Sunday, April 23, 2006

Now The Nuggets Are Ready To Play

(FortCollins-CO) I knew from the way that the game started that the Nuggets were not going to win. Hell, I knew after losing four straight that they were not going to be ready for game one. Why you might ask? My reply is that you just can't flip intensity on and off like a light switch. Momentum is as sticky as molasses and most often times dictates how you start something after finishing another. The Nuggets came out flat and found themselves down by nine going into half time. Not an insurmountable lead by any means, even though it would balloon up to 16 at one point in the second half, but it was clear indication that the Nuggets put 85 octane in the tank to finish the regular season when they should have been refueling with 93. So now after a 89-87 loss, and allowing the Clippers to win their first playoff game in nine years, the Nuggets are finally getting all that cheap gas out of their engine and are going to be ready with a full tank of premium for game two. Bet on it, the Nuggets are going win on Monday night. Here’s why.

Carmelo Anthony had a terrible shooting night, as well as the rest of the Nuggets, and only scored 25 points on 9-26 from the floor. Anytime that a player scores less points than the number of attempts they shoot you know that they had a tough night. The Nuggets as a team only shot 38.5%. His only other offensive support was from Andre Miller who scored 25 points in symmetry with ‘Melo and passed out six dimes. The rest of the team only accounted for 37 points. A gruesome and telling statistic that proves that the Nuggets were the victims of a very lack luster offensive performance. All things considered, the Nuggets will have an improved offensive showing in game two. Expect them to score 100 or more on Monday in a fury of fast break explosions that leave the Clip-show out of breath and out of reach of game two. In this game, the Nuggets only scored four fast break points in the second half and looked like a fish out of water. One positive point to mention was that Denver only turned the ball over seven times while only allowing the Clippers to capitalize for eight points.

The Nuggets did fight back with valiant defensive efforts to keep this one within striking range with a couple of big-time ten or more to zero scoring surges, but in the end it was too little too late. The consistent intensity and defensive cockiness was elusive through various stretches of the game and with the game on the line in the final minute, the Nuggets were out of gas. Carmelo had a chance to tie up the game, but threw up an air ball on his first chance to be the hero. The ball was tipped out of bounds to Denver and Carmelo had been given a mulligan. Unfortunately the second chance at redemption was also not to be.

One stat that I did take from the game was that the Clippers were the best team in the league at shutting down the fast break in the regular season. I did not know this going into game one. The Nuggets are the best fast break team in the league. I did know this, and this shows that the Clippers exercised their will on the Nuggets, thus materializing the win. Expect this to change dramatically in game two.

So why do I believe so strongly that the Nuggets will snatch game two? Because they were close enough to sniff victory this time and are probably getting tired of hearing all the buzz about how ‘Lucky’ they are to be where they are. The Nuggets are going to come out of the locker room on Monday with a sour taste on their palate and a swagger that is comparable to the second match up between Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang. Already have being blasted in the lips once, now the Nuggets are going to be ready to play. I don’t know why this team needs this type of pressure, but they relish it. It is sometimes the only thing that can get them appropriately juiced up to win games.

There are no statistics to point to, no deep analysis, and certainly no finger pointing in this one. The Nuggets as a TEAM need to step up to the call of duty and get game two. With a game two win, the Nuggets have a chance at winning this series. Without it, well there is no point in speculating without it because they are going to be ready. Get your Journey’s Greatest Hits album out, because it’s going to be “Eye of the Tiger” time on Monday night.

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