Box Score

Well, I guess I got what I asked for. The Nuggets played hard for 48 minutes. They tried to run for good portions of the game, but they were felled again by defensive lapses and inconsistent offense.

In my mind the final result boiled down to two things. First, the Lakers are just better and second I believe the Nuggets expected to lose. They knew in the back of their head, no matter how well they played, that they would not beat the Lakers.

Being the last game of the season, there really is nothing to build on for the next game so I am not going to detail anything specific that transpired on the floor. We have all seen this team play enough to know when they are performing at their best and when they are not and I thought last night was one of the better all around games they have played this season against a very good team.

The disappointment I felt last night was not just from getting swept, but from seeing a talented team play hard only when they feel they have to. No matter how you feel about Georg Karl, it is clear that this group of players only plays hard on both ends of the floor when they feel like they absolutely have to. A coach can only do so much with a group of players like that. If you are looking for a difference between Denver and the other Western Conference playoff teams it is the lack of desire to be a great team and play hard every night.

Even down two games to none and coming home with a chance to get back in the series, they did not see the need to play hard and that fact is saddening and infuriating at the same time.

Ultimately the truly frustrating aspect of this loss is there is no silver lining. There are no excuses to help alleviate the drastic difference in skill between the Nuggets and the Lakers.

Five years ago Denver was making their first playoff appearance in ten years. They were the number eight seed playing the top seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. The fact that they were more competitive in that series than this one is disturbing. It was their first time in the playoffs and even though we hoped for better it was a good showing.

The next season was the year of the amazing second half run under George Karl. Denver was the “team no one wanted to play” entering the playoffs. They won the first game at San Antonio and lost the next four in very hard fought, physical contests. At that time the Nuggets were seen as up and comers who were destined for a great year the next season. That great year never materialized as they managed to win a watered down Northwest Division with the sixth best record in the conference. They drew the Los Angeles Clippers and were quickly embarrassed by the perennial Western Conference doormats complete with the banishing of Kenyon Martin.

We were not really sure what we had heading into last season after the dismantling at the hands of the Clippers. We soon realized that Melo looked to be an absolute offensive force to start the season. However, his season was derailed abruptly with an embarrassing slap punch directed at Mardy Collins. Then of course there was the AI trade and a nice closing stretch to once again be the “team no one wants to play.” The script was the same as 2005. First game victory, four games to one loss.

This season it was all supposed to be different. They had the all important training camp with AI. They were saying all the right things about how badly they needed to earn home court advantage. How they would only go so far as their defense would take them. They seemed like a team poised to take a step forward.

Now, fast forward to last night and think about how sad it is that I am content with just seeing a strong effort in a first round closeout game.

Everyone likes to talk about how the Mavericks have been completely destroyed mentally with their playoff failings of the past two, and now most likely three, seasons, but what about the Nuggets? They have experienced five consecutive first round losses. They are 4-20 in the playoffs over the previous five seasons. That is only two more wins than the 37-45 Atlanta Hawks have against the team with the best record in the NBA!

It is clear to me that this team just does not have what it takes mentally to be a true contender.

I was listening to the post game press conference last night and AI was on the platform talking about how they need to play defense next season and how leadership starts with himself and Melo. I do not think he realizes how pathetic that sounds. We all knew that heading into this season. The coaches knew it, the players knew it and the fans knew it. What will it take to stop talking about it and just freaking do it?

There is no silver lining there. There is no reason to feel good about 50 wins this season and no reason to feel good about this team’s prospects for next year.

Yes, there were some good stories this season. The development of J.R. Smith. Anthony Carter went from a journeyman to a solid point guard after years of hard work. Kenyon Martin has come back from two microfracture surgeries to become a very good contributor once again. Most of all, Nene was able to overcome his prostate cancer to play again. The problem with those nice stories is, apart from J.R., they are basically human interest tales.

While we share in each individual’s happiness, we are still left to deal with the ramifications of a four game sweep and judging by quotes from the prominent individuals with the power to make changes in the offseason, from Allen Iverson to George Karl to Stan Kronke, we are going to see more of the same next season.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all of the great bloggers and media members who I had the honor to work with during this series. Kurt at Forum Blue and Gold does a great job and is a very intelligent commentator on the NBA. The Kamenetzky brothers are great commentators and do a great job with the LA Times Lakers Blog and with covering other LA teams. Dave McMenamin did a very good job of collecting info and covering the series for Lastly, I appreciate Steve Mason having me on his radio show on AM 710 ESPN Radio to talk about the series. He is entertaining and knows his stuff. I can see why LA fans enjoy his show.

Most of all, thanks to all of you who have read and commented throughout the season. You guys make this whole blog work. I am very happy to have the chance to share my insights with such good fans. When I look back at where I started at the beginning of the season with my little WordPress blog garnering just a few visitors every day to being a part of the SB Nation network of incredible NBA blogs I am truly blessed.

I promise to keep doing my best to bring interesting and entertaining thoughts to the table and I think we are in for a lot of debate over the next few weeks.