The Denver Nuggets are playing as well as anyone in the NBA right now and will seek to win their fifth straight game on Wednesday night versus the Houston Rockets. After a tough schedule and an up and down start, the Nuggets are finally in a good place.
However, fans of the Nuggets have been here before. For the past seven or eight seasons, the Nuggets have been a good to very good regular season team but have consistently flamed out in the playoffs. The question is will it be any different in 2013? The answer is yet to be determined obviously, but the signs are not great, and two of those signs are very apparent to anyone who watches the Nuggets.
In the playoffs, the game slows down and becomes a half court game that relies on execution and defense. The Nuggets are an up-tempo team that gets a lot of their points via the fast break and easy baskets, but those just aren’t there in April and May. The Nuggets also struggle shooting the outside shot, specifically the three-point shot, and that really hurts them in the playoffs.
There’s a reason the San Antonio Spurs are so good in the playoffs, they are historically the best half-court team in the league. The run their plays and consistently get open shots, and knock those shots down. When the running game is taken away from the Nuggets, they struggle to score and that’s a big reason for the early exits.
The one thing that might give the Nuggets some hope is the recent play of point guard, Ty Lawson. He is playing the best basketball of his career, and might be ready to step up in the playoffs. As well as Lawson is playing, however, the Nuggets do not have a low post player in the half court. Kenneth Faried is very good in transition but does not play well with his back to the basket. The Nuggets have others like Faried but no one who is a consistent threat to score in the paint, that’s a problem in the playoffs.
The Nuggets almost lost to the Indiana Pacers the other night because Andre Iguodala missed four free throws in the last minute of the game. If he makes even one of those, the game is well in hand. To Iguodala’s credit, he did make the free throw that won the game with four tenths of a second left but it’s a problem for the Nuggets. As a team they are shooting below 70% from the free throw line, and if they shoot like that in the playoffs, they will be golfing by the middle of May.
As we’ve talked about all ready, points are hard to come by in the playoffs, and you cannot give away free throws.
The playoffs are loaded with close games that almost always come down to half-court execution, and free throw shooting. If their opponents know that they can foul the Nuggets in the last two minutes of a close game, then it is going to be very difficult for them to win tight games. The Nuggets are built for the regular season with their deep bench and their ability to run, but those things just do not work as well in the playoffs. The playoffs are still two and a half months away but that’s all that matters for the Nuggets and their fans. They can win 50-55 games in the regular season; they’ve done that for the past few seasons. Can they win in the playoffs, time will tell.
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