Friday, March 8, 2013

The Team No One Wants To Play, Even Though They Will Lose

George And Mini George
Tonight on the late game on TNT in the Asso- ciation, the home-town Denver Nuggets more or less ran the visiting Los Angeles Clippers into the floorboards for a surprisingly easy, though not an actual blowout, win. Ty Lawson gave Chris Paul real trouble, Andre Iguodala continued his mid-season renaissance, Kenneth "Manimal" Faried had yet another double-double, the home crowd chanted for junk food and the Nugs are now 41-22. They run like greyhounds, score an absurd amount of points in the paint, go deep and athletic on the bench, and have the right body language of having each other's back. They could get home court in the first round if they pass Memphis in the stacked West.

They're the team no one wants to play in the playoffs!

And you will forgive me if for feeling a marvelous sense of deja vu about the whole thing.

Look, I love the way Denver plays ball. They are almost always two hours well spent. Lawson and Faried are two of my favorite players. If basketball were fair or truly statistical, you'd be able to build a true contender in this way, the same way that Houston's path to prominence is to be applauded. But the sad fact of the matter is that in eight of the last nine years, they have been a first-round loser, most of the time with Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant treating them like a beloved punching bag.

The problem is that Denver's game *always* folds in the money round. The longer TV timeouts ruin their run and gun altitude advantage, since the game is stopping much more often. The no-star offensive sets lose with repeat viewing, since you can start taking away their spots with exposure. Danilo Gallinari doesn't have the mid-range game -- hell, none of these guys shoot well outside of the paint -- to make the defense give space. They don't hit enough threes to win small possession games. George Karl has a long and storied history of not getting it done in the playoffs.

But by all means, folks, get fooled by the Game 60 Nuggets. Talk yourself into how dangerous they could be with home court. Ignore the history and get seduced by the youth, as if youth ever breaks through without top-tier talent in the NBA.

Me, I'll be waiting to bet for the team that's better in slowdown games. The one that has a better five, not ten. The one with a coach that adjusts over a series. And that's never, ever, the Nuggets.

But by all means, media, tell us how no one wants to play them!

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