The next four games will really show us what the Denver Nuggets are made of.
Coming off impressive blowout victories against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday and the Miami Heat on Thursday night, the Nuggets will head out on the road for a four-game road trip that offers some very difficult matchups.
They start out on Saturday against a tough and surging San Antonio team. Before Thursday’s loss to the Celtics, the Spurs had won five in a row and were starting to look like the team everyone expected them to be coming into the season.
The Nuggets won two of the three meetings between the two teams last season, including one on the Spurs' home court. However, historically speaking, the Nuggets tend to struggle in San Antonio, and, despite their early struggles, the Spurs still sport a good record on their home floor (8-3). Getting a victory in the Alamo Dome is never an easy task.
They then head to Philadelphia for what is sure to be an emotionally charged game as Allen Iverson makes his anticipated return on Monday night. The 76ers have been abysmal so far this season, but you can expect them to come out to play some inspired basketball against the Nuggets to sweeten AI’s return to the City of Brotherly Love. AI should be especially fired up playing against one of his former teams, and this could prove to be the most difficult game on the entire trip.
The Nuggets will then make the trip down to Charlotte to take on an improving Bobcats team on a back-to-back assignment Tuesday night. Since the arrival of Stephen Jackson, the 'Cats have been playing competitive basketball and their slow-tempo, grind-it-out defense is sure to give the Nuggets some fits. Denver really loves to play an up-tempo brand of basketball and looks lost at times playing in games where it doesn’t break the century mark.
They will then have one day to rest and will head to Motown to take on the lowly Detroit Pistons. You would think this game would be a “gimme,” but winning the last game of an extended road trip, against Chauncey Billups’ and Arron Afflalo’s old team, will likely prove to be a difficult task.
The Nuggets have been criticized this year by many, including myself, for displaying a lack of intensity and effort at times. This road trip will be the perfect opportunity for them to really demonstrate some toughness, determination, and grit. Denver hasn’t been horrible on the road this season (5-4), but it has lost a couple of games it clearly should have won, against the Bucks and the Clippers.
Denver currently sits at 14-5 and has a 2.5-game lead over the Trailblazers in the Northwest division. Based on talent alone, the Nuggets should come out of this road swing with at least three victories, but realistically if they can split the four games, you could make an argument that it was a successful trip.
What they can’t afford is to have happen is a complete letdown scenario where they lose three or four of the games. This would not only be damaging to their position in the Western Conference but would also be a demoralizing blow to their surging confidence.
Following their disappointing loss to the lowly Timberwolves earlier this week, the Nuggets responded with a sense of urgency and clearly demonstrated that they belong in the discussions of the NBA's elite. A disappointing road trip at this point would be a perilous occurrence.
I know it is early in the season, but this is as important of a road trip as they will have this entire season. It’s time to make a statement, Nuggets. Let’s win them all.