Don’t Count Out The Nuggets

HANG TIME WEST – This is new because it’s an injury. New because it’s an injury to Danilo Gallinari in particular, and because it’s the Nuggets in something other than an underdog role.

But this is the same.

Denver is in a bad spot, again. And probably, even understandably, they’re being dismissed again. Gallinari was the starting small forward, the team’s second-leading scorer, third-leading rebounder and that rarity of a dependable Nugget at the line. It is a huge loss for a team in the final days of a tense race for slots three-four-five in the Western Conference and heading to the playoffs after what had been a very encouraging second half of the season.

The player, the timing, the standings. So much just went wrong.

Losing Gallinari is obviously a setback, but these Nuggets are masters at shrugging at predictions of impending doom. There has always been something unique about this group in that way, a special personality trait since the Carmelo Anthony trade of February 2011 brought Gallo, Wilson Chandler, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov, among others, and established the core of a roster that already included Ty Lawson. Arron Afflalo was an important part of that, too, until being traded to Orlando before this season.

Once Anthony had leveraged his way out of town, the Nuggets would obviously fall off the map until the rebuilding process took effect. They clearly had no chance to compete with that post-trade roster. Easy call for the lottery.

Or not.

Immediately after the ‘Melo deal, Denver won 9 of 11 and kept winning. The guys with no chance for the playoffs made the playoffs with an 18-7 post-trade record, then lost in five games in the first round to Oklahoma City, becoming a road mark in the Thunder’s ascension.

Last season, Denver finished second in the Northwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference, just the spot to become the sparring partner for the Lakers in the first round. L.A. was bigger, stronger and more experienced. The Nuggets, though able to play much faster, had no chance. After losing the opener by 15, they were done.

Except…

The next thing anyone knew, it was Game 7 at Staples Center. The Nuggets evolved that series into a team that knew it could play with the best and sent a statement, even in defeat and elimination, that it had grown into a legit threat in the West moving forward. After acquiring Andre Igoudala from the 76ers in the summer deal that also sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers and Andrew Bynum to the 76ers, no one could question that.

They were no longer the team being counted out. A jagged start with a brutal road-heavy schedule the first half of 2012-13 gave way to the affirmation that the Nuggets really were good enough for the top four and home-court advantage at least in the first round, not at the Oklahoma City-San Antonio level, but clearly a team capable of a long playoff run.

And then came Thursday night at Pepsi Center and Gallinari planting on a drive down the lane in the second quarter against the Mavericks.

The immediate response — the 132-114 victory over the Rockets — could be dismissed as just one game, the Nuggets playing at home, Houston on the second night of a back-to-back, etc. Fair points. But people have spent years waiting for just one game to give way to the inevitable reality check, and look what Denver has done with those expectations in the past. Besides, that one game was against the possible first-round opponent.

There is no way to predict the Nuggets’ playoff fate without knowing the matchup, only that this team is not going to suddenly blow away in the wind. Getting Lawson back from a heel injury ASAP is obviously key, with no timetable other than the hope that he will return before the end of the regular season. But coach George Karl loves the fighting personality of this team. Somewhere, while wincing at losing Gallinari, they no doubt are loving whatever doubt just crept in.

38 Comments

  1. Nuggets says:

    oh a reminder to sanjay also that the Nuggets are 11-1 against western conference playoff contenders since the allstar break. Their one loss in that category is to the Spurs by 1 point. In other words, The Nuggets have a great chance of going far in the playoffs.

  2. One of the king's subject says:

    Do people really think Denver’s an underrated team because I believe it’s the players are underrated. Denver’s reputation is an up tempo team with great depth but I think if you think nuggets basketball the first person who comes to mind is Karl because he is an amazing coach. Only four players get real recognition and that’s igoudala, Lawson, McGee, and Faried.

  3. sanjay says:

    @mark,
    thanks for the explanation. So far I have not been impressed! They are good but nothing great yet!!
    will be interesting to see how they do in playoffs!

