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Denver Nuggets: Buckle up, Buttercup

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Insert the flat metal end into the buckle, boys and girls, the rest of this trip may be a little bit bumpy

You're a Denver Nugget? Shut up, I used to be a Denver Nugget!
You're a Denver Nugget? Shut up, I used to be a Denver Nugget!
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought we'd gotten past some turbulence...

Last week, your Denver Nuggets had put together a five-out-of-seven win homestand, wrapping with four in a row, which inspired our good friend Andrew Feinstein to pen a tank-or-not column he's had to sadly master over the course of the past few seasons. It appeared as if the Nuggets had reached a cruising altitude above the dips and bumps, and might come in for a smooth landing to the season...

And then the oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling after losses in Miami and Orlando...

Make no mistake, this sort of inconsistency is a hallmark of a young team, one who thinks they've solved a puzzle, only to find there is simply another riddle behind it. During the homestand, coach Michael Malone was lauding the team for their newfound defensive effort. See this Malone excerpt from a Chris Dempsey article in the Denver Post a few days back:

"I said that from Day One," Malone said. "You go back to my first press conference and I went on the offensive, pre-emptive strike about people portraying me as a guy that wanted to play 88-86. Nah, man. I love to get out and run and score, and get 20 something fast break points, as long as we're doing it the right way. And you look at the last three games, I think we've held teams to 41 percent from the field. But we're averaging 116. We're running, we're scoring 20-plus fast break points a night, 50-plus in the paint. And the ball is moving."

Two days later, our pilot (Malone) had a different message coming over the intercom after a couple of embarrassing defensive performances in back-to-back losses in Florida:

"That's two games in a row on this road trip that we've gotten away from what gave us success at home in that 5-2 homestand," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "We allowed that team to score 116 points and 54 (percent) from the field, which is crazy."

It's not just the defensive play that is sporadic, with the bench struggling mightily against Miami on Monday, only to see the starters fall down against Orlando the next night. These inconsistencies have plagued the entire season, with nothing more telling than this year's win/loss chart from basketball-reference.com:

14 games left to go, Nuggets Nation. Keep that belt low and tight, put that tray table in its full upright and locked position, and maybe grab that bag from out of the pocket in front of you. It's going to be a bumpy ride.