You can forgive basketball fans for sleeping on the Denver Nuggets with March Madness and the Miami Heat stealing all of the headlines. But with Denver pushing their franchise-best winning streak to 15 games this weekend, it’s time for basketball fans to wake up and take notice.
One of the amazing aspects of Denver’s winning streak comes from the fact so many people wrote the team off after their dreadful 11-12 start to their season. What’s rarely acknowledged is the fact that 17 of their first 23 games were on the road. Throw into the mix that they played San Antonio once and Miami twice during that stretch and it made for a nasty way to kick off their schedule.
Despite the tough start, the team didn’t fold. Maybe it was the chance to bond during team flights or a crusty, old coach that wouldn’t let his team make excuses, but Denver stuck it out and allowed some early adversity help to solidify the team.
The result is a team that is 30-3 at home and milking the Mile High advantage for all they can. It’s clear that if they secure home court advantage in the playoffs no team will want to play them in the first round.
While the team hasn’t fully adopted the “Seven Seconds of Less” philosophy on offense, it’s clear they want to push the ball in transition and look for quick, open looks in the half court. The result is Denver is playing with the second-best pace this season while having the sixth-best offensive efficiency according to HoopData.com.
At first blush, the 101.6 points per game their defense gives up looks dreadful, but when broken down to points per possession through Synergy Sports Technology, Denver ranks ninth in the NBA while giving up 0.87 points per possession. They also have the 11th-best defensive efficiency according to John Hollinger’s numbers. Clearly the pace the teams play on offense affects how many field goal attempts their opponents get. The key for Denver is getting key defensive stops when they need them and during their current win streak they’ve managed to do that.
Besides, it’s not like they have only been beating up on weaker teams during their current win streak. During the run they have beat playoff teams in Oklahoma City (twice), Chicago, Memphis, New York, both teams from Los Angeles and the Atlanta Hawks.
It’s also worth noting that Denver has a 9-3 record against the top four teams in the Western Conference this season.
And the knock about the team not having a go-to guy ever since Carmelo Anthony pouted his way out of town? Forget that nonsense. A team can do a lot worse than having Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson or Danilo Gallinari shooting the ball with the game on the line.
“It has nothing to do about individuality and basically screw all the guys out there that think you gotta have a superstar to win a championship,” George Karl vented to KKFN in Denver. “I’m just not into the hype.”
Still, even though this team reminds a lot of people of the Detroit Pistons team who won a championship without a star, Denver has looked sloppy this past week in games against Philadelphia and Sacramento. The team needed a miracle 10 seconds from Corey Brewer just to beat the Sixers.
Maybe the team has been reading too many of their own headlines and has gotten a little too confident for their own good.
“I think the streak could be a problem now,” Kenneth Faried admitted after the win over Sacramento. “Guys are getting a big head and too much complacency.”
A little adversity may be just what the team needs over their last 11 games of the regular season. Or, it may be just the thing Karl needs to snap his team back to reality.
Are the Nuggets a perfect team? No, far from it. Their warts are noticeable and easy to pick out. But, if you want a fun team to watch or an underdog to cheer for, the Nuggets are your team.
At the very least Denver’s current 15-game win streak should be garnering a lot more attention than it has. It’s time for basketball fans to take a break from watching the Miami Heat or March Madness and enjoy what the Nuggets are accomplishing.