  4. Ziggy says:

    sanjay…you need to stop commenting on this subject. You obviously do not watch enough west coast games to even make a comment. The reason there is a cluster in the west is because the teams are better. There are two teams in the east. New York and Miami. You want to talk about boring…look at those two teams. They lack team depth and don’t have anything but their “all-star” cast. What happens when you put those all-stars against a full team that can continue to throw fresh legs in the game and still produce. George Karl is one of the best coaches in the league and prove s it every day with his team first and defensive mentality. Its about time the NBA got back to the basics. When you watch them you can’t be anything but amazed at how fun it is. So fast paced and high scoring. ally-oops coming out of no where constantly. We get it you aren’t a fan of a team who doesn’t have a player whose jersey you can’t find at a store in the mall. But that is what makes teams like denver special and fun to watch. So before judging denver and even memphis and indiana, who are actually nothing alike, off of a “few” games you have watched look at the results. The results show that the top teams in the west are better then most teams in the east. Trust me i have seen more than a few games of miami and new york. Not by choice either. They are the ones who get all the tv time. Those are the games to me that get boring. So just drop it man…you have your opinion and i think its clear most people who have seen more than a couple Nuggets games know how fun it is to watch. Plus who can’t love an underdog. GO NUGGETS!!!

  5. Mk19 says:

    Nugs need Ty Lawson in order to make that run. Losing Gallo hurts, but Wilson Brewer and Iggy focusing more on the offensive end helps there. The Kid Fournier will be good in this league, watch. I only hope come playoff, Karl gives him minutes cause he can shoot the 3 probably the best on this team besides Wilson

  6. miller time says:

    if andre miller goes down, then end of the story. as long as miller plays, nuggets are safe.

  7. Nuggets says:

    The Nuggets are way too underrated. And they like it like that. It motivates them. It hides them from the media. They are a legitimate threat. The energy and hustle that players like Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer, and Kenneth Faried bring far more to the table than the rest of the team’s stats than people realize. We haven’t needed many “go-to” guys because our games are rarely “close” games. We blow them out and run them out of the gym. Andre miller knows the game better than anybody else and George Karl gives the team the freedom they need to make smart team decisions. We have TWO coaches (miller and Karl). When our 3 point shooting isn’t working, we have Miller just lob something from half court. LOL to say the Nuggets are BORING is absurd. To say the Nuggets aren’t a threat is laughable. They’ve beaten EVERY team in this league (including Thunder) and other big teams…and they’ve done so in ways that humiliate their opponents. The team chemistry and maturity and confidence our team is far under recognized and it has been a great advantage to us as so called “hot” teams step into our building thinking they can slow our team down only to realize later that they don’t have enough juice. We don’t come in waves…our bench is too deep (even Fornier, Hamilton and Randolph). There is a constant attack pressure breathing down your back. You’re never safe.

  8. BH says:

    Pxyche_22 nailed it. The Nuggets are a similar version of the 03-04 pistons. No superstar’s, all of them star’s in their own way, contributing to the team. Hat’s off to Coach Karl man having this team playing such great team ball it’s amazing. Im 25 year’s old and have been a Nuggets fan since I was 6, and this is the most exciting Nuggets squad since the early day’s with Mutombo, Abdul-Rauf, Pack, etc. With the absence of Gallo it’s definitely a major blow but I believe they can overcome it. Miller has done a fantastic job running point with Lawson out showing his veteran leadership. Hopefully Lawson will be back to atleast 85-90% for the playoffs. Corey Brewer has been the difference maker for this ball club, brining instant offense but better yet his defensive tenacity. Definitely could be most improved player. I have always said that Wilson Chandler was the x factor depending on his health. Denver has always been the underdog, I believe that it’s their time to shine.

  9. bayesk says:

    I don’t know how Sanjay has such a misperception of the Nuggets, but anyone who’s seen even one quarter of a Denver game knows they are NOT Indy or Memphis.

    • sanjay says:

      not sure we are seeing the same thing. I saw them few times already and memphis too and indy as well. They all have only 2 variations. posting in paint and shooting 3’s! And are easy to figure out! okc will bury all these 3 with brook taking 60 shots and durant 45( on an off day!!!), if they happen to meet in the play offs. Not that I like OKC but who else to root for? Boring spurs again?

      The west has no chance with either team being too old and washed up or too novice with no ingenuity!

      Heat saved this boring season with that streak! And give some credit to NYk too!
      It is heat trophy to lose this year!

