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I don't want to play these guys in the playoffs...

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Nuggets/Jazz Recap...

A typical Nuggets game lasts about two hours, 15 minutes and produces about 40 personal fouls. Tonight's game against the Jazz - which produced the Nuggets' 50th win six games ahead of last season's pace - took two hours and 46 minutes and produced 66 personal fouls. And in the Nuggets previous contest against Utah, the game lasted two hours, 41 minutes and featured 58 personal fouls.

Should these two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs, an ever more likely scenario after tonight's Nuggets' victory, it will be a seven game slug fest. I could see the Nuggets stealing a road win at Houston, New Orleans or Portland, but not in Salt Lake City. In other words, as bad as Utah looked tonight, I really don't want to play these guys in the playoffs.

Like all of the Nuggets big time victories this season, we never get to the end result in the same way. Tonight, the Nuggets needed a pair of eights: eight three-point shots from J.R. Smith and eight blocks from Chris "Birdman" Andersen. Smith's previous season high for three-pointers made was seven, when the Nuggets barely beat the 76ers in Denver back in December, and Birdman's previous season high for blocked shots was also the number seven, in the Nuggets victory over the Lakers in February.

One pleasant surprise tonight was seeing head coach George Karl on his feet from the get-go, working both the refs and the Nuggets players, and actually getting a technical foul to take the pressure off his team after they got off to a shaky start. We'll need to see this up-and-at-em version of Karl in the playoffs if the Nuggets are to surpass his own (embarrassingly low) goal of winning "a playoff round." At least Karl gave us a better quote after the game when he said: "Last year, we were more macho. This year, we don't strut it - we just believe it." Well said.

On the "I'm slightly concerned" side, I didn't like the fact that 13 of J.R.'s 14 field goal attempts were three-pointers. I want to see J.R. taking the ball to the rack at least a third of the time the ball is in his hands to keep the defense honest. In games like this, J.R. reminds me of a pitcher who only has a fastball. It's great when your velocity is up and your accuracy is on target, but shouldn't you be mixing in a curve ball or a sinker now and then? And my second concern is Carmelo Anthony flirting with an another one-game suspension by picking up his 14th technical foul of the season tonight. On Wednesday, Anthony vowed to get no more technicals. But that was April Fool's Day.

Slight concerns aside, Denver sports fans needed a ray of sunshine tonight as the cloud of the Jay Cutler trade will likely persist for a while longer. 50 wins with six games to go is a remarkable accomplishment, and I haven't enjoyed rooting for the Nuggets this much since the 1993-94 squad.

Nuggets/Jazz Preview...

(It's nice to see Joseph Smith taking such an active role in the Denver Stiffs Virtual Chat today. I'm assuming he's a Jazz fan.)

When Denver Stiffs proclaimed that the Nuggets/Hornets game last Tuesday was the biggest game of the year to date, I noted in the column that there would be other more important games to come. Tonight's contest against the Jazz at Pepsi Center is that next great contest.

We all know what's at stake tonight. If the Nuggets win, they'd be 3.5 games ahead of Utah while also tying them in head-to-head matchups and division record (the two tiebreakers should the Nuggets and Jazz somehow have identical records at season's end) and it would take a colossal implosion by Denver combined with a miracle run by Utah for the Jazz to overtake the Nuggets at season's end. If the Nuggets lose, they'd be only 1.5 games ahead of Utah and the Jazz would own the tiebreaker should they end up with identical records, making the chances of the Jazz overtaking the Nuggets very real and very scary. Putting it another way, all of the Nuggets great efforts to date could be all for naught should they drop a home game to the Jazz tonight.

To the Nuggets credit, both head coach George Karl and the players seem to recognize when an extra important game is on the line. In the last five weeks alone, we've witnessed the Nuggets step up and beat the Hornets and Mavericks on the road, while besting the Lakers and Trailblazers at home. All four of those contests were crucial, must-win type games. For the Nuggets sake and ours, tonight's game better not be any different.

On a side note, the Nuggets will be wearing green jerseys tonight as part of the NBA's inaugural Green Week, a league-wide campaign to generate awareness about environmental issues. So don't adjust your TV screen color settings if you're watching the game from home tonight.

Go Nuggets!! We need this one!!