The Season Is Not Over, but I Am Afraid the Season Is Over

The Denver Nuggets just completed a disastrous stretch where they actually lost five games in only nine days.  I understand how physically demanding such a stretch is and how the Nuggets were short handed playing without Kenyon Martin in three of those games and Anthony Carter in four.  Those are all just excuses.  Denver has managed to play very well other times during this season while playing six games in nine days.  What matters is at a time in the year where other teams are raising their level of play (Utah, New Orleans, Portland and San Antonio all come to mind) Denver is playing as poorly as they have all season.

I have two reactions to tonight’s loss against the Houston Rockets.  First, I would argue while many fans are waiving the white flag the season is not over.  The Nuggets have now completed one of the most difficult portions of their schedule and while they are floundering they have a great opportunity to collect themselves and go on an immediate five game winning streak.  Their next five games are comprised of contests against the Thunder, Clippers and Nets at home, a road game against the Grizzlies and then they return to Denver to play the Wizards.  A five game winning streak will put them right back at 20 games over .500 where they were when this debacle first began in Chicago.  If they can rebuild some confidence and recapture the efficiency on both ends of the floor which made them such a strong team the first three and a half months of the season 52 or 53 wins is still well within reach.  With the talent on this team and with the schedule providing them with a plethora of winnable games I feel very good guaranteeing that the Nuggets will make the playoffs.

While the season is not over my second reaction following the loss to the Rockets is, well, the season is over.  With the stink bomb the Nuggets dropped on us the past couple of weeks they have almost completely destroyed any chance of earning home court advantage in the playoffs.  I have a difficult time envisioning a scenario where they catch the Spurs, Jazz or Hornets.  Plus with the loss last night they have lost the season series to the Rockets making it even more difficult to surpass them in the standings.  In order to earn home court advantage the Nuggets would have to overtake two of those four teams.  At this point almost any best case scenario we can construct leaves the Nuggets playing either the Spurs, Jazz or Hornets in the first round.  Because of that I am afraid there is little hope of Denver reaching the second round.  (The one caveat I will add is if the Trail Blazers manage to crash the party and earn a top four seed and end up matched up against Denver in the first round.  I would welcome that series no matter who has home court advantage.  However, I do not see Portland finishing that highly in the standings as a likely outcome.)

What is most alarming is the Nuggets seem to be at a complete loss as to why they are losing games.  After dropping last night’s contest to Houston Carmelo Anthony is quoted as saying, “I can’t really pinpoint what’s going on.”  If they want to figure out why they are losing all the Nuggets need to do is throw in some game film of their home win against the Jazz or of the second half in Philadelphia and then put in the tape from last night.   The differences will be obvious and they all revolve around mental focus and the desire to do what is necessary to win.  Do not get me wrong, Denver has played very hard in the fourth quarters of both the Kings and Rockets losses, but that is not enough.  We are 65 games into the season and they do not seem to have figured that out.

You may be thinking to yourself that I am panicking and am way out of line.  Let me say this.  I do my best to stay on an even keel on this blog and remain consistent in my coverage of the team.  I try to remove emotion from the equation and give thoughtful analysis.  The season is long and it is not always easy to keep from getting too high when things are going well or too low during tough stretches such as this one.  I sat on this post for at least 12 hours since writing it trying to decide whether or not I wanted to publish it.  What it came down to is this is my honest assessment of the current situation and if it is what I truly believe, I would be cheating both myself and you all by not posting it.  After all, I proclaimed last season that the Nuggets would lose in the first round again after the fifth game of the campaign.  If I was confident that I was not jumping to conclusions at that point in the season I should fell alright arriving at the same determination in March this season.  What the Nuggets have displayed for us since the All-Star break is all the proof I need to see.

