The Denver Nuggets are making their typical late-season run. This time it has come in the form of a seven-game winning streak, part of a 14-3 record in games played since New Years. Look out West, here we come. Denver (.633 winning percentage) just grabbed 5th in the conference from the Warriors, and is in a virtual tie with Memphis (.638) for 4th. The Nuggets are up 2-1 on the Grizzlies in the season series.
The 7th win in Denver’s recent streak came Tuesday against the lowly Bucs, but featured a Nuggets 4th quarter comeback on both sides of the ball. Trailing by 10 early in the final frame Denver would go on to win by 8 as the Nuggets held Milwaukee to just 6 points in the last 6 minutes of the game.
As new players gel in George Karl’s up-tempo system we are seeing the Nuggets take a rare form. No other team in recent memory could claim realistic expectations of a playoff run without a single All Star on their roster, but the Nuggets are primed to ascend through the Western playoff field and make some postseason noise.
Denver works similarly to the their Eastern brothers – the Indiana Pacers. Both sport tons of depth and versatility. This build is the exact opposite of the recent trend to roster a Big Three and then fill up the bench with cheap role players. Indiana and Denver can both already claim 30+ wins on the season, but have nobody killing it night in and night out. (With the exception of Pacer Paul George who is more a beneficiary of a system than a solo scorer.)
Indiana does it with the top rebounds per game in the NBA and the 2nd best defense. Denver is locked into a tie with the Pacers at 45.4 boards a game, but generates wins with the 2nd most assists and 3rd most points per game in the league. The two teams are literally mirror images of each other.
So here’s the 2013 Nuggets in a nutshell: eight solid starters in a five-man game. Gallinari, Faried, Koufos, Lawson and Iguodala all start. McGee, Miller and Chandler could all start on most teams in the league. Add in 6th man Corey Brewer (who sports a Championship Ring from his brief sojourn to Dallas in 2011) and Coach Karl has a lot of talent and weapons at his disposal.
Depth is a blessing and a curse for Karl, who sometimes has trouble getting consistent defense out of his rotating lineup. Still, when your team is moving the ball as well as the Nuggets are right now you’ve got a chance to win on any given night.
Next Denver hosts the NBA’s best road team in the Chicago Bulls before embarking on their last big stretch of road games. The Nuggets will play 7 of their final 10 games this month away from the friendly confines of Pepsi Center. If they can put together a strong road run and continue to build their defense around Andre Iguodala’s superb perimeter play the Nuggets will be a tough out come April.