  10. Shawn Kemp No. 1 says:

    if Ty is 100% and playing like he did before he got injured, they are still very dangerous. However Gallo presented a big matchup problem for teams and played some great defense lately. He could also hit big shots and some tough threes out of nowhere, so they will miss him a lot. I wouldn’t give Igoudala the ball more, he is excellent when he doesn’t take too many shots, but they have some guys who can always step up. Brewer is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, no one ever gives him enough credit and he can go crazy hot and pretty much take over the game. Chandler has been balling recently and Fournier looks like he has the ballls to even play big games. Miller, Koufus and Faried are all playing great, if Ty and Gallo were healthy i wouldn’t count this team out against ANYONE. We will just have to see, but they will have more difficulties scoring without Gallo and remember he was good at drawing fouls and a good free throw shooter in a team that doesn’t have many good free throw shooters, they were like dead last at the start of the season and only recently improved in that statistic

  11. Sonic says:

    Shaqtin’ a Fool shows some of Denver’s highlights and George Karl’s face says it all at times. Despite that, it’s good to see them winning for a change. George Karl is a good at getting great results out of a pretty good team. He did it at Seatlle and is now doing it at Denver.

  12. sanjay says:

    denver cant bring it. they do not have a mid-range game. paint game and some 3 pointers and same goes for memphis who are worser and indiana who are a touch better there! IF miller has an off day, denver is done! clippers are the most entertaining team in the west but they have serious scoring lapses, so cant be expected to go all the way. Dallas are washed up worse than a burnt out programmer! lakers are old( change the name to hack saw jagger or something!). spurs are too mechanical! okc does not share the ball but can shoot the day lights out of all the teams above. They have no paint game and defense to match east coast teams, so they cant win the championship!
    Any east coast team that reaches final has a chance with favorite being heat. Nyc is also displaying excellent all round game. but they have to win the east first which is hard to see with king lebron going to work!
    if you change the clothes of denver,memphis I cant tell who is who!
    Most west coast teams play alike hence they are in a cluster from 3 to 8!

    • MARK says:

      Are you kidding? Memphis and Denver are nothing alike. Denver plays at a fast pace, Memphis at a slow and calculated pace, Memphis is more of fundementals team, and Denver more of a fastpaced entertaining team. Denver doesn’t have a midrange/shooting game? Please tell that to Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer who can all shoot well. Just because they have a great downlow prescence in Javale Mcgee & Kenneth Faried doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot going for them all around offensively. Yes, defensively we can see the similarities because they’re both good defensive teams but they are nothing alike overall.

  13. This bruno from BORAT says:

    I wonder where are those laker fans yapping that their team is going to win 2013 Champs??? What??? No Lakers playoffs????

  14. Pxyche_22 says:

    I firmly believe that this nuggets team resemble the detroit pistons of 2003-2004 but more on the offensive end though their defense not bad too. They are a very resilient bunch and with coach George Karl manning the bench, they can beat any team on a best of seven series, and that includes the miami heat and the okc thunder. They may be the underdog against these 2 teams, but hey, they can’t be counted out…

  15. Lincoln says:

    I’ve been a Nuggets fan since 2007 (I’m a New Zealander) and over that time this team has changed Dramatically. One thing that hasn’t changed is George Karl and I’ll tell you what, injuries or whatever as long as he is there this team is a contender. He gets skills and tactics out of his players no other coach can get.

  16. Iggy Fan says:

    Igoudala needs more ball time he was a star in thr 76ers

  17. willie says:

    the nuggets are the best team the past decade…. there are no other team better than them ….
    at losing in the first round that is …hahaha… :)
    this season is no different. they are so consistent at what they do that they will again be 1st rounders.

    i like the team though, but still, without gallo? …hmmm

  18. Victor Manoel says:

    Go Nuggets! Fast pace and dunks a plenty! I hope they get to the Western Conference Finals! :)

  19. Rucker says:

    Worst call ever saying the nuggets are boring and play the same as memphis/indiana.
    CLEARLY doesnt watch NBA.

