Maybe hearing the "94 percent of teams down 0-2 end up losing" stat last night shook the Nuggets a bit. Who knows. But they definitely have taken a pretty big blow to their confidence. A team that had bonded together and rode some serious us-against-everyone swagger post-Melo seems to be losing some steam.
Last night's whipping dealt to them by the Thunder certainly doesn't help, but postgame, there was a clear change in the way the team spoke and acted, starting at the top with George Karl. In his postgame comments, Karl was very quiet and let out a statement I found interesting.
"For me, it's Saturday night. We've got to worry about Saturday night. Win that game. Thinking about other stuff is goofy. Two days is good enough time to regroup and re-energize and get our confidence back in to a better place."
It's really just that last phrase that stuck out. Karl seemed to admit the team's confidence has been rattled. It's a little hard to blame them tough. In the past 20 days, his team has dropped four games to the Thunder by an average margin of 10.7 points. Plus one of them coming in their building.
The Nuggets had a team meeting on Thursday and Smith said the team didn't have "a pulse" as they regrouped at Pepsi Center.
"Just frustration, just really didn't have any life in there," Smith said. "No one was really into it."
Smith though was either so downtrodden about the psyche of the team or the fact he didn't play in the second half last night (or both) that he made a bold statement that he wouldn't be coming back to the Nuggets next year.
"There's a strong possibility as of right now," Smith told the Denver Post. "It's not going the way I planned it to go. It's a tough situation. I want to be here, I love the fans and everything about the city. It's just maybe not my fit."
Now I realize you can't necessarily take things J.R. Smith says to heart, because he's J.R. Smith but his comments today really kind of followed up the feeling I got last night. Momentum and confidence are about two of the most important things there are when it comes to postseason basketball. A belief in yourself, your team, your gameplan and your ability to win in any circumstance is vital. It's the lifeblood to winning in the playoffs.
And a lot of that seemed to change when Kendrick Perkins was gifted two points in Game 1. Karl admitted he should've called a timeout because his team was rattled by the no call. Since that moment, the Nuggets haven't looked like themselves. There's probably being more made about this than is actually real, but the Nuggets have some of their players beat up and two of their best scorers dropped duds in Game 2 (Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari were a combined 3-14 for 11 points).
Perkins talked last night about taking it to an opponent when it's down. He was referring to the 26-point lead, but I think it applies just as much to OKC's 2-0 one.
"That's the time you're supposed to just start smelling blood and keep going. I think when you're up by that many points that's the time you're supposed to step on their throats and not give them a chance and go up 'bout 40 or 50. I ain't been there before and I know what team's are capable of doing. It just takes one 10-0 run or one 15-0 run and they're right back in the game."Give the Nuggets a game and you're going to find a team that's re-discovered its confidence. You're going to find a team ready to fight again and one that has a pulse. The Nuggets that rattled off all those wins post-Melo was one that had swagger, confidence and belief in each other oozing out of their ears.
The Thunder has the enemy down right now. As Perk said, time to stomp on their face, or something. Give Denver a game and you're about to give them a series too.