As a lifelong Nuggets fan, I've grown accustomed over the years to waiting for the team to blow leads. But I don't think I've ever been so zen about the Nugs as last night, during their series-clinching victory over the Dallas Mavericks. My confidence was so high going in that I posted a blog declaring their victory about twelve hours before tip-off -- and even during that second-half Mavs run, when Jason Kidd started draining every three in sight, I didn't have the slightest doubt Chauncey Billups and company would have all the answers they needed, Allen Iverson to the contrary. And they did.
Now, the Nugs have a much more difficult mountain to climb: defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, who'll either advance to the Western Conference finals tonight (that's the likeliest scenario) or after game seven this weekend. Not only will the team give up home-court advantage for the first time in the playoffs, but they'll no longer have the sort of matchup advantages that were apparent against the Mavs and the New Orleans Hornets. (Example: With Andrew Bynum on the case, Nenê will have to work much harder to dominate in the paint.) Even more important, the Lakers have beaten the Nuggets so often and so handily in recent years that they've got to slay their psychological demons before they can get around to doing the same to Kobe Bryant and his crew.
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Not that I'm writing the Nuggets off. Before this post-season, I would have said the Nugs had no chance in hell of defeating the Lakers. Now, suddenly, anything seems possible.