Of course I have been wrong before and I hope I am wrong now.  There is still over a fifth of the season remaining and things can change quickly.  Look where Utah was fifteen games ago and where they are now.  The same thing can happen for the Nuggets.  As I have said over and over the schedule is still set up in their favor, but they have to step up and earn wins.  Teams like Sacramento are not going to just roll over and thank Denver for blessing them with the honor of their presence.  The opportunity to claim home court advantage and win the Northwest Division title is still there as long as the Nuggets take every second of every game seriously from here on out.  I just wish I thought they had it in them.

Prove me wrong Denver, I beg you.

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  • Stumbleweed

    Yeah, I’m with you on both sides of the coin… there’s a chance that we totally fall apart and either squeak in for another unceremonious exit or end up with a lottery pick (which given our payroll, might not be the worst thing in the world)… To pull the season back from the brink, it really just comes down to beating all of the bad teams remaining, hoping that the Jazz/Blazers slow down a bit, and staying somewhat healthy for the playoffs.

    I do still like our chances in any given playoff series more than I did last season. I actually think we have a fighting chance (meaning we should win at least 2 games) against the Lakers, Spurs, Rockets, and Hornets, but we’d have to play great ball like we did in the Blazers victory consistently to win, which hasn’t been shown this year for more than a 2 or 3 game stretch… inconsistency is a bitch. If the Blazers end up matched up against us, I REALLY like our chances in that one, but I doubt that will happen. The Jazz just kill us most of the time, and their homecourt advantage is more palpable than the other teams, so that’s the one series that I would really hate to see of all the possibilities.

    But yeah, after the Kings loss, I’m started to look for a silver lining to a possible collapse and missing the playoffs (or a first-round exit), and the only one that I’m coming up with is that it will probably finally spell the end for our buddy George, which I think is way overdue.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    “You may be thinking to yourself that I am panicking and am way out of line.”

    If anything I was thinking that you were being excessively optimistic. I am thoroughly discouraged with the Denver Nuggets right now. I see no signs of hope. They don’t even play like they care. It’s hard to care as a fan when you don’t get the feeling that the team cares.

    Furthermore, if the Nugs can’t win a game as important as the game against Sacramento against a team like Sacramento, then what chance do they really have in the playoffs. I’d imagine that we are witnessing one of the greatest post-All-Star game collapes in NBA history.

    I really hope that this is just a slump and the Nugs will regain their mojo after a few ‘easy’ (HA!) games. Unfortunately, I just don’t get that feeling right now.

  • BeefySwats

    Unarming Mermaid took the words right out of my mouth.

    The worst part about this is? I think the fact that they are playing against “easy” teams for the next 5 games might make them rest on their laurels even more and just assume they can beat them without problems.

    We may yet see the worst play out of this team.

    God, I wish we could have just beaten Sacramento. That really was the worst loss of the season.

  • Josh Hopp

    The team has ripped my heart out and I am having trouble finding things to do to keep my mind off of this mess. We may not make the playoffs, which would make this the worst season since we drafted Melo in ’03. Think about that for a bit. Even if we make it in at 7 or 8 we are looking at certain elimination at the hands of the LakerSpurs. If that happens you can be pretty sure that George Karl is a thing of the past. Not that I think it’ll help. We just have a loser’s philosophy. We are not true winner.

  • CCH

    If we fail to make the playoffs this year I think we need to 1] get rid of karl ( obvious)
    2] get rid of Carmello (im never going to get it)anthony.
    and start rebuilding with high character players with good basketball IQ.

    I was thinking last night, as limited physically Luis Scola is he seems to have a way better basketball IQ and rebounding ability than Carmello. Why can’t we have our team built around players like that? Not the “me first” guys we seem to have year after year, Im sick of it.

  • BeefySwats

    Denver is now 1.5 games back from Utah.

    That is an 8 game lead division swing in a little more than a month. You cannot describe that as anything other than a collapse.

  • sdchlr

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ap-nuggetsslide&prov=ap&type=lgns

    Check out that article. Pretty ridiculous, Karl is blaming this on losing K-Mart and AC to injuries. He even takes a shot at Birdman and Balkman for not playing D. Balkman hasn’t been given a chance to have a role all year, and when Karl is forced to play him, he puts up huge numbers.

