In Friday night's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Denver Nuggets showed a lot of heart and determination. They were gritty, hard-nosed and passionate while following the tone set by Corey Brewer and Kenneth Faried.
If it weren't for an amazing individual effort by the Grizzlies' Dante Cunningham to tip in an errant shot with less than .5 seconds remaining, Denver would have left the arena with the most improbable of wins.
This was a game where Denver came out in the first period and looked horrid. They were absolutely destroyed in the opening minutes, and it seemed like it was going to be another embarrassing loss, just like the game in Dallas.
On this night, however, the Denver Nuggets would show more heart and hustle than they have in over a month.
On this night, George Karl trusted in Faried and Brewer, and it paid off.
The team seemed to be energized by their presence and tenacity, and it also didn't hurt that Brewer scored 18 points in the third quarter, while Faried scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the effort by Faried and Brewer wasn't rewarded with a win, but Denver had something to build on.
Or so it seemed.
Two nights later, however, Faried and Brewer were benched in crunch time. In their place was Al Harrington who drew the tough duty of chasing Kevin Durant around, and Chris Anderson, who was replaced by Kosta Koufos in overtime.
To say that watching Harrington defend a hot shooting Durant was ugly would be an understatement. He didn't have a chance against a player as quick as Durant.
I don't blame Harrington for getting beat.
Al is a good player that was put in a terrible position by poor coaching. Anybody watching the game could see a disgusting mismatch.
Durant is a tough matchup for any player, but does anyone honestly think that Brewer couldn't have at least gotten in Durant's way?
Not only did Denver lack any semblance of defense against Durant, but an offensive rebound by the Thunder was another huge reason this game went into overtime. All the while, a trained eye could see Faried, the NCAA's all-time leading rebounder, on Denver's bench.
Karl will tell you that he simply goes with the flow of the game when deciding which players to insert in the lineup. The only flow I saw was Durant having his way with Al Harrington over the final five minutes of regulation.
To keep a solid, defensive minded, high energy player like Corey Brewer on the bench when Durant was lighting Denver up is inexplicable.
It seems that Denver's only hope is for Danilo Gallinari to come back. He's a player that can bring a great energy, to go along with a nice scoring touch and some solid defense. And thankfully for us Nugget fans, Karl lets him play.
Wins will be very sporadic for now, as Karl seems to completely ignore any common sense impulses that cloud his brain. Until Gallo comes back, look for Karl to keep getting in his own way when it comes to winning basketball games.