Losers of four straight and six of their last seven games, the Nuggets desperately need to get back to winning basketball games. Drawing the 8-14 Golden State Warriors on Thursday night should help.
Denver: 15-11 (7-6 at home)
Streak: Lost 4
Golden State: 8-14 (2-6 on the road)
Streak: Lost 2
Denver: Timofey Mozgov (left ankle sprain) and Danilo Gallinari (left ankle sprain) are both out. Corey Brewer (personal reasons) is doubtful.
Golden State: Nate Robinson (strained left groin) is doubtful. Kwame Brown (torn pectoral muscle) is out.
Season Series: 0-0
Opposition's Take: Golden State of Mind
Oh, how spoiled we've become in Nuggets Nation.
Prior to Wednesday night's loss to the Dallas Mavericks (who entered the game having lost three straight games themselves), our Nuggets hadn't lost four games in a row since February 2007 ... unless you count the team's four-game sweep at the hands of the Lakers in the 2008 playoffs, of course. Fans my age and older (not so) fondly remember the days when four-game losing streaks were routine around here. Times have certainly changed as the Nuggets have been a model of regular season consistency and regular season home dominance since Carmelo Anthony arrived in 2003.
Depending on your perspective, you can look at the Nuggets current four-game losing streak one of two ways. On a positive note, we're simply the victims of having to play six games in nine days, the injuries have piled up and yet we're just 2.5 games back of two-seeded San Antonio. Once the schedule softens up and the injured players return, a positive point of view would suggest, the Nuggets will get back to competing for a top-four Western Conference spot.
Looking at the situation with a negative slant, the Nuggets are clinging by a thread to the Western Conference's six-seed and are a mere two games ahead of division rival Minnesota, currently sitting in the conference's 11th position. The schedule never softens up, the injured players are a long ways from returning and the Nuggets better start winning games NOW or a playoff appearance altogether is in doubt.
Regardless of your stance on the situation, most fans might suggest that Thursday night's matchup against the lowly Warriors could be just what the Nuggets need. After all, the Warriors are almost as bad on the road as the Nuggets are at home (sorry, had to ... but we're 7-6 at home ... 7-6 at home is a @#$%& joke!), and find themselves third-from-the-bottom in the Western Conference. Should be a walkover, right?
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, the Warriors aren't quite as bad as their 8-14 record would indicate, and will have had a full day's rest while the Nuggets play a back-to-back (and their seventh game in 10 days ... egads!). Among the Warriors 14 losses were a recent 119-116 squeaker to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a one-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and a three-point loss to the Indiana Pacers. Among their eight wins are victories over the Jazz, Trail Blazers, Heat and Bulls. So, while - in theory - any NBA team can beat any other NBA team on any given night - the Warriors actually can (whereas teams like the Pistons, Wizards and Bobcats literally cannot).
And even though the Warriors have a new head coach (Mark Jackson) who supposedly preaches some defense, the remnants of the Don Nelson days still exist with the Warriors remaining as a high-scoring, offense-driven team (they are currently the NBA's sixth-highest scoring team, the Nuggets are first). Should the Warriors catch fire, a depleted, tired and injured Nuggets squad could be looking at a 7-7 home record after tonight's affair.
The Warriors' 8-14 predicament can be traced to their lack of depth and their awkward starting five. Sticking with the undersized yet explosive Monta Ellis / Stephen Curry back court simply doesn't work, David Lee - as he did in New York - fills up the box score handsomely but not the win column, and starting center Andris Biedrins and starting small forward Dorell Wright would be backups on about 20 NBA teams. And their bench is filled with a bunch of guys I've never heard of, save for Kwame Brown who I've heard of for all the wrong reasons (hey, someone has to be the worst first-overall pick of all time, right?).
When the Nuggets and Warriors last met in Denver (in April of last year), the Warriors were on the wrong end of a 134-111 drubbing despite 27 points each from Lee and Curry. The Nuggets dominated that game with a balanced attack as nine players scored 10 points or more, even with Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington unable to play that night. But given the way the Nuggets have been playing lately, replicating that balanced attack of yesteryear seems to be quite a reach for the team in power blue and gold right now.
SCOUTING THE WARRIORS
David Lee: You gotta love Lee. 18.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 50.8% shooting from the field. The guy never stops moving and seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time throughout the game.
Monta Ellis: Ellis erupted for 48 points against the Thunder on Tuesday night and managed to grab seven rebounds, steal two balls and block a shot, too. Like J.R. Smith was for the Nuggets, Ellis can be a one-man-comeback for the Warriors.
Stephen Curry: Curry can't stay healthy, but when he plays he fills up the box score - especially with points and assists.
Kwame Brown: Brown received a one-year, $7 million deal before the season. Proving that the NBA lockout settled nothing.
Larry Riley: The Warriors' general manager actually thought signing Brown was a good idea.
Enough with the excuses. Playing seven games in 10 days isn't like playing seven games in 10 days 25 years ago. Or 20 years ago. Or even 15 years ago. The Nuggets - like all NBA teams - have a private plane, a masseuse, a dietitian, a fitness coach and a trainer, state-of-the-art facilities, nice hotel rooms when traveling on the road, and so forth so that they can beat teams they are supposed to beat despite a semi-rigorous schedule.
The Warriors are one of those "supposed to beat" teams, so let's see if the Nuggets can finally snap out of this culture of losing that has taken over the team.