(Boulder-CO) Many of you may remember that I predicted the Nuggets to win 50 games in last year’s season. And I do have to admit that my prediction was a touch optimistic as the Nuggets finished 45-37, one win better than in ‘05-’06, but not so bad, if I do say so myself, with all things (trades, suspensions, injuries) considered. But today when I was thinking about the team’s overall outlook it dawned on me that I may have been more accurate in last year’s prediction than my five-game over-estimation first seems.
For starters, allow me to preface that regardless of how persuasive my position may or may not be the fact remains that the Nuggets still only won 45 contests last year. However, it is my contention that the Nuggets really were a 50-win team, just like I predicted, despite five completely fluke losses.
Right off the bat we all have to remember the state of the NBA at the beginning of last year’s season. Commissioner David Stern was cracking down on whining, face-making, and politically correct discussion with the officials which led to what I believe was critical in the Nuggets losing the first of the five games that kept them from hitting the 50-win mark.
The first game of the season
was mired in controversy as Sam Cassell was permitted to jaw with the officiating crew all night long, especially at a critical time in the game where he was whining at nausea, whereas Carmelo was hit with two quick technical fouls and the early shower. Cassell was never called for a technical which would have surely sealed the game for the Nuggets and they ended up losing that game by one point, 96-95. The record will always show the Nuggets losing this game, but for my purposes, let’s mark this one down as a win that slipped away.
The second game that the Nuggets let slide was their first match-up with the New York Knicks in the third game of the season.
Denver had a five point lead with just over a minute to go, but after Stephon Marbury hit a desperation three and Eduardo Najera threw a soft outlet pass to J.R. Smith, one that would have led to the game winning dunk, Jamal Crawford nabbed the Najera pass and cashed it in for another three-pointer with only three seconds left and the Nuggets were left scratching their heads. It was a stunning way to lose the game and an even worse way to start the season 0-3.
The third case standing in the way of what could have been a 50-win season is the overtime collapse against the former New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets on February 7th.
The Nuggets displayed no understanding of the game’s situations and lacked the killer instinct to dispose of the Hornets on their way to blowing a ten-point lead with less than three minutes remaining. The Nuggets proceeded to lose in overtime, 114-112, after their spirit was broken. The only reason why I’m including this in my little rant is because this game SHOULD have been won quite easily, but rather will go down as a sloppy loss.
The fourth and fifth losses that were just plain heart breakers came in March and should still be fresh in Nuggets fans’ minds. The fourth disappointment
came when a board crashing Tyrus Thomas tipped in the game winner at the buzzer in Chicago. It should be noted that Marcus Camby left in the third quarter with back spasms and did not return; thus leaving the Nuggets vulnerable on the offensive glass. Ouch! Needless to say, Nuggets fans could do nothing as an exuberated Thomas jumped up and down at half court after he had realized what he had done.
And not to be forgotten is the, “Prayer at the Palace”,
when Rasheed Wallace went glass from 65’ to force overtime and the Nuggets lost in yet another heart breaker. When Marcus Camby threw that errant pass and the ball landed right in Rasheed’s hands I just knew that he was going to connect on the heave and just recalling that game puts an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
Count ‘em up and discredit them if you wish, but you have to at least admit that the Nuggets were standing by the window sill smelling the fresh pie of what could have been a 50-win season! My premonition was actually more accurate than it first seemed and if it wasn’t for the aforementioned misfortunes I might have been dead-on-balls correct.
So, with the NBA dog days of summer officially upon us and FIBA competition still a few weeks away, the Nuggets Nation is forced to sit, wait, ponder, debate, and predict how this year’s improved roster will fare. I for one will take these five games into account when predicting how the upcoming season will unfold and let’s just say that 50 W’s is just the beginning of where I think this team is headed.
This post serves as an open thread for everyone's feelings about next year, so let’s hear some of your thoughts on last season and this year’s upcoming campaign in the comment section.