Really, there wasn’t much to gain by attending this morning’s media availability with the Nuggets.
What would change between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., tipoff time of Game 5?
But there’s more to tonight’s Game 5 than a lineup change here or a strategical adjustment there.
The rest of this series is about neither. It’s about whether these Nuggets are gamers… or ghosts of their regular-season selves, simply playing for a paycheck. Oh, and it’s about George Karl’s future in Denver.
That’s not a column I wanted to write. If Karl and his fantastic brand of basketball were associated with the Nuggets for another decade, I’d be cool with it. I watched less of this NCAA tournament than I ever remember. Why? If I wanted to watch clutching and grabbing and holding and flopping, I would turn on WWE. These Nuggets — Karl’s Nuggets — are an escape, an old-school-mixed-with-new-school blend of fundamentals and up-tempo and unselfish basketball. Simply, they are a blast to watch.
But in the playoffs, it’s not working.
So I wrote the column, because it’s honest.
With the Nuggets facing an elimination game — three, actually — here are some of the words Karl used to describe the current state of his locker room.
“We’re not happy right now,” he said.
One thing Karl didn’t do: Discuss strategy. I appreciate that, because the rest of this series, whether it ends tonight in Denver, Thursday in Stab City or Saturday in Denver, isn’t about strategy. It’s about the Nuggets fighting back.
I don’t subscribe to theory this series changed with Golden State’s win in Denver in Game 2.
I think this series shifted way back in Game 1, which the Nuggets actually won. There was a sequence in that game where Andre Iguodala was on a fast-break and was whistled for an offensive foul. (A shaky call, but a call nonetheless).
Instead of pushing the Nuggets ahead by 10 points — with 4:19 left in the fourth quarter — the Nuggets turned it over. The Warriors’ Klay Thompson promptly hit a 3, and we had a five-point game.
Like I wrote today, these Warriors remind me of a classic mid-major from the NCAA tournament. One thing you can’t let a mid-major do: Hang around. The Nuggets let the Warriors hang around in Game 1. Bad move.
From there, the Warriors’ confidence ballooned, as if they said, ‘Hey, we can actually win this thing.’
We’ll learn tonight if the Nuggets eschew all of the strategy, gamesmanship and overthinking and simply play the style that won 57 games during the regular season. Otherwise, it could summon a few major changes in their philosophy — and their staff.