Of all the bizarre things I thought might happen during this lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season, I never foresaw the Nuggets being substantially better on the road than at home.
Josh Kroenke and the Nuggets marketing team won't want to hear this, but maybe our Nuggets shouldn't play at Pepsi Center anymore. And while they're at it, maybe they shouldn't play in the Mountain or Pacific Time Zone, either.
Wrapping up the weekend, the Nuggets hold the Western Conference's second-best road record (at 9-5) and are yet to lose a game - home or road - to an Eastern Conference team (at 9-0). And even though the Eastern Conference remains the Junior Varsity of the NBA's two conferences, you have to give the Nuggets credit for winning at Indiana, at Philadelphia, at New York, at Milwaukee and at home against Miami in emphatic fashion.
Nuggets Nation certainly didn't see this trend coming when forecasting the 2011-12 season.
Of all the teams best suited for the lockout-stressed season, it should have been the Nuggets at home. With their depth, speed, height and altitude advantage, the Nuggets should have had the NBA's best home record thus far this year by routinely feasting on road-weary teams having to play in Denver during a four-games-in-five-days stretch, or the second of a back-to-back, and so forth. Moreover, since arriving in 2005 head coach George Karl has overseen one dominant Nuggets home team after another. Instead, this season the Nuggets have played at home about as well as the Broncos have played at home since moving to Invesco / Sports Authority / whatever-the-hell-it's-called field. Meaning: mediocre.
Traditionally one of the NBA's best home teams, it's painful to watch the Nuggets drop games at home. Not only is it bad because a loss is a loss (period), but the more home games the Nuggets lose the more the mystique of playing at Pepsi Center begins to wear off. If NBA teams realize that cellar dwellers like the Hornets and Warriors, or three-games-in-a-row-losers like the aging Mavericks, or mediocre teams like the Rockets and Jazz can win in Denver on any given night, whatever psychological advantage the Nuggets once had at home could get negated.
In fairness to the Nuggets collectively, we knew February would be a rough month and the home losses started coming fast and furious as soon as Danilo Gallinari got unexpectedly hurt in that home loss to the Rockets last Monday. Prior to that game, the Nuggets were a disappointing (but not catastrophic) 7-4 at The Can. Now 7-7 in Denver, I think it's obvious to everyone who follows the Nuggets closely that Gallo is more important than we ever thought he might be.
Looking ahead to the remainder of February, the Nuggets have four home games and four road games ... all against tough opponents with the exception being the Suns who play at Denver Tuesday (although historically, Steve Nash's Suns have given the Nuggets fits, at home or on the road). Regrettably, not one of those eight games is against an Eastern Conference team. And two of the Nuggets upcoming home games - Minnesota on the 20th and San Antonio on the 23rd - will be the second of a back-to-back for the Nuggets.
So Gallo or no Gallo, the Nuggets must find a way to win at home (I can't believe I'm actually saying this) while maintaining their solid play on the road if they're to salvage what's been one of the roughest months during Coach Karl's era in Denver.
On to the links ...
Denver Nuggets, in search for a closer, challenge NBA notions - The Denver Post
Chris Dempsey notes that the Nuggets are 5-5 in games decided by less than 5 points, and they're 3-5 in those situations against teams that are plus-.500.
The N.B.A. Is Missing Its Shots in China - NYTimes.com
The New York Times catches up with Wilson Chandler in China.
The Denver Nuggets Won't Win a Championship, But Not Because They Don't Have a Superstar - Yahoo! Sports
Since last year's Carmelo Anthony trade, the Denver Nuggets have been sizzling as one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference and the NBA. The million dollar question is: Can they win an NBA Championship without a superstar?
South Stands Denver Fancast | Denver Sports Podcast - Blog view: It really is good to be a Stiff
There's nothing "stiff" about Denver Stiffs, says our friends from South Stands Denver Fancast.
Mile High Sports - Beyond Reproach
James Merilatt claims that George Karl gets a free pass in Denver when it comes to criticizing the Nuggets.
NBA -- Denver Nuggets winning with no stars - ESPN
The Nuggets are winning without a star, but even one of their players isn't sure if they're title material, writes J.A. Adande.