As the Nuggets enter their second-to-last game of 2011-12 season, tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder, let's do a quick retrospective of some of the more memorable moments of this campaign ...
Denver: 36-28 (16-15 on the road)
Streak: Won 2
Thunder: 47-18 (27-6 at home)
Streak: Won 1
Denver: Al Harrington (torn meniscus) is probable.
Thunder: James Harden (concussion) is questionable. Eric Maynor (knee) is out.
Season Series: 2-0 Thunder
Opposition's Take: Welcome to Loud City
Here we go, my fellow Nuggets aficionados. They've been on the home stretch for a while, they've secured a playoff spot for the ninth straight season and the Nuggets are finally as reasonably healthy as this banged-up squad has been all year. Although the Nuggets lost a very close overtime game and a not-so-close one earlier this season, they go once more unto the breach to challenge the (likely) James Harden-less Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But before we jump into the particulars of a team we've seen twice already, let's reminisce about some of the more memorable Nuggets moments from this season...
...who can forget the Nuggets jumping out to a 14-5 start after the regular doom-and-gloom offseason predictions?
...I'm still tingling from watching the no-look over-the-head-alley-oop-dunk from Rudy Fernandez to Kenneth Faried in person way back on January 4th, knowing that instant that it foreshadowed the great things to come from the promising young rookie.
...Danilo Gallinari hitting a spectacularly clutch three pointer against the Atlanta Hawks to keep the Nuggets going.
...bidding farewell to longtime Nuggets center Nene to the Washington Wizards for promising JaVale McGee, in a move that came as a shock to many inside and outside the organization.
Despite the excessive injuries, the not-so-creamy middle of the season, Corey Brewer forgetting how to shoot a basketball, Timofey Mozgov wedging his way into George Karl's doghouse and on-again off-again calls for Karl's head ... we are still here. The Nuggets have clawed their way into the playoffs. Let me remind you that anything can happen in the playoffs, my Nugglets. Be it the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers or Clippers, I feel that this team is finally gelling at the right time to give whichever team they face a very tough out.
There's not so much to say about the Thunder that hasn't been covered in the prior two previews and recaps. Kevin Durant is cementing his status as a generational player that can change the fortunes of a franchise and looks to be a thorn in the Nuggets' collective sides for many years to come. Russell Westbrook is a pouty primadonna that takes way too many shots above his talent level, but he is still extremely athletic and can torch the Nuggets inside. I'm beginning to think that Serge Ibaka has been secretly training with Manute Bol and Dikembe Mutombo. Venerable Derek Fisher as backup point shores up the young squad with eons of playoff experience. Daequan Cook is a marksman from deep, which should make all Nuggets fans shift uncomfortably.
One item of special note is the recent injury to James Harden. An """""excessive celebration""""" elbow by Metta World Peace to the back of Harden's skull gave Harden a concussion and has resulted in a seven game suspension for Metta World Peace, both things which could benefit the Nuggets going forward. As of this writing, Harden has still not been cleared for play.
Concussions are tricky injuries to come back from, and without Harden's services the Thunder's bench is a far less frightening bunch. Whether or not you think MWP's elbow was intentional, the fact remains that Harden's absence gives the Nuggets a significant advantage over the Thunder's wan bench. As an essentially meaningless game for the Thunder, if the Nuggets can tighten the thumbscrews early, Scott Brooks may throw in the towel and let the Thunder bench slop its way through. But this game is far from meaningless for the Nuggets.
If the Nuggets can manage to pull one out tonight, they will be able to control their own seeding in the finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow. A win against the Thunder and Timberwolves cements them into the 6th seed regardless of what the Dallas Mavericks do against the Atlanta Hawks. Splitting the two means Dallas can tie the Nuggets with a win (and take the 6th seed), losing both games means the Nuggets could potentially fall all the way to 8th (if the Jazz win both of their remaining two games) and face the ghoul-like San Antonio Spurs.
The playoffs draw nigh.
What were some of your favorite moments from this season past?