With a winning streak that’s at 15 now, you’d expect George Karl to take it a little bit easier going into the final stretch of the season; cut his players some slack. But that’s not how you keep a young team without a clear superstar to fall back on when things don’t go great on its edge, hopefully lasting the last few weeks of the season in the same place they are now in the Western Conference.
With their run, the Denver Nuggets have taken over the third spot in the West, although it’s probably going to be very tight between them, the Grizzlies and the Clippers until the final day. Karl would have been more confident if he was coaching a more experienced team, but relying mostly on 25 year old’s, he knows he has to keep a tight ship.
What I’ve been telling the team, telling them for three days, the next 11 games I don’t want to hear about rest. I don’t want to hear we’re tired. I want our attitude to be the best basketball we’ve played all year. And if you don’t want to do that, then I’ll play somebody else. I don’t want to hear about my body hurts. I’m sore. Everybody plays the same amount of games, and resting’s not going to get us ready for the opportunities. If we had a bunch of 30-year-olds, I might have a different opinion but we have a bunch of 25-year-olds.
It’s not like there aren’t any veterans on this team. Andre Miller continues to be a wonderful player, regardless if he’s coming off the bench or starting instead of Ty Lawson. Miller finished with 11 points and 5 assists, while another relatively experienced player, Andre Iguodala, enjoyed more of the spreading the ball role, finishing with 8 assists, as six players ended up in double figures, beating the Sacramento Kings 101-95.
Danilo Gallinari, who some say it’s been a disappointing season for him, hitting somewhat of a wall in his development, led the way with 19 points. Gallinari isn’t going to be a 22-25 points a night kind of guy. Just like Iguodala isn’t going to be that player some thought he’d be earlier in his career. But the defense has improved, he’s managing better when it comes to physicality instead of speed, and while some of the numbers might be down, the Nuggets simply have a better player on their side than they did a year ago, which might mean they’ll make it another round further than they did a year ago, and the one before that, and the one before that.
What’s interesting to see is the Nuggets playing a slower game without Ty Lawson. Andre Miller can’t push the team at the same pace for 34 minutes like Lawson does, and although their starting point guard should be coming back at some point, Karl knows he needs his team to get more familiar with different, slower styles, before the postseason arrives. Fast basketball usually doesn’t make it in the playoffs, and having Andre Miller run the ship might be the key to being more successful than in the past.