The Nuggets once again showed why they are an oddsmaker's worst nightmare.
Going into tonight's contest against the Clippers, they were 8.5 point favorites, and through the first 12 minutes it appeared as though this game had predictable blowout written all over it.
Carmelo Anthony was unstoppable in the first, as he made his first six shots from the floor on his way to a 17 point quarter. His first miss came with 8.9 seconds left in the quarter on a Chris Kaman blocked shot, which led to a Rasual Butler three point shot on the other end of the court as time expired.
This cut Denver's lead to five points, and seemed to turn the momentum in favor of the Clippers for good.
After an inspired start by the Nuggets, the impressive energy they displayed early quickly drained from the team with disturbing ease.
If you didn't know better, you would have thought the Nuggets were the team with the recent history of losing, as they displayed all the qualities of a group willing to pack it in at the first sign of adversity.
A Sebastian Telfair layup with 9:50 remaining in the second quarter put the Clippers up 28-26 and they would never look back.
The Nuggets had no answer for reserve forward Rasual Butler, who went 4-9 from long distance, and scored a team-high 27 points. Far too many times Butler was left wide open for the easy three, and even when the Nuggets did contest his shot, it was done half-heartedly at best.
The Clippers scored 35 points in the second and 32 points in the third, and held a 19-point lead heading into the fourth.
Ty Lawson came in for the invisible man, Chauncey Billups (five points scored in 30 minutes), to start the fourth and he lead the Nuggets on a 19-4 run to bring the game within two points with 6:10 remaining.
The momentum seemed to have completely shifted in the Nuggets favor, and there was a sense of imminent collapse once again percolating among the scarce Clipper crowd.
But as they have made a habit of doing throughout the early part of this season, the Nuggets once again failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity on the road.
The Clippers missed six of seven shots during Denver's rally, but back-to-back three pointers by Butler and Baron Davis gave the Clippers the 98-90 edge with 5:18 remaining, and the Nuggets would never again get any closer than five points.
My thoughts, as the Nuggets made their comeback in the fourth quarter, went immediately to appreciation for displaying the resistance of a champion. But a champion takes a strangle hold on that game as soon as they had the lowly Clippers on their heels, and no sooner than my hopes were raised with anticipation of resurgence were they again dashed with the disappointment of retreat.
Billups, whose presence was again scarcely felt, needs to reassert himself as the leader on the court. Right now, Ty Lawson is giving me more reason to have confidence in him as the Nuggets floor general.
Outside of another remarkable performance from Carmelo, a comeback led by Ty Lawson, and a highlight reel 360-degree spinning layup by J.R. Smith, the Nuggets didn't give their fans much to cheer for tonight.
The Nuggets will now head home, where they will play six of their next seven games. They have a favorable schedule during that stretch, and will try to right the ship against the likes of New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, and Golden State. This might be just what the Nuggets need to exorcise their road demons and reignite their confidence.