In the midst of the agonizing Masai Ujiri drama Nuggets fans are forced to endure, reports have surfaced that the Los Angeles Clippers have taken notice of none other than Denver head coach George Karl. After getting rid of Vinny Del Negro, the Clippers are looking for a new head coach, and while Karl is not at the top of the team’s wish list, they are allegedly considering asking the Nuggets for permission to talk with Karl.
In the race for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets greatly strengthened their position with their big Wednesday night victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
This cleared the most difficult remaining game on their schedule, and reduced their magic number (combination of own wins and opponent losses) with respect to both the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers to three. With four games remaining, Denver can lose one game and still clinch third even if Memphis and L.A. win out (though since they play each other, at least one of them can’t).
Here is a side-by-side look at the remaining schedules of the three teams competing for that third seed which carries the benefits of both home court advantage in the first round and a matchup with the No. 6 seed: (more…)
The Denver Nuggets recently clinched a berth in the 2013 NBA playoffs, meaning that they will soon be making their tenth consecutive postseason appearance. And while this is a very impressive streak, what they’ve managed to do less often is finish the regular season with a good enough record to secure home court advantage in the first round. (more…)
Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend
Current record: 45-22
Last week: 3-0 (2-0 home, 1-0 road)
Current playoff seed: #5, 0.5 games behind #4 Memphis and #3 LA Clippers. The Clippers hold the tie breaker over both Memphis and Denver (due to winning their division), while Denver holds the tie breaker over Memphis (due to a 3-1 head to head record).
The Nuggets finished another undefeated week by taking down the Memphis Grizzlies in a slow-paced, grind-it-out game, picking up an important tiebreaker in the process. They also embarrassed the Knicks in Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver, and picked up a road win in a blowout in Phoenix. Denver has the longest active winning streak in the Western Conference at 11 games. Kosta Koufos had the best week of his career, averaging 15.3 points and 12 rebounds over three games. Coach George Karl had the team ready to play all week and made good substitutions in the face of individual players’ game-to-game inconsistency.
This week’s games: Monday at Chicago, Tuesday at Oklahoma City, Thursday vs Philadelphia, Saturday vs Sacramento
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 8-15 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +13
More important than the numbers was the fact Gallo looked completely rehabilitated from his nagging injuries. Six assists is a good sign Gallo is figuring out how to make the most of his dynamic perimeter game. He scored from all over and once again looked spry doing it, busting out some of his most athletic plays of the season.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 33 MIN | 4-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +20
The story hasn’t changed with Faried. He can get better defensively but it doesn’t really matter when he pumps out a nonchalant double-double with four blocks to boot. The Clippers were physical with Kenneth and it didn’t faze him. Faried’s energy was on another level and he looked like he could have kept going all night.
|Kosta Koufos, C 19 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +11
Not a great game out of Koufos. His first-half defense left a lot to be desired but he managed to finish strong with a great second half. Koufos continues to be a dependable guy but his production was lacking relative to his minutes.
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 9-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 11 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +23
What else is there to say? That was a masterful performance and a prime example of what makes Lawson’s signature game so good. Ty showed he can be an efficient distributor and manage his scoring with the flow of the game. He’s been a lot better at recognizing when he needs to stretch his game out and hit a tough shot. He directed with Chris Paul-like precision and it’s safe to say outplayed his All-Star counterpart.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 39 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +15
He did a great job moving the ball and not forcing shots. Iguodala is guaranteed to provide outstanding defense and playmaking every minute he’s on the floor, but his scoring has probably been the most inconsistent it’s ever been. His flaws as a scorer are evident as his natural tendency is to shoot too many jumpers, but he’s managed it so well in Denver and focused on playmaking instead. It’s just one example of the way he consistently leads the Nuggets on both ends of the floor.
|Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -2
A pretty standard Brewer game with a lot of leakouts, gambling for steals and an airball or two thrown in for good measure. Brew scored and ran hard off the bench as usual but he didn’t have a particularly good night.
|JaVale McGee, C 14 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | +4
There were the highlight blocks and then there were the four fouls and alarming number of missed block-outs for a 14 minute performance. I love Pierre but he got pretty well owned on the boards and two rebounds is just hard to comprehend.
|Andre Miller, PG 20 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -1
He had his shot going early but really couldn’t get a hold of the pace all night. Miller scored and did what he could off the bench but I have to wonder how much of a role he might have in a playoff matchup against the Clippers, who will use a zone and and challenge Denver to put size and shooting on the floor. Miller was solid but didn’t have much of a role in this one.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 26 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | -8
He started rough and played some really poor interior defense throughout the first half. As the game wore on the physical play seem to fire up Wil and he exploded with one of his better all-around games of the season. He was key in helping the Nuggets close the first half strong when the game was still well within reach for the Clippers.
