Opportunistic Nuggets Strike Gold

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A rugged early-season schedule and the lack of a true go-to-guy could have been their downfall. It had the potential to render all of that preseason fawning over the Denver Nuggets a waste of time, if these Nuggets weren’t made of the rugged materials at their core.

They played a staggering 17 of their first 24 games on the road, away from the friendly and high altitude confines of the Pepsi Center, going 12-12 during that stretch to stay afloat just long enough to get to the place where they are now. And that place is smack in the middle of a stretch that sees them playing 12 of 14 games at home with a chance to make some serious noise in the Western Conference standings.

The Nuggets are 10-4 since their schedule evened out and are winners of five straight after a Sunday’s victory over the Golden State Warriors. At 23-16, Denver is looking more and more like the team some pundits believed to be a challenger to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference.

There is still plenty of work to do, of course. Even with this recent climb, they are still looking from the outside on the top four in the West. But they’re in a position now to battle the Memphis Grizzlies and Warriors for that fourth spot.

One of the biggest reasons they are in this position is their penchant for playing their best basketball in the fourth quarter of games that could go either way, as Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post explains:

Suddenly, the fourth quarter has become the Nuggets’ quarter.

Whether they slosh through the first three quarters or play well from the start and find themselves in a tight contest, the fourth has been the separation quarter for this team, trying to hit its stride this month.

The Nuggets outscored Golden State 37-18 in the fourth quarter Sunday night to make a tough game look like an easy 116-105 win at the Pepsi Center. It was the Nuggets’ season-high fifth straight win.

So what’s different in the fourth quarter?

“Urgency and desperation and professional pride,” Nuggets coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets turn up the defense and shift the offense into overdrive in the final period. During this five-game winning streak, they’ve outscored their opponents 151-102 in the fourth, an average of 30.2 points to 20.4.

“I feel like we’re most focused in the fourth quarter for some reason,” center JaVale McGee said. “I don’t know why. I feel like we take the first half for granted, but we really go hard in the fourth quarter.”

In addition to the surge, the Nuggets appear to have struck gold on another front. Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari are turning into the sort of 1-2 punch that you need to grind out games, guys who power the attack when need be. They combined for 41 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds against the Warriors.

It doesn’t hurt to get 22 points from your bench in the fourth, as they did Sunday. But the guys who make the Nuggets go on a nightly basis have to do their part to create an opportunity for the bench to handle their business.

But with a core group that also includes HT fave Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried, the versatile and dangerous Andre Iguodala and crafty veterans like Andre Miller and the underrated Corey Brewer, the Nuggets have the pieces to keep their current run going for a while.

With nine of their next 11 games at home, opportunity is banging on the door for the Nuggets.


  1. TT says:

    too bad JaVale doesn’t have a brain to go with his talent or else the Nuggets would be a title contender.

  2. Heat BIG 3 says:

    Always been a Nuggets fan, they are my sleeper team in the west. If you come into Denver and take it lightly you will catch a quick L and an asthma attack before you know what hit you. Especially with that altitude difference all teams have to adjust to when playing in Denver. Don’t sleep on this team cause they play like they have nothing to lose. Coach K go get it.

  3. CSmooth99 says:

    The Nuggets have a great chance in the west if everyone stays healthy. Regardless of not having a go-to-guy down the stretch, it shouldn’t matter. The only thing that will prevent them from going DEEP in the playoffs (if not the finals) will be there lack of making perimeter shots and the free throw line. A lot of the games that Denver has lost this year have been close yet they’ve shot horribly from the line. They rank last in the NBA at free throw % as a team and at the bottom % with the 3 ball also. Recently with Wilson Chandler coming back they will be even more formidable. He adds instant offensive, a great athlete, and can play D. Just watch how things unfold in the next two weeks. I guarantee they climb the rankings from 6th to within the top 4.

    • RJ says:

      Agreed. And if McGee can make less and less plays that hurt his team, and more and more of the big plays that he makes, this team will definitely make a good playoff push.

