The Denver Nuggets sat firmly in the second seed in the West for most of this season, but all the magical momentum they had built up over the first 70 games was completely destroyed during their debacle of a road trip.
Overall, Denver lost a dreadful five of seven games by an average of 9.2 points, as their defense was far too soft.
The Nuggets defense has lost its personality.
Once a physical and scrappy bunch, this squad looks lost and careless without Kenyon Martin. Plus, interim head coach Adrian Dantley has been too passive on the sidelines and needs to reign in erratic play more aggressively.
Finally, being back in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center has benefited the team and the Nuggets have been able to put together strong efforts in their last two games to break a trend of lackluster efforts.
Thursday night versus the Trailblazers was arguably the biggest win of the season for Denver.
The Nuggets came out with a purpose in that game, led by Anthony, and wouldn’t allow this meaningful game slip away. Melo scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the deciding fourth quarter, as he fought through an off-shooting night to play well in crunch time.
Then it seemed as if Denver forgot all the good things they did the night before when they started horribly against the visiting Clippers. The Nuggets came out with no intensity and found themselves down by nine points after the first quarter, and were down by as much as 19 at one point in the first half.
The boys in blue were able to shorten that lead to eight by half, and took over the game in the third quarter, usually Denver’s worst this season.
Backup turned starter Johan Petro had a breakout performance in the third, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds as well. Petro was extremely active and helped the Nuggets to a win while big man Chris Andersen nursed his recently injured sprained ankle.
Sure, neither win was pretty, but for a team challenged by injuries and illness, both wins showed the Nuggets have heart.
They are fighting, scrapping, and producing in any way possible. Denver’s depth is becoming more evident, and everyone is doing their part.
Nene’s contributions have grown, with 15 points and six rebounds averaged in the Nuggets last two wins, and Andersen played well (5 pts, 6 reb, 4 BS) before rolling his ankle versus Portland.
Starting two-guard Arron Afflalo grabbed a team-high nine rebounds against LAC and Ty Lawson provided some spark with eight points and four assists.
If the Nuggets want to keep this winning streak alive and move back into homecourt positioning for the playoffs, they will have to keep scrapping and continue fighting as if the playoffs have already begun.
Only five games remain for the Denver, and all are important, including the season-ender in Phoenix that will almost certainly decide postseason seedings in the wild Western Conference.
George Karl to miss the first round of playoff basketball
Just as the Nuggets got back into winning ways, more bad news about their sick head coach was reported Sunday.
In an interview with the Denver Post , Karl’s life partner Kim Van Deraa said that the coach will not return for the regular season and will “probably not” be there to run the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs that start April 17.
“To count out all the playoffs, that’s up to his body,” Van Deraa said. “Who knows when his return will be? No one knows. He doesn’t even know. I’m sure he’s hoping that if we go on a playoff run, that he can (coach) this season.”
On March 21, Karl was admitted to the hospital after feeling much pain in his legs, which were due to the blood clots doctors found and had to remove. He remained in the hospital for four days, and is now home resting.
Even though Karl’s radiation treatments are over now, he still must feed himself through the feeding tube that was implanted into his stomach, and may have to for another six months.
These are ominous signs that may mean Karl won’t be able to return to coaching until next season, but no one can argue that he should focus on his health instead of basketball right now.
A heartfelt mailbag message to Karl
It’s been a while since anyone has sent in mailbag questions or comments, but this email to Karl is inspirational and I had to pass it on.
From Michael Hayes of Meriden, CT,
I just wanted to pass along my best to George Karl. I'm a 31 year old NBA fan who recently went through head and neck radiation/chemo myself for tongue cancer. George is incredibly brave to go through the treatments in the public eye.
Midway through my treatments (June-Aug '08) the Celtics won the NBA championship. I cried tears of joy the night they beat the Lakers to win the franchise's 17th championship. I'll never forget the incredible feeling of joy the team gave me, during what was a difficult time.
I hope the Nuggets can provide Coach Karl with similar joy.
To George, all the best...you're an inspiration.
George, thank you for writing in and telling us your personal story. It’s enlightening to hear how sports can be beneficial to someone struggling through a life-threatening illness.
Hopefully the Nuggets can keep winning for Karl, and his health continues to steadily improve.
What do you want to read about? Do you have a question about the team, or just a player you’d like to see profiled in a feature? Remember to write in your questions and comments about the Denver Nuggets to Denver.firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be answered/posted in a weekly or bi-weekly “mailbag piece” by Nuggets Featured Columnist Rich Kurtzman.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State Alumnus of the Communication Department and is a freelance journalist writing for many websites currently. Along with being the Denver Nuggets FC here on B/R, Kurtzman is the Denver Broncos FC for NFLTouchdown.com and the Colorado State Rams Examiner for examiner.com .