How did you react when the Nuggets decided not to put back in their starters against the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter?
Ryan Blackburn: I was detached from the result of this game because of the way the Nuggets approached it. Without the pressure of having to win, it was both exciting to see Denver’s reserves do well and perfectly fine to see things fall apart to close the fourth quarter. After writing the NBA Snapshot series for a few weeks, I have grown to appreciate the gamesmanship of forcing teams into certain playoff configurations. What the Nuggets did was gamesmanship for the long run, not some affront to the basketball gods.
Jeremy Poley: A win felt possible from that group. Even though they were performing well I kept watching the clock expecting Malone to put “the starters” back in. I actually started looking at it through IT’s eyes - how disappointing it would feel to go to the bench for the final 4-5 minutes being the backup to a backup. So, from his perspective I thought it must feel good that Malone was giving him the opportunity to put a feather in his cap by leading a unit to a win. Alas, this cap of which we speak remains featherless.
Gordon Gross: I was strangely unmoved either way. I’m glad they rested the starters. The game being within reach can change your strategy but Denver is playing out their hand a certain way. I don’t think it hurts them all that much if they bust on the river, so playing it out according to the strategy that said “lose to the Trail Blazers” is fine with me.
Zach Mikash: Understanding. I wanted to win because the nature of a a fan is to want to win, especially in the moment, but I don’t necessarily buy the idea the Nuggets were trying to throw it there at the end. That flop by Damian Lillard really swung the momentum and killed that group’s energy but I understand Malone sticking with them. They had earned that seven point lead so I was ok with giving them the shot to close it out.
Should the Nuggets rest Murray, Millsap, and Jokic against the Jazz tonight or go for the win?
Blackburn: I say they go for the win and play everyone who can and should play. If the Rockets win against the Thunder, the Nuggets might as well try and maintain home court advantage in a potential second round series. If the Rockets lose and the Nuggets pull out a win, Denver can rest everybody during the final game of the season on Wednesday knowing they clinched the 2 seed the night before. That would have to be a great feeling.
Poley: Sleep in the bed you made. The goal is obviously a first round win and anything beyond that is gravy. And to that goal, I think I would actually play Murray. He was in a great rhythm over the past few weeks and we’ve seen rhythm players actually fall into a rut after getting rested. Not to mention the difference between rotating from Murray-to-Morris instead of Morris-to-Thomas seems like it could be the difference between a win and a loss against a Jazz team that might be resting a few players themselves.
Gross: They can rest players strategically, but they need to keep their offense tuned - even tune it up a little more - so I don’t think you can rest Jokic. I would focus more on rotations than rest, and if the Jazz want to give you this game then unlike the Portland game I would take it and run with it.
Mikash: No, they made their bed like Jeremy said, but right now that bed is win out and get the two seed. The Nuggets should still be chasing the two seed above all else. Resting in Portland was understandable, the rest was warranted, you had a game in hand and losing to the Blazers could actually end up being a benefit. None of that is true in this game against the Jazz. Nuggets need to play this game at full strength.
If the Thunder beat the Rockets tonight, pushing Houston into the 4 seed and away from the Nuggets, does Russell Westbrook deserve a reprieve for his Pepsi Center shenanigans?
Blackburn: No, but the Nuggets should definitely send the Thunder Edible Arrangements if Oklahoma City takes care of business on its home floor. If Westbrook picks up another 20-20-20 game, I won’t make light of him stat chasing if it comes after a blowout win.
Poley: Westbrook deserves nothing. He almost destroyed Kevin Durant’s career, and he’s sabotaging Paul George’s if PG doesn’t get out of there soon. Really, it’s unentertaining basketball to watch him bulldoze his way around the court. That being said, I’m fine with him hamstringing his team, and if he happens to take Houston down with him too, then all the better.
Gross: Nope. We all make the beds we lie in. This is Westbrook’s and he would be the first to tell you that he accepts that and would not have it any other way. The least Denver fans can do is honor their side of the deal. Keep it clean - none of the racist idiocy that happened in Utah, please - but Russell likes being a villain on opposing floors and I have no problem with him being one in Denver. Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is your friend... but that only lasts as long as you need them. Denver could use Westbrook tonight, but that changes nothing if the two teams meet in the playoffs. Bring on that energy.
Mikash: No. In fact, I hope he beats Houston and then the Thunder lose to the Milwaukee Bucks while the San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers lose to the Utah Jazz. Then we can have the pleasure of sweeping Russ in the playoffs, just like we did in the regular season.