  4. alessandro says:

    i’m a italian gallo fan ad i wish to the nuggets all the best they can have

  5. Fama says:

    I’m a Nuggets’ fan, but I don’t think they can win, they are just playing at home after a long road trip and we all know the home effect for this team.

  6. Game Time says:

    I’m not a Nuggets fan, but I love watching them play. They have a pretty complete team. I think if Iggy could just somehow become a 18-20ppg guy then they would be the 2nd biggest threat in the west, but they still can upset just about any team in the playoffs if they are taken lightley….Go Clippers!

    • RJ says:

      I think Gallinari will be that 18-20ppg guy consistently before long. Iggy’s their best player, and I think it’s great if he can just affect the game in various ways, and not expend all his energy trying to score 20 points, much like LeBron isn’t expending all his effort trying to drop 30 every game, and that way he can have a greater impact in other ways, while just scoring in the 20’s and that generally being sufficient.

  7. Roy says:

    This team is actually ridiculously stacked with talent and potential, who better to run the team than George Karl? Good luck to the Nuggets, I think they can make the second round personally. Just don’t see them going farther although I would like to.

    • RJ says:

      Yeah, I think people were forgetting they had Chandler out, too. They just went from a legit 10 or 11 deep, to maybe 12 deep. And he’s probably a top 5 player on this deep team. So they should really be looking as good as some of the higher expectations they had set for them now.

  8. Nugs says:

    Nuggets are looking so good! Now with Wilson Chandler back (14pt 6reb 21min in first game back) they are EVEN DEEPER! Gotta love it

  9. Kamote says:

    The Nuggets are basically a group or athletic players that’s functioning well as a unit. Though it would be very difficult for them to win a ring because the league is designed to make heroes out of Superstar players. That’s how the business goes, more focus than highlights than substance. But there are teams than have been able to break into the NBA “tradition” like the blue-collar Detroit Pistons back in 2004. Though its a long-shot, but team-oriented basketball can still survive. The West is tough though because of SAS, LAC, OKC and MEM.

  10. prix says:

    Nuggets have a long way to go…they beat the Clipps and could probably blo out the Lakers…Imagine a small budget team keep on winning than the Overthe cap team like the Lakers keep on losing…Denver is a strong willed team that greatly coached than the fakers keep on faking and Kobe just keep on shoting and keep on missing…what a disgrace

    • slider821 says:

      prix, this article is not about the Lakers, despite how much you want to hate on them in every comment you write.

      This is about the Nuggest having the toughest early season schedule and staying at .500 through it. Now they play their fair share of home games and we really get to see what they’re made of. Can they take that 4th spot? I think so. The are a good team and I like what Ty Lawson is bringing to the point. If Gallo keeps his shooting up, they will be dangerous over the next 10 games.

      • 2e says:

        The Nuggets are hated because they are the dirtiest team to play against. I don’t have all of the statistics, but watching their game, you know that one or two players on the opposing team will end up with injuries. George Karl had mastered the play of injuring an opponent making it look like an inadvertent foul. They must be taking acting lessons, and I recommend strongly that the NBA count how many casualties are inflicted on opponents since the start of this season. I know that every time they play the Lakers, the Lakers end up with one or more of their players sidelined. This goes back a few years when the Lakers met the Nuggets in the playoffs, and Karl called it a physical game that must end with casualties.

      • TWizz says:

        @2e.. haha. You’ve got to be kidding me. A physical team would be the Grizzlies. Nuggets only SOMETIMES play physical. The only time I have seen a Laker get hurt when they played the Nuggets was the last game when Gasol got injured due to a clearly inadvertent hit from McGee.. Lakers fans are looking for all types of excuses as to why their team is playing bad, smh.

      • BIGMatta23 says:

        2e…right right right…So last time they played was it not Howard who flattened Faried and was given a flagrant 2?? Dirty Denver you say? I disagree