, including a very respectable 4-9 from three-point range.
But it wasn't just the 76ers' bench that did our Nuggets in. Every 76ers starter put forth a respectable performance, which took pressure off the 76ers bench to play loose and free when getting time on the court. And while the Nuggets' starters themselves held their own, the aforementioned bench's destitute performance prevented the Nuggets from staying above .500 at home.
"Terrible, terrible performance by our team from the second quarter on," said Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw after the game during his post-game interview on Altitude TV. Shaw continued: "As evident by the fans and how they greeted us with the boos, we deserved every bit of that."
Indeed they did.
Non-Stiff of the Game
-Evan Turner: Even though it was fun to finally watch rookie Michael Carter-Williams play (probably because he's on my fantasy team), it was Turner who torched the Nuggets to the tune of 23 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals and a +/- of +11.
Stiff of the Game
-The Nuggets Bench: As noted above, the Nuggets bench connected on just 8 of 25 shot attempts and doubled down on stupid by dishing out just 3 total assists against 3 turnovers. This might have been the worst performance of the season by the Nuggets' usually strong reserves.
Knowing that the Nuggets owned the New York Knicks' 2014 first round pick, I thought the Nuggets best course of action in 2013-14 was to get into the playoffs and get much needed playoff experience for their young players. Now I'm not so sure. Seeing the Nuggets lose game after game with the likes of Randy Foye, Darrell Arthur, Andre Miller (well, not tonight) and Nate Robinson getting ample minutes doesn't seem to make sense anymore.
During this eight-game losing streak, the Nuggets have lost to a few teams that have young, inexperienced players, such as the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans and tonight's Philadelphia 76ers. Given that Coach Shaw must know where Foye, Arthur, Miller and Robinson's ceilings are, why aren't the Nuggets going young themselves? Why aren't Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller and Timofey Mozgov receiving ample minutes? If you have a 50/50 shot of losing anyway, aren't the Nuggets better served knowing what they have with their own young players knowing that, worst-case scenario, if the losses pile up by going young they simply improve their draft position?
It's something to seriously think about if this eight-game losing streak becomes nine, 10 and so on ...