Underestimate Nuggets At Your Own Risk

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Overlooked is fine. Underrated? No problem. Neglected isn’t an issue with the Denver Nuggets even, because it’s a fairly easy thing to do at the moment. Coach George Karl and his bunch headed into their game Tuesday at Oklahoma City with the NBA’s second-longest active winning streak. Trouble is, that’s a distinction that’s akin to Sham’s “place” finish in the 1973 Kentucky Derby, what with the Secretariat-like Miami Heat out front chasing history.

But underestimate the Nuggets at your own peril.

Asked for the umpteenth time this week about Denver, its perceived shortcomings (no superstar to serve as “closer,” playing too fast a pace) and its prospects for reaching The 2013 Finals, Karl bristled a bit. “Definitively yes. I’m tired of the damn question,” he told a group of reporters at Chicago’s United Center Monday.

“First of all, 50 percent of all games are won at the defensive end – I think 70 percent of the games are won with your defense,” Karl said. “The go-to mentality, Ty [Lawson] has gotten good there, Gallo [Danilo Gallinari] has been very good there. Have they gotten into the echelon of a Kobe or a Lebron? I remember you all saying LeBron wasn’t a closer three years ago. Maybe two years ago.

“It’s about making basketball plays. It’s not about a guy making shots. It’s about stops, possessions and efficiency.”

The Nuggets knew they were going to be stronger in the second half of this season. They opened with 22 of their first 32 on the road and lost 14 of the roadies. Since then, though, they are 8-5 away from Pepsi Center and 29-7 overall. Their home mark is 30-3.

Denver leads the NBA in assists per game and in scoring points in the paint, a by-product of playing at the second-fastest pace. It ranks third in offensive rating (110.2) and 12th in defensive rating (105.2).

The improvement in defense can be traced to a good degree to Andre Iguodala‘s arrival. Karl stops short of calling him the best defender he’s ever coached only because he doesn’t want to “get shot” by former Seattle star Gary Payton. But Iguodala’s versatility, athletic ability and demeanor have been a huge influence.

“Any time you have a player you can put on the point guard one night, Kevin Durant the next night and probably, if he had to, [Carlos] Boozer [another night]… He can cover almost anybody on the court,” the coach said. “That’s a great luxury to have as a coach. I think his intensity, his focus is somewhat contagious to some of our younger players.”

The closer-by-committee approach, while it doesn’t five the Nuggets any one player who can reliably get to the foul line late in games, does afford them options.

How does Karl choose from game to game?

“It’s a combination of matchups, what has worked successfully as a play and what player is having a good game,” he said. “And do I want to make a decision or do I want to make a shot? If it’s a decision, you might put the ball in Andre’s hands because he’ll make the pass. I’d say Gallo, because of his size and length, to go get a shot within three seconds, you might put the ball in his hands. And Ty has gotten to be pretty good in situations where teams are giving soft pick-and-roll coverage. So it comes in different packages.

“I think that’s enough. I think it’s more than enough.”

The Nuggets players are aware of the limits being placed on them by outsiders, based on perceptions of what a Finals team should or must be. They like it about as much as Karl does.

“That’s all on how people view the game,” Iguodala said after Denver’s overtime victory against the Bulls Monday. “Sometimes fans, sometimes even players, they don’t know the game sometimes and they look at numbers or they use smoke-and-mirrors as far as who’s a top 15 player, who’s a top 20 player. I think we have guys like that on our team.

We can match up with anybody. I just think as a team we have to mature. And not feel satisfied with the regular season.”

77 Comments

  1. Claudio Nightengale says:

    Finally, an NBA team comprised of a coach that has the respect and the ears of his players not named Doc, Pop or Phil and doesn’t have a bevy of all stars and an MVP to cover his mistakes. What the Nuggets have is a true team. Almost like a college team with pro players. And they are an absolute blast to watch. Beat the Spurs or the heat? Why not? All those teams got their first championship at one time or another with the doubters and the haters in the front row!