    Obviously, George doesn’t think anything anything and sets an awesome example for the team with his loser attitude.

    Kiss my ass George Karl

  • fionaharris

    George Karl if u read this. SHUT THE HELL UP. i dont give a damn about ur gay philosophies. currently ur failing. the team is playing so pathetic it aint funny. either get ur act together or go away. either way karl should be gone no matter what result george karl gives to us. maybe we could hire george as team philosophiser instead.

  • BeefySwats

    Every team has injuries, but I think Karl said the right things. He does bring up some good points. The wins against LA, Boston (earlier in the season), Portland and the Hawks were all quality games where the Nuggets truly showed that they can hang with the top-tier teams in the NBA.

    As always, however, the problem is consistency. Can they play that way night in, night out? Can they do it in a playoff series? Right now, I think the answer is “no”. I really hope that when/if the Nuggets make the playoffs, Chauncey lets them know that he’s going to be calling them out for any lapses they make.

    As much as we like to deride A.C. for his high turnover rate and Martin’s propensity to jack up ill-advised 18-22ft. bank shots, they ARE key members of this team’s rotation. Carter runs the break much, much better than Chauncey (who seemingly has never run a fast break in his life) and KMart is our best on the ball defender, period.

    However, Karl has no excuse for not playing Balkman over Kleiza except for his own incompetence. Kleiza is playing terrible. While I realize the only way for a player to get out of a funk is to hit some shots, Kleiza has not hit anything all season and is currently posting a season +/- of -3.5. The only currently active player who has a worse ratio is Johan Petro who has seen far fewer minutes than Kleiza. Balkman has posted great rebound numbers and shown that he can be a force on the glass.

    I just don’t understand what’s going on w/r/t Balkman’s playing time. Who gives a shit that Kleiza can, occasionally, get streaky from 3? So can Donyell Marshall. Kleiza doesn’t play defense, doesn’t grab offensive boards, doesn’t box out, and cannot pass to save his life.

  • Othe33

    I don’t understand how you can point to injuries as the main cause for concern and then try to take credit for victories over injury-depleted teams. Every team in the Western Conference has faced more impactful injuries than the Nuggs. To take credit for beating a Spurs team without Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, or Finley…who does GK think he’s kidding? Does he really think we’ve forgotten? You don’t see the Blazers chalking up all their losses to being without Oden or Martell Webster. The Lakers have barely made a peep about losing Bynum.

    Is he suggesting that AC and Kmart are the reasons the Nuggets continually take lazy jumpshots early in the possession? Are they that much a part of the mentality of the team that without him the guys have just given up? That’s what it feels like to me.

    It’s appalling that we’re even having this discussion. Real playoff teams don’t whine when things don’t go their way (read: Lakers, Jazz, Spurs, Rockets). Until the organizational culture changes, the Nuggets just won’t be a real play off team. Boo F*#@ing Hoo, GK.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Beefy,

    I’m not longer interested in finding out whether the Nuggets “can hang with the top-tier teams in the NBA.”

    At this point the Nuggets should BE one of the top-tier teams…not just tring to hang with them.

    Too little…too late as far as I’m concerned GK.

  • bfuerst09

    While the situation that the Nuggets have put themselves in and the losses we’ve been handed are ridiculous, I don’t think at all that it is time to give up on the season. The Nuggets have by far the easiest remaining schedule of the top 8. Utah arguably has the most difficult, playing 12 +.500 teams (opposed to our 6) and most of those they play on the road without their heralded home court advantage. I think it’s very feasible that we could catch up with Utah. The key game may even be when we play them at home. As for New Orleans and Houston, they aren’t fixed either. They have two games left against each other and 10 and 12 games against +.500 teams.

    Sure, if we keep playing like we have in this funk, we’re screwed, but if we start playing like we did during the first have of the season, there’s no reason we can’t put ourselves back in the 3 or 4 spot by the end of the season.

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