The Nuggets have made reaching the playoffs only to lose in the first round a tradition during the George Karl era. That was all supposed to change this year, though. Most wins in a single season since the Nugs joined the NBA. A third seed. Home court advantage against a team -- the Golden State Warriors -- that couldn't match up with Denver this year and had lost its only All-Star, David Lee. And yet, after another loss last night, the Nugs are on the brink of elimination.
What's gone wrong? Just about everything.
Conventional wisdom holds that a team with no go-to superstar will falter when the spotlight gets brighter. Conventional wisdom holds that a team built on running and transition buckets is roadkill when opponents actually start playing defense -- which they do only sporadically up until playoff time. Conventional wisdom holds that a team with an Achilles heel when it comes to the half-court game is not going to advance.
I hate conventional wisdom. But all too often, conventional wisdom is right.
No doubt the Nuggets have run up against a hot-shooting squad. Stephen Curry is a lights-out marksman from long distance, and the zone he's been in of late has been absolutely sick. That's how Nuggets fans feel again this morning after he put up 22 points in the third quarter in last night's 115-101 Denver loss -- and the final score makes the contest seem closer than it actually was.
But the larger issues are home-grown. The Nugs' new-hero-a-night formula, which was so exhilarating during the last two-thirds of the season, has worked exactly once in this series -- during game one, when Andre Miller went wild in the final quarter and stole a game Denver absolutely deserved to lose. But in game two, Warriors' shots seldom hit the floor without going through twine first, and while the perimeter defense improved for game three, the ability to hold a lead didn't -- leading to last night's debacle.
Now, the Nuggets must win three games in a row in order to avoid yet another first-round embarrassment. Thus far, the team has given fans no reason to hope that's possible -- and even if the players, by some miracle, accomplish this task, their weaknesses have been exposed in a way that's absolutely disheartening.
Look below to see highlights -- make that lowlights -- from last night's game, followed by George Karl's post-game remarks and comments from Steph Curry.
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An optimistic post from our Sports archive: "Denver Nuggets: Five reasons they will beat the Golden State Warriors."