  2. ami_wolverine says:

    Iggy is the best even before he was in Philly.. finally he’s in a team he could execute his abilities the most. I’m always impressed keeping Iggy good minutes and not producing much. It’s because he can bother great shooters. Defend stars, like KD where he was able to limit KD from producing 30+. OKC can’t win if they score less than a hundred on the last 2 min mark. And I won’t forget how the Manimal threw down a big alley-oop over howard. That was so awesome!! ☺ Go Nuggets.

  3. Sonics 4 Life says:

    I wish the Nugs/Heat hadn’t played their 2 games so early in the season. They are the two hottest teams right now. I would love to see them play now rather than hope for an unlikely finals match up.

  4. CODoubleDiamond says:

    2012-2013 6th Man of the Year award goes to………………………………………………….

    The Denver Nuggets

  5. They are the 2004 Detroit Pistons, except less capable defensively but way faster.

  6. religiously says:

    no team can beat the nuggets. nuggets beat every team at least once in the nba besides miami.

  7. will says:

    no one respects us or believes in us but that doesn’t matter to us cause we’ll show them with our solid team play and humility! Great original article.

  8. J-Short says:

    Denver is playing ball right now no one wants to see them in the playoffs win or loose that is a 6-7 game series no matter who they play in the west.

  9. Fundamentals > Flash says:

    Being a Spurs fan, I love to see team basketball played and teams like that winning games. Denver is doing great right now and even without a true superstar I think they can head into the 2nd round, and possibly the WCF depending on who they’re facing. My money is still on the Spurs for the West and Duncan gets a 5th ring this year, but Denver is definitely one of those team that you’re gonna have to look out for. And in regards to a superstar, you don’t have to get them via free agency. I think JaVale McGee could become one if he starts getting more minutes.

  10. NBA fan says:

    I think the Denver Nuggets have a pretty good chance on beating the Miami Heat. No matter who plays on Lebron or Wade they are going to get their points regardless, Just like Durant and Westbrook did yesterday. The Achilles heel of the Heat is rebounding. it has always been since Lebron has been there. Birdman definitely doesn’t help on that either. probably makes it worse. Nuggets bigs will absolutely thrive and take advantage of any match the Heat bring. You already know Faried will get those offensive bounds too. Denver Nuggets VS. Miami Heat 7 games.

    • Azriel says:

      The Heat have already beaten Denver twice this season. And that was way before the Heat turned it up and started the streak. They don’t even have Dwade in one of those 2 games. The Heat is playing great basketball right now. Its not just Lebron and Wade who are having career games. Most of the games can be credited to the coaching and the bench. Its a total team effort. Denver is playing great right now but I don’t think that says anything about them beating the Heat in a series. I don’t see them scoring enough or defending enough to win against the heat.

      • Chris says:

        I thought season games didn’t matter when teams beat the heat, why should it work the other way around

      • O-I says:

        Denver didn’t have their identity at that poin, they were still getting used to each other. Nuggets can take em now

  11. Mustaphar says:

    This team is OKC of last year with James Harden i honestly don’t think they will win but the western conference finals for sure

  12. Mustaphar says:

    Not Deep enough you say? their beach decimates opponents to the point that most times the bench finishes of teams in big games case in point Andre Miller against OKC

  13. nba says:

    On a side note. As an NBA fan i would not want to watch dunking highlights of a team that lost. It encourages players to play the “bad” way.

  14. Keon R. says:

    Denver seems to be the one team out there proving that you don’t need the “big three” formula to be a contender in this league.

  15. Esteban says:

    Yeah, beat OKC and San Antonio, make the path easier for the great Miami Heat.

  16. ohohhhohhh says:

    im tired of people saying that they will lose in the playoffs.. blah blah you can say whatever you want.. but surely they will do a lot in the playoffs.. watch the game vs memphis where they play slower pace because of memphis is the best defensive team on the nba probably.. and they won!

