Blog Entry

Series Reset: Backs to the mountain for Nuggets

Posted on: April 23, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 4:57 pm
Posted by Royce Young

The Narrative:
Not only have the Thunder taken an all important 2-0 lead, but they did it while sort of crushing the Nuggets' spirits as well. Oklahoma City completely dominated Game 2, leading by as much as 26 while never letting the lead get under 10 in the second half. Postgame, Denver did not appear to have much confidence as it prepared to go back home.

The Hook: This is it for the Nuggets. Not only has no team ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, but this team looks ready to lay down if things go bad tonight. I don't think they will because George Karl doesn't tend to let that happen and the way they rallied together after the Melo trade really speaks to their resiliancy.

But this is their first crack in front of their home fans. That type of thing makes a big, big difference. Not only is there a good jolt of energy from the arena, but the Nuggets have the added advantage of playing a mile above sea level. Kendrick Perkins admitted after Game 2 that you definitely feel the difference for at least a quarter. The Nuggets need to use that and jump out to a good start on the Thunder, energize their arena and build some confidence.

The Adjustment: At this point, just forget about adjusting on Kevin Durant. The Nuggets tried doubling in Game 2, but that just opened the floor for OKC's role players who lit Denver up.

The main adjustment I see the Nuggets making is figuring out a way to unstuff the paint. The Thunder did a terrific job completely plugging holes in Game 2, forcing Denver to take all contested jumpshots. The Nuggets really thrive on inside-out play between Nene and the guards as well as penetration and kickouts from Ty Lawson.

OKC's defensive strategy is to turn you into a jumpshooting team. The Nuggets can survive in that regard if they're hitting -- like they did in Game 1 -- but if they aren't, it turns into ugly offensive basketball like in Game 2. Denver has to figure out a way to get players like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari going (just 3-14 combined in Game 2) as well as Nene, J.R. Smith and the "little guys," as Karl calls Lawson and Ray Felton.

The X-Factor: I went with J.R. Smith for Game 2. He was a major disappointment, playing just a few minutes and none in the second half. He's the constant X-factor for Denver though. If he gets going, he can carry them offensively at any point in the game.

But one player I see the Nuggets really relying on tonight is Danilo Galliinari. He just hasn't made a big offensive impact yet in the series and is the kind of player the Nuggets need to get going. He can score in bunches and carry them offensively in stretches.

Here's the guy the Nuggets are counting on though: Arron Afflalo. He missed the first two games and is someone that the team the Denver fans seem to really be trusting to make a difference. And he certainly can. He's a good shooter and a long defender to try on Durant. Question is how healthy he is.

The Sticking Point: My initial pick for this series was the Thunder in five games and everything is on track for that. And this is the game I see OKC having trouble winning. The arena will be fired up and emotional and the Thunder could have trouble finding a win on the road. This Thunder group needs to figure out how to win away from home at some point, but I just get the sense the Nuggets are going to find a little confidence tonight.

This is OKC's series to lose still and one win for the Nuggets could inject them with a bit of life and potentially push them to steal another game. A loss for Denver and this thing is entirely over. This game could swing the series a bit. Either the Nuggets will get back in it, or it's pretty much all over.

Since: May 25, 2007
Posted on: April 23, 2011 8:21 pm

Series Reset: Backs to the mountain for Nuggets

The Nuggets have a big challenge ahead of them.  They absolutely have to figure out how to defend their home court over the next two games, then figure out how to not get whalloped in OKC again.  They are a much better team than they showed in the first two games and that capability has to show up in their next game.  Lose just one in Denver and this series is history.  The Thunder undoubtedly smell blood, and it's not their own.  The Nuggets are a very deep team with no superstar. I'm sure Karl will figure out how to use this advantage to grind the Thunder down.  Especially in the mile-high city.  I expect the Nuggets to come out of the gates fast and hard to take advantage of this.  The Nuggets are a very good team that didn't show up for the first two games in this series.  I really like their chances, especially in Denver.

Since: May 3, 2007
Posted on: April 23, 2011 8:07 pm

Series Reset: Backs to the mountain for Nuggets

It appears to me the Thunder are in excellent position to steal one of these games in Denver, and close the deal upon their return to OKC.  They have totally dominated the Nuggets so far, even if the games were played at home.  I think the Thunder have a very good chance of ending this series in the next two games in Denver, but most likely take 5 games to pull it off.  Acquiring Kendrick Perkins has been huge  in building the mauturity of the Thunder players, and this seems to be really showing up now.  The Thunder could actually make a nice little run in the playoffs this year.  On a different note, I was really impressed Denver played so well after the Carmello Anthony trade.  I never would have thought they would make the playoffs this year.  George Karl is one heck of a coach.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 23, 2011 7:50 pm

Series Reset: Backs to the mountain for Nuggets

I still feel the Nuggets and Thunder are a pretty evenly matched in this series.  The Thunder were supposed to win the first two games at home.  The Nuggets are right where they're supposrd to be.  And their home advantage is a very substantial because of the altitude and their fan base.  This team plays much better at home than on the road.  Getting Aaron Afflalo back would be huge as well.  He's a key piece in their puzzle.  While the Nuggets got pretty much run over in Oklahoma City, the next two games should be very different for them.  I think the Nuggets come out with all cylinders firing and have an excellent shot at the next two wins in this series.  I would also like to congratulate the Thunder for their performance.  Man, they've come a long way in the past few years.  These are two of my favorite teams to watch.  I continue to think the Thunder still hold the edge in this series.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or