The Nuggets showed growth in their win verse the Lakers but now have to keep proving it

by | Feb 15, 2021 | Latest, Sports Report

There are many famous pearls of sports wisdom, but one rings particularly true: you are what your record says you are. The adage requires us to ignore context and excuses, and cut to the chase – how good are you, really?

For the Denver Nuggets sitting at 15-11 and 7th in the Western Conference, the story their record conveys is one of inconsistency. All season, Denver has followed encouraging victory with disappointing loss. They have achieved a five game win streak, but also two separate stretches of four losses in five games. A team that boasted NBA Finals expectations on opening night has yet to find a consistent rhythm in a maddeningly unpredictable season.

The inconsistency reached its peak two weeks ago, when Denver blew a late third quarter lead to the championship-favorite Los Angeles Lakers. After leading most of the game, Denver went freezing cold, getting outscored 46-18 in the final 15 minutes. It was a typical Nuggets narrative – play well for most of the game, but falter when the victory is in the balance. The fourth quarter trouncing could charitably be described as embarrassing.

Consider that context when analyzing last night’s rematch with those same L.A. Lakers. The two teams battled it out until 2:39 remaining in the first half, when Lakers’ star big man Anthony Davis exited the game with a right Achilles injury. A golden opportunity presented itself for Denver and they capitalized to the fullest extent, taking a 12-point halftime lead and running away with the game to the tune of a 122-105 blowout.

The nature of the victory was more impressive than the win itself. Denver’s two superstars, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic led the way per usual with 25 and 23 points. More critically, the supporting cast flashed signs that it could be an integral part of a deep playoff run. In particular, Denver’s two rookies Facu Campazzo and Zeke Nnaji shone the brightest. Campazzo’s four assists and two steals suggested that he continues to grow into his role as a solid floor general. Nnaji demonstrated his ability to be an efficient bucket off the bench, finishing with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

“In this business, you never know when your number is going to be called,” Denver coach Mike Malone said in his postgame interview. “You better be ready when it’s called. That’s what I’m proud of the most.”

Despite the Davis-sized asterisk, the Nuggets have now won three in a row and have proven they can go blow-for-blow with the defending champions twice. Only a fortnight ago, a softer Nuggets team could not do what last night’s group did – finish the job. It would be foolish to declare that Denver has turned a corner, but it is equally unwise to dismiss their win as a short-term blip on the graph. The Nuggets showed real growth, but must corroborate it next week on a difficult four-game road trip.

With momentum on their side, Denver has a chance going forward to turn elusive potential into concrete wins. After all, that is the one true measure of their success.