For the seventh time in nine consecutive years, the Denver Nuggets seem destined to lose an opening round playoff series in less than six games.

Here we go … or rather, I should say here we are … again.

Down 1-3 to the Los Angeles Lakers and facing a Game 5 in Los Angeles on Tuesday night (which will be watched live at Jake’s Food & Spirits for our next STIFFS NIGHT OUT party!), our Denver Nuggets are on the brink of another brief first round playoff exit. The cast of characters may change, but the outcomes remain the same.

Going back to the Jeff Bzdelik-coached team of 2004 all the way through eight years of George Karl, the Nuggets seem to finish every season in virtually the same fashion. They win most of their remaining regular season games by playing fast and scoring lots of points – giving fans and pundits alike renewed optimism for their playoff chances – and then it’s as if they hit a wall as soon as the post-season begins when star power, half-court execution and solid defense are needed to deliver victories. As we’ve seen oh-so-many times before, the Nuggets’ offense grinds to a halt, their opponent dictates the pace and the Nuggets’ season ends with a whimper.

Once again, it appears as though these Nuggets were built for regular season success only.

The only two exceptions to this nine-year playoff run (a streak in and of itself that should be applauded) were 2009 and 2010. The 2009 team that marched to the conference finals had the star power (Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups), the half-court execution (thanks largely to Billups) and the solid defense (remember how good defensively Nene, Kenyon Martin, Dahntay Jones, Chris Andersen and Billups were that year?!) to make an NBA Finals run.

And the 2010 team was robbed of the opportunity to repeat their conference finals appearance as soon as Karl was tragically stricken with cancer shortly after the All-Star break. I think fans tend to forget that that Nuggets squad was on the Lakers’ heels in the overall standings before Karl had to get treatment and hand over the coaching reins to Adrian Dantley. Dantley proceeded to squander the Nuggets’ home court advantage in the opening round to the Utah Jazz, and the Nuggets lost the series 4-2. (It should be noted that neither Billups nor Melo stepped up as leaders for that playoff run, either.)

Other than 2009 and 2010, the Nuggets haven't had home court advantage in any first round playoff series going back to 2004 and this has certainly contributed to their multiple failures to get out of the first round. But what frustrates me most – and I suspect many of you, as well – isn't so much that they don't win these series (as they haven't been expected to anyway), but it's that they aren't even competitive. Especially at home.

Excluding the 2009 conference finals run, since 2004 the Nuggets are 6-11 at home (3-9 under Karl … I don't count Dantley's interim work in 2010 on Karl's record) and have pushed just one series to six games. A series they were favored to win in the first place. Otherwise, 4-1 series losses seem to be the routine for Denver's beloved pro basketball team.

Can the 2011-12 Nuggets reverse their franchise's near decade of first round futility and upset the Lakers on Tuesday night to bring the series back to Denver for a Thursday Game 6?

We'll certainly root for it, but have sadly learned not to count on it.

REMINDER: Our next STIFFS NIGHT OUT is happening TOMORROW night at Jake's Food & Spirits. Game 5 will be seen on all 10 HDTVs and Jake's will be serving 2-for-1 wine, well and draft beers all night long.

On to the links …

Mile High Sports – It's not a conspiracy
James Merilatt won't let the fans blame the refs for the Nuggets struggles against the Lakers.

NBA playoffs — Steve Blake’s “Podium Game” lifts Los Angeles Lakers to 3-1 lead over Denver Nuggets – ESPN
When a secondary player like Steve Blake makes it to the podium, that usually spells doom for an opposing team, writes J.A. Adande.

Woody Paige: Nuggets officially have no shot now – The Denver Post
Woody Paige's weekend optimism dissipated quickly after Sunday night's loss.

Lakers' Pau Gasol picks a good time to show his toughness –
Bill Plaschke notes Gasol's solid performance in Game 4 and how it helped deliver a Lakers victory.