  17. terryalancrews says:

    The league has been overlooking Denver for years but people are starting to really a great basketball team when they see one. Denver will go under-the-radar for the rest of the season and come playoff time they will reach at least the Western Conference Finals. Also Coach Karl should win coach of the year, he has deserved it for 20+ years

  18. Trevor Dylan says:

    Why does one need a Superstar? That is the most absurd bunch of garbage I’ve ever heard. This team can score (in the paint) OKC relies on jump shots. Charles Barkley said you can’t go far like that and he is right. The Nuggest beat the Heat last year alot in the regular season. I would love to see those two teams in the finals. It would be way more interesting than OKC vs. Miami. Miami would probably sweep OKC again.

  19. John says:

    If Nuggets can get to the 3 seed before the season ends their chances of going to at least the conference finals skyrocket. They would most likely blow out the Rockets or Warriors i they caught them. However, a series against the Grizzlies or Clippers will be tougher. If they can get out of the first round without expending too much energy, then their chances against sa or okc in the second round will be much better. I believe they will reach the 3 seed.

  20. jawoparin says:

    wow, this team reminds of the 2004 pistons. they may not have a superstar, but as a team, really, just wow. O_O

  21. David says:

    Nuggets will not make it further then 2nd round in the playoffs. They aren’t in depth enough to win it all. Yes scoring off fast break points are efficient but its not good enough to win it all.

    • What? says:

      Aren’t in depth? They are the MOST DEEP team in the league!!! The best PG combo with Lawson-Miller. Wilson and Brewer come in off the bench and tack up points. McGee is good off the bench too. They don’t miss a beat when the bench comes in. I’ve seen games when Denver’s bench saves the game. Denvers whole philosophy is that they are a complete deep team! This was the most ignorant comment I ever read. Have you watched ANY Nugget games? Idiot!

      • 34yr fan says:

        ….”Aren’t in depth” ???? …..are “the MOST DEEP” …… Hey, what ‘s going on here with thie>>>>>

  22. Bstarr says:

    Go Nuggets & George Karl !!! Heat fans are becoming too arrogant lately. Yeah call me a hater, I don’t mind. Nuggets are showing what real b-ball is about. No need to make it a hollywood league just play the game!

  23. Mountain Man says:

    LeBron, Cobe, Durant, Melo, … are superstars.
    Nuggets is the TEAM.
    Except Kenneth, Iguadola, Ty, Callinari, Chandler etc the’re three big men, two of them Koufos and Javale surprise with mature game,
    and don’t forget that nuggets have the worst persentage at free throws.
    Finally, living at more than 2700 meters, altitude of Denver is another weapon for Carl.

    • Mytownla says:

      Honestly, if the letter “C” was next to the letter “K” on a keyboard, i could see why u spelled the Mambas name that way, but since its not, you need NOT to ever speak basketball again, EVER!!!

    • E.C. says:

      LOL Lebron is a superstar and Nuggets are a team but dont forget the nuggests are playing miami (a team) not lebron.

  24. z says:

    a very deeeeeeeep team and they play aggressive in all the games they have, just look at faried. George Karl is very fortunate to be able to coach such a team. I think they may have a chance to be able to get to west finals.

  25. Mark says:

    IF the nuggets are to become a more DOMINANT team the head coach have to trust McGee more. Its obvious he doesn’t based on the plays that Denver run. Its going to show when they are face with teams that love and force you to play the half court set. Cut the pace Denver will loose the race.

    • 719-303 says:

      Yeah right javelle has only been with denver not even a year idiot & he with the 6th most winning coach in Nba history & he’s matured already if u actually watched nba & don’t just put bold statements out there u would know McGee didn’t even like playin with the wizards he’s havin crazy fun with the nuggs right now & in time, george will trust him more. He said he’s happy because there winning….. that’s what matters!!!

