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Game 5 Nuggets at Thunder: Starstruck (7:30pm MDT)

In what has become a fact of life in the NBA, your Denver Nuggets have been dismissed as a team that can't win because of a perceived lack of stars, and that the reason the Nuggets are in this 3-1 hole is because of this...

...my question is, who makes that determination?

Note: I'd like to invite one and all to another Stiffs Night Out. We will be at Jake's Food & Spirits tonight for the game. Nate, Andrew and I will be there and I would encourage you to RSVP here on the Facebook page. It's always a great time. Join your fellow Stiffs in cheering on the Nuggets!

Make no mistake my fellow Stiffs, they want the Nuggets to lose.

Who are they, you ask? Well, they are people who write for basketball blogs. They are talking heads in the national media. They are your average everyday NBA fan who follows "stars" and not teams. They are ... well, everyone else but Nuggets fans.

The sad reality is the Nuggets buried whatever goodwill they engendered in the National media by going down 0-3 in the series. Plus, one can argue that the Thunder are just simply the better team, which is most likely beyond dispute at this point. Yet, the glee that people are expressing (outside of Thunder fans) in the the expected demise of the so called starless Denver Nuggets makes me wonder if there are people out there who'd rather prove a point than enjoy basketball.

For starters, who declares players "stars"? What upsets me about the NBA media is they are in a rush to fall over themselves to declare "this person is a star!" without checking on anyone else. You'd think that the Nuggets never had a star if you listened to people outside of Denver. David Thompson, Dan Issel, Alex English, Dikembe Mutumbo, and Carmelo Anthony would all like a word. On this roster we have J.R. Smith and Nene. Two potential stars. We have Danilo Gallinari who could be a star in the future. We have Ty Lawson who very well could be a great point guard. Yet, since they aren't declared to be stars, or even future stars, this team is somehow relegated to second or third class status. It's frustrating. Just last night Steve Kerr went off during the Bulls/Pacers game about how flawed the Pacers were because they don't have a star. Yet they played the Bulls tougher than any team has this season (even though they lost the series 4-1). It's not good enough that the Pacers accomplished that because their team play wasn't enough (forget the fact that most of the Pacers roster had zero playoff experience).

With that being said, there are two defined stars on the Thunder. Both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are given star status and most of the time they both live up to the billing (as in Game 1). What has been lost in the star hoopla is the fact that the Nuggets have defended both Westbrook and KD well. While you look at point totals and think that they haven't, what I'd suggest you do is take a look at the games you have on your DVR and watch how hard Gallo, Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin have made Durant work on every offensive possession. How Arron Afflalo (and other Nuggets players) got under Westbrook's skin just enough to irritate him – which contributed to Westbrook's rather poor mental performance on Monday night.

It can be argued that the players who have caused the most trouble with the Nuggets are Serge Ibaka with his blocks, and James Harden with his three-point shooting and defense on J.R. Swish. Ibaka was a one man wrecking crew in Denver, while Harden continued to frustrate J.R on defense in Game 3. However, in Game 4 it seemed that J.R. figured out how to use the path of least resistance on Harden and got much easier shots. Ibaka was still a force, but he was matched by Chris Andersen (if Birdman played more the two might cancel each other out) and his energy off the bench. Their presence will be needed more than ever now.

The Thunder are a very potent team. Deserving of what they have accomplished. Yet, there's this rush to crown them kings that has little to do with anything other than they have two stars. Part of me wants the Nuggets to make a miracle comeback in this series not only because it would be the coolest thing ever, but to deny the snooty nay-sayers the satisfaction of having the Nuggets to point to as the reason "starless" teams can't win. The Thunder are a big enough task to beat without self-important analysts from ESPN saying that the Nuggets are merely delaying the inevitable because they don't have stars.

There's reason to believe the Nuggets will extend this series. One name, Gallo.

Nuggets of Wisdom

When Danilo Gallinari drove the lane on a fast break and collided with Serge Ibaka's shoulder while making a layup things changed for the Nuggets. Gallo was called for an offensive foul, but rather than pout he jumped up and ran to the other end of the court. Little did we know, that one iffy call by a referee would awaken Gallo into the offensive force we expect him to be. Angry Gallo is a good thing.

Gallo has been so preoccupied with guarding Durant that he lost his edge on the offensive end. He became passive and careless, while on defense he has been steady and committed. The Nuggets needed steady and committed on both ends. Gallinari became, in Game 4, the player the Thunder couldn't account for. Not only did Danilo have 5 rebounds, but he also had 4 assists. His assists in the first half kept the Nuggets offense flowing. Ladies and Gentlemen Game 4 was the game that the light-bulb went on over Gallo's head and things started to make sense.

Additionally, Lawson found his drive again. By that I mean he actually drove to the hoop and amassed 27 points. We need him to KEEP doing that over and over. Even if the officials keep calling ticky tack fouls (expect that Nuggets fans. Kevin Durant will feel a warm breeze and shoot two free throws.) he needs to stay aggressive. This team performs much better when Ty explodes to the basket.

J.R made great strides in Game 4 and, I'm sure, all Nuggets fans are hoping even greater things are to be had in Game 5 (Memo to Coach Karl: the lineup of Ty, J.R., Gallo, Nene and Kenyon is killer on the offensive end) We will need a focused J.R. Smith if the Nuggets are to do the impossible.

Also, irritate Westbrook enough with AAA and whomever else so he keeps making iffy decisions. He's very temperamental and has a chip on his shoulder the size of Norman, Oklahoma. You tick him off enough he will either start chucking shots or he will go charging into people and get fouls. Yes, it sounds like I'm clinging at straws but that strategy seemed to work on Monday night.

Lets go Nuggets!

Oppositions take: Welcome to Loud City, Daily Thunder

Email: mortonagency@juno.com