The Nuggets didn’t seem to have the best energy tonight and credit Karl for motivating them to turn it up in the second half. This was not one of the Nuggets’ finer performances but a solid, efficient game and a business-like win they needed to have. Lawson shined directing the flow on his own so you also have to credit Karl for recognizing it and pulling back on using the Lawson-Miller tandem in the second half.
On New Year’s Day versus the Los Angeles Clippers, JaVale McGee did something which for him was quite remarkable.
And no, this is not about his stunning buzzer beating 3-pointer, though that is certainly what will cement his performance permanently in the collective memory of NBA fandom.
But just as notably, he matched his career high of three assists. He had accomplished this only once before, on Mar. 20, 2011. Thus far this season, McGee has had 20 games with zero dimes, 12 games with just one, and now, a single game with three.
About a month into the 2012-13 season, I did a video scouting report calling for JaVale to make a more concerted effort to pass the ball out of the post rather than forcing so many hasty, contested shots. In this recent game we had a chance to see just how effective McGee can be when looking to share the ball, so it offers a great opportunity to follow up on the topic. (more…)
On Oct. 6 the Nuggets faced the Clippers in the first preseason game of the year. Though not much was at stake, the players seemed to approach the game as if it were late April, not early October. The contest culminated with two incredible last-second layups: one by Eric Bledsoe and the other by Ty Lawson to win the game as the shot clock expired. Here are some observations.
|Kenneth Faried, F 25 MIN | 4-6 FG | 4-7 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -10
We all love to praise Faried. For a rookie taken 22nd in the 2011 NBA Draft, he’s been impressive. But it’s games like these where Faried’s inexperience really shows. He was passive, perhaps intimidated, and failed to inject himself into the heart of the action. Like many Nuggets, Faried must figure out a way to be more aggressive on a consistent basis, especially on the glass. Six rebounds in 25 minutes just won’t cut it — not with his motor. He needs to establish better positioning under the rim and not hesitate to get physical with his counterparts.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 28 MIN | 0-7 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -4
What is going on with Gallinari? It’s as if he’s still injured. He’s not attacking — rather taking nothing but jump shots — and doesn’t appear to show any signs of wanting to be “The Man” he was in the beginning of the season. It’s as if he’s reverted back to the jump-shooting perimeter player prior he was prior to coming to Denver. If he’s still injured, then he needs to sit out; otherwise, he needs to start asserting himself in order to help the team win games. Had he been in attack mode on Wednesday, the Nuggets likely would have won.
|Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -11
Koufos was fantastic. In only 23 minutes he came up one rebound shy of a double-double. He also got it done on defense, blocking two of his opponent’s shots. He was always in the right spot at the right time to make the right play. Faried should take note.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 38 MIN | 5-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -17
This was the first time Afflalo scored less than 15 points since March 23 — almost a month ago. He hit some big shots, but for whatever reason wasn’t as affective as he has been of late. Look for him to bounce back with a vintage performance on Saturday against the Suns.
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 9-14 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 24 PTS | 0
Lawson was furious in his attempt to “out-speed” Chris Paul and he did a good job of it for the most part. I mentioned to one of my friends at the game how I don’t mind the Chris Paul-Ty Lawson match-up should the Nuggets face the Clippers in the first round and Wednesday was corroboration to that theory. Lawson likely won’t out-perform Paul every night, but if he can contain him and counter with his own flurry of points and assists, the Nuggets should be just fine.
|Al Harrington, PF 32 MIN | 4-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +8
Harrington didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but he finished with a nice stat line overall. It’s clear that heading into the playoffs Harrington’s going to have to play a key role for the Nuggets off the bench, just as he has all year long. The fact that he’s doing it on a torn meniscus is all the more reason Nuggets fans should avoid blaming him for any sort of the team’s downfalls. The fact is: dude’s been in a Nuggets jersey for two years yet he already bleeds blue and yellow.
|Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 12 PTS | +4
For whatever reason I don’t remember much of Miller’s performance. I know he attacked the basket — like usual — and threw a few lob passes but other than that he seemed somewhat quiet. Nevertheless, putting up 12 points and eight assists on 50 percent shooting from the field as a backup is always beneficial to the team.
|Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -5
Just like he’s done all season, Brewer followed up a great performance with a complete dud. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone as wildly inconsistent as Brewer. He goes from savior to village goat on a nightly basis. Why he can’t find more stability in his performance is beyond me.
|JaVale McGee, C 15 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +5
McGee deserves more time. Period. There’s just no reason he should be seeing 15 minutes in a game where the Nuggets desperately need a win. He can’t do anything in that amount of time — nobody can. Should he have had more production on the glass? Absolutely. But even so, it’s too difficult to judge somebody when they only receive a sparing minutes here and there in a highly competitive atmosphere.
|Nene, C 22 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +19
Nene fought through early foul trouble and thankfully he got a comfortable amount of rest with another back-to-back coming up. Although you’d like to see a better shooting percentage and fewer turnovers, Nene getting the ball opens up the rest of the offense and he got plenty of touches tonight.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 27 MIN | 7-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 21 PTS | +24
Gallo was on fire. I had no problem with his benching in Memphis and was confident he’d respond with a solid game just as he did after his first bad performance in Philadelphia. Without Gallo providing a spark the game was headed towards becoming a blowout in the wrong direction.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 22 MIN | 5-5 FG | 1-3 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +12
He’s improving. Made Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan work much harder than they wanted to on defense. The key stat is only one turnover. His weak side defense could be much better but he continues to do a solid job contesting perimeter shots and putting pressure on the opposing guards.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 3-6 FG | 8-8 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +12
How bad did Afflalo need a game like this? I missed some of the first quarter where he apparently got off to a rough start, but Arron found a way to fight through it. 8 free throws are outstanding and most impressive was the ball-pressure he applied on Chris Paul, often picking him up at full court and crowding his space all night.
|Ty Lawson, PG 32 MIN | 6-11 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 18 PTS | +23
Much better game. Not spectacular, but a normal Lawson performance Nuggets fans love to see night in and night out. Turnovers have been a problem and although many of them haven’t been Lawson’s fault, he had much better control tonight. Made some spectacular hustle plays to stretch the lead at critical moments.
|Al Harrington, PF 21 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +8
Al started slow but eventually found his stroke in time to put the game away. His minutes finally returned to a reasonable amount and he wasn’t stuck trying to do to much. Harrington could be better guarding the rim but he was somewhat effective against Blake Griffin managing to pull the chair out a number of times.
|Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 8 PTS | +17
Five shot attempts is a much healthier game out of Andre Miller. Didn’t take a three or force shots and bad passes. Not being switched onto Rudy Gay definitely helped him stay fresh and effective throughout the night.
|DeMarre Carroll, F 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -2
Carroll is still on the team. He’s also back and finally healthy after a hamstring kept him out much of the season. Don’t read too much into the grade, C means incomplete in this case
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 19 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +5
Rudy can be a very effective weapon off the bench. The Nuggets need to play him and get him shots more consistently. I’ve been hoping for him to look for his shot more aggressively and resist trying to make the spectacular play. Fernandez did both tonight.
|Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -3
Koufos could do a little more with his minutes, but I’m glad he came in ahead of Birdman. I liked his energy on defense in Memphis and he was okay tonight. Perhaps with more of a role Koufos’ game will come around and we can get a better idea of what he brings to the table.
|Kenneth Faried, F 7 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -5
Raw is the only way to describe him. The team needs to teach him the fundamentals of playing on offense rather than just throwing up long range lobs when he enters the game. Needs to set better screens and post up some, but I’m probably expecting too much of the Manimal. He was still a beast in the paint and finished everything around the rim. I also think Faried has potential to draw a lot of fouls should he end up seeing more minutes.
|Jordan Hamilton, G 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -5
Hamilton showed off his quick release and smooth jumper. He also showed flashes of passing ability off drives to the rim. I am excited to see what this guy can do in the future.