    • What? says:

      When McGee plays 20+ mins 14-11 less than 20 33-11

  26. pasigiri says:

    “It’s about making basketball plays. It’s not about a guy making shots. It’s about stops, possessions and efficiency.”

    EXACTLY!!!! To many people get caught up in hype. Everyone is like “Look at Miami, oooo OKC, what’s with the Lakers” while teams like Denver and San Antonio crush people in the back room off camera by doing exactly what Karl said: “It’s about making basketball plays. It’s not about a guy making shots. It’s about stops, possessions and efficiency.”.

    If you stick to this, you wouldn’t need a clutch shot much less even be in that position.

  27. Kamote says:

    That’s how the team is wired, that’s how Karl leads his team… play unselfish basketball, take advantage on mismatches, and give the ball to the hot hands. Miller once led the Cavs after Kemp, Iggy has been the Sixers man after Iverson. Gallo and Lawson can be a franchise player to any bad team or a 2nd/3rd option to good teams. Faried’s ceiling is still has to be defined (imagine if he’s with CP3 instead of DeAndre or Blake). This team has a great mix of solid veterans and high-potential young players, plus lead by a great coach. I just hope the officiating wouldn’t be giving much “VIP treatments” to star players come the playoffs.

  28. oliver says:

    denver? will see in playoffs……

  29. Arcek says:

    So far DENVER has won the season series against every single WEST playoff team. They tie MIAMI fot the best home record in the NBA nad are only a half game back from the number 4 spot in the WEST and the home court advantage. So I don’t think that they will loose in the 1st round. If they keep playing like they are now and remain focused they can go on a serious push in the playoffs. Although out of the two games against MIAMI, they lost both, so I would take enormous effort for them come away victorious from that series.

  30. gallopuzzaspaghetti says:

    i love this team

  31. Referee says:

    Yah dey’re on a roll right now..the scheduling helps as well with tons of home games especially aftr the all-star break and dey’re all high on confidence ryt now..dis team is just fun to watch with their run & gun type of play dat produced alots of highlights reel and wins of cors.. More or less d same team as Phoenix Suns b4 under coach Mike D’ Antoni..A very good team in the regular season but in the playoffs,they will choke under pressure..Playoffs is generally a grind it out and a slower type of game and dey dont have that type of player as well that closes the game for you..

  32. like phily says:

    Don’t you think that this year denver looks like a last year philadelphia. No superstars, balanced ofense and … crazy stats, hmmmm, even AI was on that team (i’m not sure if any other guy as well). They went fishing because of Boston… the team i believe filled with so-called superstars (with ray allen). I don’t think they are going more than conference semi’s. Otherwise, there are still a lot of shaqtin a fool to come this year.

    • dattebayo says:

      They are not like Philly at all. They play a completely different style and they are much better defensively, they are much deeper and they don’t rely on bad players like Evan Turner to score points. They also have the best home court advantage in the league.

      And for goodness sakes, Philly was an 8th seed that barely made the playoffs in the East, the Nuggets are on their way to homecourt advantage in the West.

  33. MAD NUGS says:

    Denver Nuggets is playing some sick ball. They are doing really well!! For a team like Nuggets and getting a win streak of 13, its a very good achievement!! GOOD JOB NUGGETS, AND KEEP THE STREAK ROLLING!!

    #NUGGETSISTHEBEST

  34. Referee says:

    Yah dey’re on a roll right now..the scheduling helps as well with tons of home games especially aftr the all-star break and dey’re all high on confidence ryt now..dis team is just fun to watch with their run & gun type of play dat produced alots of highlights reel and wins of cors.. More or less d same team as Phoenix Sun b4 under coach Mike D’ Antoni..A very good team in the regular season but in the playoffs,they will choke under pressure..Playoff is generally a grind it out and a slower type of game and dey dont have that type of player as well that closes the game for you..

  35. Wayne Turner says:

    Early days.But,my dream NBA Finals series this season is:-

    Heat (Team Of Champions) vs Nuggets (Champion Team).

