The Nuggets are perpetuating their lose three games, win four habit as of late. After blowing double digit leads in Utah and Golden State, the Nuggets just said “screw it” and lost to the Lakers in a blowout. Three losses. The Nuggets tried as hard as they could to make it four against Toronto on monday, but couldn’t resist the urge to give the game up, in spite of allowing a scrappy Raptors team to close within one point after being down by as many as 19. Yep, these are your 2012-2013 Denver Nuggets. A team destined by fate to lose three, and win four. It’s as if they’re so pissed at losing that series against the Lakers last year that they’re trying to practice coming back from three games. If the Nuggets continue on this pattern, they’d be on track for a 46-33 record, which sounds nice, if you play in the Eastern Conference. In the West, the 2010 8th seed won 50 games. In 2009: 48 games. In 2008: 50 games. If history is correct, the Nuggs will need to find a few more wins, something that this frustrating cycle doesn’t include.
The Nuggets will follow up their win at home by going on the road for a 5 game road trip. They face off against the Hawks, who have played four less games than the Nuggets and have had a majority within the confines of Philips Arena. The Hawks are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Cavaliers, snapping a six game winning streak of their own. They struggled to control the boards, giving up 18 offensive boards in the loss. Look for the Nuggets to assert themselves under the hoop and play to their strengths.
But the real focus for the Nuggets should be on the defensive end. The Nuggs are 0-7 when they give up at least 102 points. This includes their dreadful three point defense. The Nuggets will have to keep teams from hitting the long ball with quicker, smarter rotations and by playing the lanes to force turnovers. For a Nuggets team that’s already been the victim of a Dwight Howard three (how embarrassing), the message should be clearer than ever.
However, the Nuggets take a number of positives into their season-high five game trip. Danilo Gallinari seems to be finding his stroke from beyond the arc as of late, and has been successful late in the game at driving the lanes and getting to the line. Also, for a Nuggets team that is absolutely dreadful at the line, they were able to close out a game against their worst enemy, the free throw line. While the team overall FT% is a pitiful .670, the Nuggs can take some confidence into the next game after hitting 7 of their last 8 free throws, especially with the Craptors using the Hack-a-Faried strategy on the last play. The Nuggets also got inspiring performances from “energy guy” Corey Brewer, and a 15 minute glimpse at the second coming of JR Smith (Jordan Hamilton). It was Hamil-time indeed as he posted 8 pts, 5 reb and 2 ast in only 15 minutes of play. Hamilton makes some boneheaded plays, and can lose himself on defense occasionally but he is a strong rebounder at his position and is the most reliable Nugget from beyond the arc, shooting .407. The Nuggets need a strong defensive presence, but leaving Hamilton’s offense on the bench is tough, especially when teams crowd the paint against the dribble-drive.
The Nuggets match up against a surprising Hawks team that was supposed to be terrible after trading Joe Johnson to the Nets, but have been surprisingly successful (9-5). The Hawks are good, with PG Jeff Teague (13.7 pts, 7.2 ast) posting near identical stats to Ty Lawson (13.4 pts, 7.2 ast) and with Josh Smith and Al Horford in the frontcourt. Oh, and don’t wait for Kyle Korver to set up shop behind the arc, he’s posed for a good night against the Nuggs. The Nuggets will have to use their depth, because there aren’t many threats on the Hawks bench, unless Zaza Pachulia goes apeshit.
If the Nuggets can play their game, there’s no reason they can’t steal this away. Let’s beat the Hawks, oh, and for old time’s sake…