It’s early in the Denver Nuggets 2011-2012 season, but the story so far has no doubt been the inspiring double overtime win against the departed Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers doesn’t feature the same hype and excitement surrounding the Knicks contest, but it’s no less symbolic for Nuggets fans witnessing Chauncey Billups’ first return to the Pepsi Center since the infamous trade marking the end of the Melo era.
The good people at StubHub have provided two tickets in Section 124 Row AA, (that is courtside people!) for the Denver Nuggets game against the Los Angeles Clippers this Friday, November 5. This is your chance to see Blake Griffin on his first trip to the Pepsi Center from the expensive seats! Chris Kaman’s facial hair will be there as well. To enter you must follow RMC on Twitter and tweet me, @RoundballMiner, the answer to the following question:
What Denver Nugget scored nine points in nine seconds on three consecutive three point shots in the final minute of a game?
You must have your responses to me by 6:00 PM Mountain time on Thursday, November 4. I will then put all the correct responses into a hat and my daughter will draw the winning Twitter account out of said hat.
Roundball Mining Company and StubHub are not responsible for lost or misdirected tweets or other technical issues that are beyond the control of RMC. Every Twitter account can only qualify for the drawing once. Repeated tweets from the same account will result in disqualification. The winner will be notified via Twitter Thursday night and must claim the tickets from a StubHub representative at least 15 minutes prior to the game.
I would like to thank StubHub for generously donating the tickets for this contest. You can purchase tickets for any Denver Nuggets game from StubHub.
Just when it seemed like the Carmelo Anthony rumors were going to die down and let us move on with our lives Adrian Wojnarowski comes along and blows things up again.
According to a report on Yahoo! Sports by Mr. W. William Wesley told the Nuggets “weeks ago” that they needed to trade Carmelo and provided a list of acceptable destinations. That statement would support the theory I promoted earlier this week right here so it must be true.
Josh Kroenke then met with Carmelo on Sunday in an attempt to convince Carmelo that he should remain a Nugget. Apparently the meeting did not go well and the Nuggets are prepared to trade Carmelo. The Knicks, Nets, Rockets and Clippers are still listed as possible landing spots along with Golden State. Apparently Orlando has dropped off the list as I have not seen them mentioned lately.
We are close enough to the end of the season to start projecting what might happen with some level of certainty. Honestly, I have no idea what order Dallas, Utah and Phoenix will finish in or how the bottom three spots will be sorted among Oklahoma City, Portland and San Antonio. I do believe two spots are locked in place. Obviously the Lakers will be the top seed and I think the Nuggets are all but guaranteed to finish as the fifth seed.
While that is a very frustrating sentence to type, Denver can be a dangerous fifth seed or they can be a pushover as the fifth seed. It all depends on how the finish the regular season and the Nuggets’ closing schedule is an interesting one. Almost every contest features a team playing at the end of a difficult stretch of games.
Portland comes to town Thursday playing their fifth game in eight days. Wednesday they bombed the Knicks, but still have to travel for the fifth straight game. Denver has been sitting at home since Monday night dwelling on how badly they have sucked for the past week. If we do not get a big effort from the Nuggets against Portland, it will be very bad news. I think the result is a win for Denver.
Next the Clippers, without Baron Davis who is out with back spasms, arrive in Denver on Saturday in the only battle between two rested teams remaining on the docket. The Nuggets will be on one day of rest while the Clippers will have had two days off after getting blown out in Toronto on Wednesday. That game should absolutely be another win for the Nuggets.
Denver then has three days off before their final five games in seven nights stretch to close out the regular season. The first outing is in Oklahoma City. The way Denver has been playing this would seem like a sure loss. However, this game will be the fourth game in five nights for the Thunder, who play in Utah the night before, and will have traveled before each of the four games. That smells like a win and a three game winning streak.
The next night the Nuggets return home to play the Lakers who are having some serious struggles on the road right now and really have nothing to play for. Even so LA/Denver has become a heated mini-rivalry and with the Lakers enjoying three days off I expect them to play well. Denver will be motivated to do well also with the division crown still within their grasp, but without Kenyon Martin and Coach Karl I suspect they drop this one.