  36. ko0kiE says:

    I like the nuggets style of playing hard and run the floor, haven’t missed many games on lp
    .igoudala and the improvment of faried really helped.. and they have some big bodies with koufus, mcgee and mozgov and of course a nice backup pointguard in miller.. and some bench player play great atm. chandler and brewer really stepped up..

  37. Aram says:

    Good team, but still has a lot to prove if this is for real.

  38. Gio says:

    denver is playing some CRAZYYYYYYYYYY EXCITING BALL. However, in a playoff series, i dont see them getting past the 2nd round.

  39. KalD says:

    I’ve been watching George Karl coach for over 20 years and I give credit to his abilities. He took the Sonics to the finals in 1996 and he is good at unifying the team……. Melo would’ve done good had he stayed.
    Even though without a title, Karl ranks up with the Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan.

    • 34yr fan says:

      George does a phenomenal job and will go down in history as one of the best, with or without a title !! …Sloan doesn’t have a Title?!?!?!? What do you mean? I know of a Coach from a team that George played for in the day that DOES have a title, though…………… in fact, he has FOUR !!!

  40. LBJ says:

    Playoffs: Trust me they will loss 1st round.

  41. remy says:

    13. no star. no problem. TEAMNESS

  42. W/E says:

    Yes, the Denver are OWNING BIG TIME, they can SLAUGHTER AND HUMILATE ANY team in the league with their team play, come playoff time they will be the most dangerous team with their insane scoring ability in the paint.

    • TheStarMiddleschooler says:

      Heat?
      Cant say OKC…
      Pacers?
      Clippers?
      Knicks?
      Nets?
      Warriors?
      Blazers?
      Rockets?

      • DodgersLakersTrojansAllDay says:

        They have beaten OKC twice in the last 20 days, the clippers, the knicks, the hawks, the frizz and the blazers. That’s 4 of the 9 you listed.

      • KareemoftheKrop says:

        You can’t say OKC but you say the Nets and the Blazers and the Rockets. Get a brain.

      • 34yr fan says:

        …have to wait until …High School………..I guess !! lol

      • LakersWillWin says:

        They beat Miami earlier in the season.

  43. Nuggets Rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :)

  44. Chris says:

    No superstar and still destroying teams? Where do I sign up for the Denver fan squad? Haha, in all seriousness though it’s been a blast to see what Denver’s doing. They lucked out with Iggy and Faried is just a beast. Also loving the production of Lawson and Chandler, my money is on San Antonio for the west but I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing Denver taking a trophy

    • KunJayMaster says:

      Ok well, Superstars are only a few, but they have many great players. Iguoadala is an elite defender and great athlete, ty lawson one of the quickest point guards in the league, Gallinari all around great player, Faried…well they dont call him manimal for nothing and probably the best benches in the NBA right now. Of course along to a great coach Karl.

      • but they don’t have a franchise type caliber player….they only have great team chemistry…unlike the lakers who had everyone on their starting lineup become a franchise star player at one point in their career…including their Sixth Man Antawn Jamison…I’ve got a feeling the nuggets are gonna catch everyone offguard

      • 34yr fan says:

        well said…… I think Denver is a team that no one will Want to face in the 1st Round–(or any round)—if they continue to play with the intensity and poise that they showed last night against OKC…..AT OKC !!! …………..What a game. PS: Team chemistry will Trump a superstar laden team without chemistry in the playoffs …Anytime !!!

      • Chris says:

        thats why it’s so impressive. They know eachothers strengths and weaknesses and compliment eachother in those areas. It’s a thing of beauty to watch, shame I can’t really see too many of their games here in LA because Denver has really been a sight to see

    • LakersWillWin says:

      I wouldn’t want to run into Denver in the playoffs, that’s for sure. They definitely have a shot of getting out of the west. An amazing coach, solid inside presence/size… Speed/transition… I’m not quite sold yet on if they can get out of the west, but any teams they face they are going to be exhausted if they make it by Denver…