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Melo-less Nuggets lose third straight. What does the future hold?

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Carmelo Anthony has missed the last three games due to his sister's death. The official word from the team is that he'll return "after Christmas." Doesn't much matter when he gets back to the team -- games with balls are of microscopic importance in comparison. For those of us with less to deal with at the moment, these last three games have been an interesting look at the future of a team that will soon lose Melo for good.

The prognosis? Pretty good, actually. All three games since Melo left have been losses, true. And while there's no shame in falling short against the Spurs and Thunder, yesterday's game against the woeful 76'ers left a lot (of defense) to be desired. Still, the Nuggets were in all of these games. In fact, they had second-half leads in all three.

Maybe that's the exact cause for concern -- Melo's ability to score at will might have been able to salvage one or two of those games. But we saw a team plenty capable of dropping jaws. JR Smith had that ridiculous three-sixty layup against San Antonio, Ty Lawson made people look silly, and Nene is playing the best basketball of his life. Even though they won't get very good value on Carmelo, the Nuggets look like a team with plenty of exciting pieces.

Shore up the defense, keep JR out of foul trouble and avoid major injuries, and the Nuggets won't be out of very many discussions whether Melo is here tomorrow, next week, or not at all.

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