After a day of rest Denver gets a visit from the San Antonio Spurs who will be playing their fourth game in five days. It will be interesting to see if the Spurs will knock themselves out in an attempt to avoid the eight seed and a first round matchup with LA. I suspect the Spurs will sit Tim Duncan and/or Manu Ginobili against Denver and I think this is another Nugget victory.
Two days later in the penultimate matchup of the regular season the Grizzlies come calling. It will be Memphis’ fifth game in seven days as they provide another victim for the now rolling Nuggets.
That brings us to game 82, a visit to Phoenix. The Nuggets will arrive in Phoenix with a solid stretch of five wins in six games and sporting a 53-28 record a half a game behind the Jazz who will be 53-27 and playing a game at Golden State on the same night. Denver will be playing their fifth game in seven nights, although unlike their recent horrific five in seven trip out east, they only have two travel days of which this is the second. The Suns enter the battle after a day off. Phoenix is a very difficult matchup for Denver when the Nuggets are full strength and the chances of earning a W in Phoenix are slim. Chalk that one up as a loss with Denver finishing the season 53-29, fifth overall in the conference.
These final seven games will be a test of Denver’s mental attitude and determination as there are “official” reports backing up my intuitive suggestions that they very well could be without Kenyon and Karl even after the playoffs begin.
Thursday night is the Nuggets’ fight or flight moment. Do they fold the tent and enter the playoffs a slumping has been or embrace the fact they can still capture the Northwest Division and remain relevant? Momentum changes come at unexpected times and as bad as they have looked recently all it will take for the Nuggets to recapture some of their lost mojo is a well played victory against the Blazers.
Although you guys might not like it if I do not come up with a post dedicated to each and every game this season, I think it gives us a chance to avoid jumping to conclusions over any one singular game. The two games the Nuggets played in this weekend is the perfect example of how looking at two or more games at once can provide a more complete picture than picking apart each individual performance.
Had I concocted a post following the embarrassing loss to the Clippers it would have gone on and one about how the Nuggets lacked heart. The complacency they exhibited during the 19-0 run the Clippers dumped on them was shocking to me. I kept waiting for someone to get angry, and call the team together and demand a more determined effort be put forth. Not one Nugget player did anything of the sort. Either they did not take the Clippers seriously or they did not care. Neither alternative is acceptable, but the lack of any trace of anger about the proceedings made me fear it was the latter more than the former. Even after the run, we did not see any kind of increased effort to show the Clippers that the Nuggets were going to take back control of the game. It was not until the end of the third quarter that Denver showed signs of life and by then it was too late.
Fortunately for Nuggets fans, the story does not end with the loss to the Clippers. The next night Denver faced the Chicago Bulls in a game where the Bulls were the well rested squad. To make matters worse, they were eager to gain revenge on Denver for the one point loss they suffered at the hands of the Nuggets earlier this season in Chicago.
From the beginning the Bulls looked like the fresher team as they rode some hot shooting to an early 14 point lead. Things looked bleak for Denver, especially considering they were victims of the dreaded back to back game where they played a late game in the Pacific time zone only to fly east to the Mountain time zone, losing an hour on the way, to play the next night.
However, the Nuggets were playing hard, just not well. It was a good test to see if the lack of heart they exhibited in Los Angeles the night before was going to be a onetime frustration or an ongoing issue.
Midway through the second quarter the Nuggets announced that they would not be content to lose. They chose to not let the circumstances dictate the outcome of the contest.
Lead by a suddenly red hot Chauncey Billups in the second quarter and an equally scorching J.R. Smith in the fourth the Nuggets took it to the Bulls and by the end of the night, there was no doubt who the better team was.
Typically it would take two passes for the offense to get the ball to that point, but because Rose made a direct pass, Nene, who was guarding Joakim Noah on the right block, had no time to run out to cover Salmons. In addition to Nene being a pass behind, Kenyon, who was on the strong side block had one fewer pass to get to the corner to cover Luol Deng. Salmons could have taken the shot, but made the unselfish play to pass to a wide open Deng who nailed the open jumper.
The real mindbender is who do you blame the defensive breakdown on? Did Afflalo and Melo not trap hard enough allowing Rose to see the diagonal pass to Salmons? Does the blame lie with Chauncey for committing to Gibson too soon? Then again perhaps Nene and Kenyon, seeing that Rose had given up his dribble and Chauncey was already covering Gibson, should not have waited for the pass to Salmons to trigger their rotation.
