2011 NBA Playoffs: Denver Nuggets Need Star to Emerge to Beat OKC Thunder

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2011 NBA Playoffs: Denver Nuggets Need Star to Emerge to Beat OKC Thunder
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Will J.R. Smith finally step up and become Denver's go-to guy with the game on the line?

It certainly appeared to the casual observer that the Nuggets missed out on an opportunity to steal Game 1 of their opening round playoff series with the host Thunder when they ultimately fell short, 107-103.

But to the slightly more educated viewer and follower of Denver basketball, it was clear that with the game on the line in end of the game that the Nuggets didn’t have the basketball in the right guy’s hands.

This is not a knock against Raymond Felton as it is a compliment to Ty Lawson, who has been the Nuggets go-to guy for several weeks now.

And since the February 22nd trade that send former Nugget stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to New York, Denver followers have wondered who is going to take on the clutch go-to guy role.

For a while, it appeared that guy was going to be forward Aaron Afflalo.

But Afflalo injured his hamstring on March 5th, and has been in and out of the lineup ever since.

“It is frustrating because I want to get out and help my team, but they’ll be fine,” Afflalo told John Rohde of NewsOK.com. “I can perhaps run around and shoot, but can I play a competitive playoff game, be effective for my team for the type of minutes I play and not re- aggravate (the injury)? That’s a different story.”

Most of Afflalo’s minutes have been absorbed by Wilson Chandler, who along with Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgof came to Denver in the Anthony deal, and he has played well.

But the clutch, game-on-the-line moment that used to be almost exclusively the property of the traded superstar duo, has not latched onto anyone currently on the Nuggets roster.

And with a tough pair of Thunder scorers in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combined to drop 72 against the Nuggets by themselves, Denver’s going to need for someone to step into that star role.

Perhaps tonight a guy like Lawson or J.R. Smith can rescue the underdogs on the road and even the series at one game apiece.

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