The Denver Nuggets host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night seeking their franchise record 21st straight home win. A week ago, the Nuggets were possibly the most intriguing team heading into the playoffs; could they win going against decades of evidence that state you have to have a superstar to win in April and May?
Now after the season ending injury to Danilo Gallinari and the continuing concerns surrounding Ty Lawson, it seems as if those same people who were curious a week ago have now written the Nuggets off. Those who believe that might be right, but there is one player who can bring those people back. Let’s assume for our purposes that Lawson is near 100% when the playoffs begin and regains his pre-injury form. If that happens, then the key to a deep playoff run for the Nuggets is Andre Iguodala.
If the first game without Gallinari is any indication, then the Nuggets might be alright. Iguodala was terrific in the win over the Houston Rockets last Saturday night. He finished the contest with 18 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds. Those numbers are impressive, but they were not the most important aspect of Iguodala’s game.
For much of the season, as we mentioned after the win over the Rockets, Iguodala has been too passive and too unselfish. For whatever reason, he seemed reluctant to do the things that led him to being selected to the USA Olympic Team last summer. Maybe it was because he was on a new team and didn’t want to step on toes, but for the first 75 games Iguodala was not the same player he had been with the Philadelphia 76ers.
When Iguodala is aggressive and attacking the basket, he is a great player. Not a good player, a great player and that’s the guy the Nuggets need heading into the playoffs. If the loss of Gallinari brings the aggressiveness in Iguodala out, then that’s a positive that can come out of a bad situation.
Iguodala is not the shooter that Gallinari is, but when he plays with an attitude, he brings more to the Nuggets than Gallinari ever did or will. If Gallinari is not hitting from the outside, then his game really suffers. Iguodala, on the other hand, does so many things well so even if he’s not shooting well, he can still get to the basket. Iguodala has been great on defense all season, but if he can play offensively the way he did versus the Rockets, the Nuggets may not miss Gallinari as much as most people think.
The Nuggets versus the Spurs on Wednesday night, in reality, has little impact on the playoffs. The Spurs are sitting Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as they prepare for the postseason. It is an important game for the Nuggets, however, as they attempt to wrap up the third-seed in the Western Conference. For the Nuggets and their fans though, the biggest story is the play of Iguodala.
If he reverts back to playing passive and unselfish, then the Nuggets will struggle to get out of the first-round. If he plays with the attitude that he is the best player on the floor, then the Nuggets could be playing basketball deep into the spring.
Follow me on Twitter @Jemorrone7