Great defensive teams know how to read each other and react when the unexpected happens. The Bulls took advantage of that diagonal pass two or three times in the first half. If they are going to become a formidable defensive team, Denver has to be able to put up a cohesive front immediately when the opponent does something unusual. It requires communication, understanding of the defensive principles you are implementing and a trust that if you leap, your teammate has your back.
The Nuggets now enter what is probably the easiest portion of their schedule all season. They face the Nets, Knicks, Timberwolves twice and the Warriors. Those teams are currently a combined 8-43 right now and out of those eight wins, four have come against one of the other three teams (the Wolves and Knicks beat the Nets and the Warriors beat the Knicks and Wolves). As long as the Nuggets make sure they learned the lesson from their loss to the Clippers to take every team seriously and do not allow themselves to be complacent, even if they get off to a good start as they did in Los Angeles, they should win all five of those games which would make them 14-4.
Before we begin the season previews and start looking forward to next season, I am going to look back at last season. I made a multitude of predictions over the previous 12 plus months and I started wondering how accurate I was. Did I successfully predict how well Chris Andersen played? What about the Nuggets acquisition of Chauncey Billups or how many games the Milwaukee Bucks would win?
The only way to know if I knew what I was talking about is to go back through thousands and thousands of words and pluck out all the things I said would happen no matter how hair brained or how mundane and assign a verdict.
Here is the first of four posts full of things I thought would happen. We will start by looking at my general preseason projections and game by game forecasts. Tomorrow we will look at my projected season records for all 30 teams. We will then move on to my projected personnel moves and then finish with my projections for player performances.
Prediction: I believe the Denver Nuggets must alter their style of play if they are ever to become a true championship contender. I love the Denver Mile High Mystique as much as anyone, but I strongly believe the Nuggets must evaluate the overall philosophy of their franchise.
Verdict: I am going to say correct. The Nuggets still ran, which is fine, but they dropped from their perennial spot of first or second in pace down to fifth, it may not sound like much, but they were closer to the eleventh fastest paced team, Milwaukee, than they were to the second fastest paced team, New York. The greater focus on defense and working for better shots on offense was a great recipe.
Prediction: I might be completely wrong, but if we are ever going to see the best of the Nuggets and the best of George Karl, it has to be this season.
Verdict: Correct, the embarrassing sweep at the hand of the Lakers in 2008 shook the players and forced them to deal with how far away they were from contending. That led them to push themselves to great things last season.
Prediction: The [Western Conference] number eight seed will make the playoffs with 44 to 46 wins next season.
Verdict: Incorrect, Utah was the eighth seed with 48 wins.
Prediction: The lower class [of the Western Conference] will be better. Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Sacramento will fall into the categories of improved to much improved. The Clippers may have lost Elton Brand, but they played most of last season without him anyway and the additions of Baron Davis and Marcus Camby (although I have a difficult time buying them as a playoff contender) will clearly make them more competitive.
Verdict: Incorrect, all three combined to win only one more game than the Lakers, 66 to 65. However, the Wolves were 10-4 in January only to have Al Jefferson suffered a season ending injury in early February and the Thunder were a very improved team going 18-27 from January 10 through the end of the season. The Clippers were simply abysmal, but at least I did not pick them to make the playoffs like many others did.
Prediction: Out of the teams that finished outside the playoffs looking in last season the only team that I believe needs to be taken seriously is Portland.
Verdict: Correct, Portland was the only non playoff team from 2007-08 to win more than 30 games in the west.
Prediction: Some believe Golden State can compete for a playoff spot, but I do not see it.
Verdict: Correct, Golden State finished 19 games out of the playoffs. I need to keep making predictions against nebulous conglomerates such as “some.”
Prediction: I believe the Nuggets and Blazers will make the postseason.
Verdict: Correct, both did.
Prediction: This season is the year that they [Denver] will be better off having a representative in Secaucus, NJ instead of having their representatives massacred at the hands of the Lakers or Hornets in the first round.
Verdict: Wildly incorrect, but had they not made the Billups trade, I think that prediction would have been the truth. I was wrong about the Hornets too.