  20. rob says:

    wilson chandler > danilo gallinari

  21. Johnson says:

    The denver nuggets get no respect from anyone anywhere to me that really makes no sence HELLO THEY ARE THE THREE SEED IN THE WEST!!!! whever says we dont have a star is out of their mind Ty lawson is our all star he can hit big shots he can blow by anyone then you got the dynamic duo down low in Javale Mcgee and Kenneth Faried Pure hustle and pure athletes we have all kinds of clutch scores remember TY lawsons game winner against the Thunder what about brewers three and then three free throws to bring us back from 5 down in 10 seconds loosing gallo will hurt but its all about Next man up Chandler will step into the starting role and he will step up brewer will step up Even Fournier will step up and ty lawson will lead us to victory

  22. stevebkelly says:

    Oleg you are absolutely right. I am Knicks fan but the Nuggets are one of the most fun teams in the NBA to watch! Up and down lots of scoring, Manimal, what is not to love? Still have love for my old Knicks too

  23. brian says:

    wow, you obviously have not watched one minute of nuggets basketball in the last 2.5 seasons.

  24. sanjay says:

    the nuggets and the memphis both play same style of boring basketball mimicking east coast indiana team. All these 3 teams do not have the X factor to be a championship team!
    Since most of the teams are bereft of all round skills and spurs are too fundamental and not young enough to change the course of thunder vs miami meeting again. And cant stop miami whooping thunder again….!

    • Oleg says:

      I completely disagree with you statement – “boring basketball”? Most likely, you are not Nuggets fan, and do not watch there games on consistent level. Nuggets are FUN to watch with their depth, fast breaks and becoming better and better chemistry.
      Championship team? May be not, but who knows…

    • derickrosefan1 says:

      Loll you’re not watching the same nuggets I think because their game are all but boring just watch the recap of them vs houston you’ll see what I’m talking about they are an athletic team that play fast and strong with nice defense u have to like you can’t say its boring

    • The.Roof says:

      You couldn’t be more wrong. Do you watch basketball? The Nuggets have the most entertaining and fastest pace in the league. They lead the league in dunks and 3rd in the league scoring. The Pacers and Memphis are a boring teams. Nuggets are the most entertaining. Can they be Champions….That remains to be seen. But to say they are boring is asinine.

    • Dumafuji says:

      What the what? You have never seen the nuggets play. Clearly. Get back on that biased east coast media tip. There is only Lebrun and kd.

    • Vince028 says:

      How can you say that Nuggets game is boring if they have Javale Mcgee? tell me how?

    • Cullen says:

      yea wow, do even watch the games. One of the highest scoring teams in the NBA similiar to an east coast game. haha, get real

      • Nuggetsareboring says:

        I agree nuggets are boring and have no likable players really. You’re never gonna hear about Ty Lawson in 5 years or that annoying long haired h0m0 Kenneth faried(not sure I spelled his g@y name right).

  25. steppx says:

    wouldnt count them out at all. Anthony Randolph has really benefited from a year under Karl……and now we are seeing why Karl loves Fournier so much. Those two are actually guys who probably should have played a bit more but they just didnt have space in the rotation until Gallo went down. Now…….no mistake, Denver is better with Gallo, he’s a match up nightmare, but…….Randolph can give you quality minutes with that same length, and Fournier is arguably a guy who gives you more in places than crafty vet andre miller. Karl rightly trusts miller, but Fournier getting extra time come playoff time is actually a good thing.

    • Faisal says:

      I agree completly except that I doubt George Karl will give much minutes to Fournier when Ty Lawson comes back from injury

    • Fournier is actually a really good player….not only does he bring quality minutes, his scoring total is higher than his minute totals…and that says alot…he could be a star if he works harder in the NBA

    • countTHEMout says:

      Denver is a very good team but not a championship contender. They can’t beat GRIZ,SPURS and probably not even the CLIPS in a 7 game series so they may go out in the first round. 2nd round would be something for them to be proud of. They just don’t have a superstar or stars to take them to the next level. You have to have that to beat superstars in a 7 game series. Sure they can beat anyone on any night during the regular season. So can the wizards. But 7 game series is a whole new ballgame. Denver reminds me of Griz in that they are really good but lack the 1 or 2 superstars to be elite. They are like a whole team made up of really good bench players who play well together if that makes since. Its gonna go down just like last year. WCF= THUNDER/SPURS then MIAMI/THUNDER in finals and sadly Miami will probably beat the thunder again.