“Mr. Olson? How many fingers am I holding up?”

“I’d tell you if you’d quit shining that light in my eyes.”

Hm. I seemed to be sitting in a… doctor’s office? With speakers that kept announcing for other doctors and… no. Not a doctor’s office. A hospital. What the hell was I doing here with this magnificent headache? And in a tux, no less? The last I remembered, I was…

It all came flooding back. I’d been leaving a hotel with a few of my friends. We were in town to sing a few shows that day, and they were a bit of a dressy affair. I’d been taking my suitcase out to the car, and had been walking down a snowy ramp in dress shoes. Pure genius.

Suddenly, I hit a patch of ice, and my feet flew so far out from under me that I was quickly upside down, still in midair. Somehow, I also twisted as I “flew”, and the very first part of me that hit the pavement was my left eyebrow. A lot of the story from there gets pretty vague for me, aside from what I’ve been told. The guy behind me said it sounded like I’d been hit by a baseball bat. According to him, I apparently bounced off my face so hard that I ended up back in the air and landing on my butt. Like Cirque du Soleil, but graceless and accidental. I remember the left side of my vision got blurry, but apparently that was from blood in my eye. Apparently I also I knew I needed to pick myself up, get going, and get back to what I knew I needed to do. My friends wisely intercepted me with a towel and drove me to the nearest Emergency Room.

A hospital trip and 18 stitches later, I was eventually able to count fingers, and convinced the doc I still had a few shows to do. My eye was nearly swollen shut, my white tux shirt had some new red on it, and I threw up before and after every performance. Apparently I was just as stubbornly stupid then as I am now. I still have a three-inch scar above my left eye that reminds me how smart I can be. Don’t wear slick shoes on icy inclines, kids. The more you know.

I’d somewhat forgotten that feeling until the close of the first quarter on Tuesday night. Coach Malone? How many fingers am I holding up?

The 38 points Denver put up in the first quarter would have been pretty powerful, if not for the record-setting 51 they conceded to the Techmo Warriors. For 12 minutes, Golden State found their own cheat code, having the quarter they’d been waiting on all season long. How special it was that they waited to bestow it upon these Nuggets in a top-two confrontation. But the Warriors weren’t done. They bested Denver by six in the second quarter, and another 10 in the third. Their two point win in the fourth to complete the set almost seemed anticlimactic, by comparison. The Warriors got off to their hot-start happy place, and the Nuggets found themselves bouncing face first the rest of the night. Golden State said they weren’t trying to make a point, but watching their faces and body language from the opening, when they got aggressively into the Nuggets, through their loud and celebratory early fourth quarter curtain calls, and well into their satisfied postgame interviews… that all said something very different. Point made. Point taken.

If there was redemption to be found in the evening, it was in the postgame comments of Michael Malone, Nikola Jokic, and the other Nuggets players, all refusing to simply “flush” this game as an aberrance, and instead see what lessons there are to be gleaned when you “fail big”.

One of the clearest messages of the evening was an exceptional one for a Nuggets team that just spent a healthy stretch of the season in first place: This is what it will take when you get to the postseason. This is the price of admission for your hopes and dreams. You want back up top? Want to play a Round Two game? You have to beat teams that will play like that. Maybe they won’t shoot the lights out every time, but they’ll set every pick, pressure every player, and exploit your mistakes and weaknesses, like Golden State just did. The Warriors hung another 147 on New Orleans last night in a 287-point scorgy.

Are the Nuggets as talented as this Warriors team, top to bottom? Probably not this season, but they match up exceptionally well with them, and have proven they can beat Golden State, having split the last six games over last season and this one, with games in March and April in Oakland still on the docket. Past this season? Who knows? But while we’re still playing out 2019…

When Game 83 comes, Denver needs to bring the level of play they saw across the court on Tuesday night. Because that’s the only way to keep playing into May and June. Tuesday night was only one loss, but it was a hell of a whack, and the Nuggets have the scar to prove it. So, dear Nuggets… you’ve got another chance to prove yourselves tonight against Chicago in Game 44. Get up. Get going. You know what you have to do.

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