Prediction: If you are looking for a team to fall apart this season how about the Clippers? They have a point guard who is famous for his horrid shot selection paired with a control freak head coach. They lost their best player in what might have been a far more incompetent negotiating process by the front office than anything the Nuggets have been guilty of and God’s Gift to Defense Marcus Camby is not going to play a single game in the preseason due to a heel injury. Oh yea, and do not forget that Chris Kaman is coming off of a season where he played only 56 games plus he put some extra wear and tear on his body by playing for Germany in the Olympics.
Verdict: Correct, they were without a doubt the biggest disappointment in the West other than perhaps the Suns. By the way, that was in response to ESPN.com’s NBA writers naming the Nuggets the most likely team to self combust.
Prediction: [After game 23] they [the Nuggets] face three straight back to back sets against some very good teams which will tell us a lot about how good this team can really be.
Verdict: Incorrect, Denver was only 2-4 in those six games (at Dallas, at Houston, Cleveland, at Phoenix, Portland and at Portland), but the season turned out OK. Of course, I could go the other way and say they only went 2-4 and that showed us they were not going to be NBA champs.
Prediction: The Nuggets have already clinched a tie with the Mavs for the season series, but I believe they will certainly win at least one of the two games left to clinch the tiebreaker in case it should come into play.
Verdict: Correct, the Nuggets swept the Mavs in the regular season.
Prediction: I do not like their chances against the Spurs or the Hornets (especially now that Tyson Chandler is back in the Big Easy) and I would not be very confident should the Nuggets face off against the Jazz [02/20/09].
Verdict: Incorrect, in defense of my lack of faith, this was following a blowout loss against the Bulls and Tyson Chandler was healthy and looking strong and Manu Ginobili had not yet been injured.
Prediction: A big thanks to Detroit and Boston for blowing games against the Spurs and Jazz tonight. Way to go bozos. I will forgive the Celtics as long as they lose to the Nuggets next Monday.
Verdict: Incorrect, Boston beat the Nuggets, but I actually found it in my heart to forgive them, but I am not going to count it one against myself.
Prediction: 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 [03/10/09].
Prediction: 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 [also 03/10/09].
Verdict: Absolutely 100% incorrect. Out of all the incorrect predictions I made, this is the one that bugs me the most. I wrote it following the Nuggets two point home loss to the Rockets that was their fifth loss in six games. Of course they went on to win 13 of 14 to push themselves into second in the conference. I hate that I wrote it, but thank God I did because it clearly turned the Nuggets season around. Honestly, I try my best to not get caught up in the emotion of a season, but I also have to write what I believe. If I end up with egg on my face, well, when life gives you eggs, break them and drink them like Rocky (Balboa, not the mountain lion or the squirrel).
Prediction: The Nuggets will beat the Hornets in seven games because Chris Paul will not lose game 6 at home.
Verdict: Incorrect, although I still do not think Paul would have let the series end in New Orleans.
Prediction: Should the Nuggets win [Game 4 versus New Orleans], I think they win game five to close out the series.
Prediction: Logic tells me tonight [Game 5 versus New Orleans] will be nothing short of a formality.
Verdict: Correct, Denver rolled over the Hornets by 19.
Prediction: David West will not make another All-Star team.
Verdict: It may be presumptuous of me, but I am going to call this one correct.
Prediction: The Denver Nuggets will beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games.
Verdict: Incorrect, the Nuggets won in five, but they did win.
Prediction: I expect the Nuggets to close this series out [versus Dallas] just as they did against New Orleans and six hours from now we will be celebrating the Nuggets’ first appearance in the conference finals since 1985.
Verdict: Correct, the Nuggets did indeed close out the Mavs in five games, although it was a little closer than game 5 against the Hornets.
Prediction: My official prediction is the Lakers in seven games.
Verdict: Incorrect, partly due to the Nuggets late game ineptness the Lakers won in six.
Prediction: I do believe the Nuggets will win [game 2 versus the Lakers].
Verdict: Correct, despite literally throwing game one away, Denver won game two.
Prediction: As you would expect I think the Nuggets will win [game 6 versus the Lakers] tonight.
Verdict: Um…really incorrect. The Lakers rolled the Nuggets in game 6 at the Pepsi Center.
The final tally for the first section of projections is 12 out of 23 were correct, good for a rate of 52.2%. Not bad, but not great either. Part two coming tomorrow.