That was so bad there should be a name for it.
The Final Four Weekend Massacre?
The Spring Breakdown?
The April Abortion of the Arrogant Ascension?
No matter what you want to call it the Nuggets bad habits have finally put the season in jeopardy. They had been getting away with allowing bad teams to hang around for weeks. Somehow they always seemed to find a way to take the game over in the fourth quarter.
Against Sacramento, Denver went on a 16-0 run in the first quarter that should have pretty much put the game away. Sacramento was playing without two of their three best players (Ron Artest and Brad Miller) and should have provided no contest for the Nuggets at home. Instead of keeping the pedal down and running Sacramento out of the gym, Denver decided that they could relax and just crank up the intensity if things got tight.
Things did get tight, but the Nuggets decided to wait to crank up the intensity until there was only 2:21 left and they were down ten. The sad thing is had they just started working harder a minute earlier they probably would have ended up winning.
In Seattle the Nuggets were armed, or more appropriately shackled, with the notion that the loss to the Kings was merely a fluke. Denver had not lost to a weak team since mid February. Their worst loss during that time was at Philly, which is no crime. Surely playing the Sonics would be a guaranteed win.
The Nuggets went on to prove to everyone that the loss to Sacramento was no fluke after all.
Denver never had a double digit lead in Seattle, but they were up by seven late in the first quarter. It was a lead that they should have consistently built upon throughout the course of the game. However, the Nuggets again fell behind by double digits in the second half. The difference was that they came back and actually held the lead for six minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter, but they still fumbled the game away. In the sixth to last game of the season they could not hold a lead against the second worst team in the league.
Think about that.
Coming off a game they had no business losing and knowing full well they are fighting to get into the playoffs, they could not hang on to a three point lead with 25 seconds left in regulation or a five point lead with one minute left in the first overtime to beat the then 17-59 Seattle Supersonics. The team that ranks last in the league in offensive efficiency scored 126 points in regulation and then another 25 in the two overtime sessions.
The level of individual and collective failings on display these last two games is almost too extensive to list, but it would be fun to try:
George Karl’s inability to get anything greater than a minimal effort out of his players against two weak opponents.
The players' inability to demand more of themselves.
The way the team slips into a coma for extended periods after getting an early lead on a lesser opponent.
The lack of cohesion and focus on defense that allows a team to get shots from where they want, when the want and by the players they want shooting them.
AI’s contentment against Sacramento. He only took four two point shots in 43 minutes.
A shocking incompetence when being defended by even a merely average zone defense.
Poor free throw shooting. 25-35 versus Sacramento and an even worse 27-39 in Seattle.
Allowing Kevin Durant to get an wide open three to tie the game towards the end of regulation as again we see Marcus Camby standing in the paint instead of moving out to challenge the player coming off a screen his man was setting. (It makes me completely nuts that Camby is so obsessed with blocked shots that he will not leave the paint even at the expense of giving up a game tying three, although to be fair he did step out and make Durant shoot a 33 footer at the end of the first OT.)
Carmelo’s unwillingness to pass to a wide open AI instead choosing to force up a shot against three defenders at the end of regulation.
George Karl’s completely unimaginative play he drew up at the end of the first OT that called for a pass into Melo in the post and absolutely no second option that resulted in Kenyon Martin throwing up an airball from 25 feet at the buzzer. Would it be that difficult to have Kenyon go set a screen for AI to come to the ball? If Seattle doubles AI and Melo wouldn’t someone else be open? Wasn’t the whole idea behind pairing Melo and AI together that no team could shut down both of them at the end of games? Yet Karl drew up two end of game plays where AI was completely uninvolved. The game in Seattle was not the first time AI has been left watching a teammate throw up a horrible shot at the buzzer either.
Allowing Jeff Green to score 35 points which was 13 more than he had ever scored before in the NBA.
If I missed your personal favorite, please leave it below in the comments.
Of course there will be fans who say we are being too hard on the Nuggets and that they had the game in Seattle won. If it was not for two huge threes by a rookie it would have just been another exciting Nugget victory. After all, they still have a decent shot at making the playoffs.
If today was December 7th instead of April 7th I might be able to buy that notion, at least to a certain extent, but in April in your sixth and seventh to last games there is no excuse for a performance like those two agaisnt losing teams.
And yes, Denver can still make the playoffs and probably will if they can win at Golden State on Thursday, but what would be the point? I guess they would be guaranteed two home playoff dates to help Stan Kronke pay the colossal bill for this utter disaster.
This team is broken and I do not think that there is any way to fix it without making significant and painful changes.