Going into the Western Conference Championships there were lots of people calling this series Lakers in 7 and quite a few people (like myself) calling this series Nuggets in 6 ... But very few thought this thing would end with the Lakers pulling a win out of the hat on their opponent's home floor. And NOBODY— let me emphasize the NOBODY part of that NOBODY — was calling a Game 6 blowout for the Lakers.
Still, it was really not a surprise.
It's weird, I'm a huge worshipper of the Queen Bitch, Home Court Advantage, but this one felt like a Laker win going into the game. I think this positive vibe was to some great extent a byproduct of the obvious sense of doubt that had crept into the minds of the Denver fans after their team's Game 5 loss.
The night of the Game 5 loss, right after the buzzer sounded, the Denver fans were pissed. They were convinced that they were the superior team, that they had played the Lakers even, and that the referees had blatantly stolen the game from them at the end. It was only after a bit of consideration and reflection that they concluded —en masse — that the game had actually been won by the Lakers during a huge run at the end of the 3rd Quarter and the first part of the 4th Quarter.
All those missed shots and turnovers by the Nuggets during that critical interval, which we Laker fans witnessed while they were happening the Nugget fans had somehow failed to see at the time. Once they pondered and talked and read and thought for a bit, Denver's fanbase largely came to a consensus that Game 5 wasn't a flat steal by the refs on behalf of the TV-ratings-hungry League Office after all. Instead, they had been beaten.
The size of the task which faced their team instantly became crystal clear.
You could really feel the confidence draining away.
Combine this with the fact that Mr. 24 Mamba Fellow loves playing on the road and with a sense that the Lakers were very unhappy with their Game 6 loss in Houston in the last series... It just FELT like the wind was gone from Denver's sails.
Denver came out of the gate slowly, not scoring their first (single) point until nearly 3 minutes had elapsed. By the end of the 1st Quarter, the sense that this was not their night, not their series, not their season had become already begun to creep into their own minds, it seemed clear.
The Nuggs wound up losing all four quarters to the Lakers, getting clobbered by 11 in the all-important 4th. It proved to be a decisive 27 point victory for Team Purple, as you will note from the Popcorn Machine LINK.
Game 6 in Denver, Carmelo's 25th Birthday bashing, proved to be one of the very best Laker games of this post season. We are talking World Championship-caliber stuff, maaaaan. Hopefully they've got four more of those games in their bag of tricks.
Well, let's pay one last visit to our friends from the Mile High City, for the final benediction on their 2008-09 season, shall we?
(more stuff after the jump...)
by Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post
One by one, the 2009 Nuggets slipped past heartbroken fans into the Pepsi Center tunnel, disappearing until October, leaving behind wonderful images for the devotees' memories, and what-ifs for their imaginations.
On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers hammered the Nuggets 119-92, winning the Western Conference finals 4-2. It was Denver's first appearance in the finals since 1985, and that year, they lost to the Lakers too.
"I think they're the best team right now in the NBA," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
For so much of the season, the Nuggets played smart and smothering defense, but Denver's defense was deplorable in the biggest game of all. The Lakers finished with 57.3 percent shooting. Oh, and they were 24-for-24 at the line.
"Tonight wasn't Nugget basketball, and I apologize to the Nuggets fans that we didn't deliver a better performance," Karl said. "We never got control of their post-ups. When we doubled it, they scored an easy basket. And when we didn't double it, they scored on the post-up. I think offensively they got in control of us more than we got in control of them." * * *
by Jim Armstrong, Denver Post
Instead of one-and-done, they gave us fun-and-done.
There's no small amount of frustration today in that Mile High air. At one point in the series, Nuggets coach George Karl looked into a TV camera and said the Nuggets were better than the Lakers. But once you get past the bitter disappointment, you can't help but see the enormous progress.
The Nuggets are good. The Lakers were better, but the Nugs are good.
"The process for me is it's been a heck of a year," said Karl after the Game 6 defeat. "Amazing. I know that's an NBA word. I wish I had another word because I don't want to steal their word. But this team has come and progressed and committed and demanded."
It isn't just that, though. It's how these Nuggets have played. That's what Chauncey Billups wondered when this wild ride began: Did the Nuggets have enough true grit?
"I don't think anybody knew that because they never played that way here, " Billups said. "It was always about offense, running up and down and outscoring people. It was never about stopping people, hitting people, being grimy and gritty." . . .
It is now. The results weren't all that changed for the Nuggets. The culture did, too. . . .
Your final score from The Can: Lakers 30 Finals appearances, Nuggets 0. There's your reality check. The most-storied franchise this side of Boston beat a team that hadn't won a playoff series in 15 years. Talk about your shocker of shockers. * * *
by Woody Paige, Denver Post
* * *
The Western Conference finals were lost by the Nuggets in the last 29 seconds of the first game and the first 2:59 of Friday's game.
The Nuggets didn't close the opener and couldn't open the closer.
The end of the beginning was the beginning of the end, and in their 98th game of a long, rewarding regular and postseason with 64 victories, the Nuggets finally, and abruptly, came to their finish.
Afterward, coach George Karl told the players to "forget" Friday night's game - "We didn't play Nuggets basketball" - and asked Nuggetsmaniacs to "remember the whole season."
The Nuggets inexplicably had no fizz left in The Can.
The Nuggets recovered from a slow start to take a brief one-point lead in the second quarter, but could the Nuggets and 20,053 feel it? Never.
The Nuggets' followers are implored at every home game to stand until their team scores a point. They were still standing with 9:01 to go in the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony made a free throw.
They were sitting on their hands most of the rest of the game.
Talk about saving your very worst for last against the best. And the Lakers eventually proved to be a better team. "For five, 10 days we had everyone believing we were the best team in the conference," Karl said, but he admitted that the Lakers were "the best team." * * *
by Mark Kiszla, Denver Post
* * *
On the day he turned 25 years old, Anthony missed 11 of 17 field-goal attempts and his teammates never found an offensive rhythm. The Lakers gave tough lessons in what it takes to be a champion. A crowd of 20,053 in the Pepsi Center groaned more than it cheered.
"A horrible birthday present," Melo said.
But, as Karl noted: It would be a mistake to dwell on the final, painful 2½ hours these Nuggets were on the floor against L.A., because "there's too much of this season not to celebrate."
The Nuggets won 54 regular-season games. They won a postseason series for the first time since 1994. Thumped New Orleans in the playoffs, then showed Dallas where the real Big D is. Denver did the legends of Dan Issel and David Thompson proud. Unabashed love for basketball became safe in Colorado again.
We dream about sports bringing a community together and millionaire athletes bonding as family. Most of the time, it is more fable than fact.
These Nuggets, however, were born of a trade that brought Billups back to Denver, to the place where his career began as the young King of Park Hill dribbled a ball on the sidewalk. He made the game a personal joy for all of us.
When this Denver team was finally told to go home, in the disappointment of defeat, Billups trotted off his home court, and just as he did at age 8, peered into the stands.
There in the fifth row of Section 128 stood his parents. His mother, Faye, smiled. His father, Ray, raised a fist in salute. And the hurt on the face of our town's favorite basketball son melted into a smile.
"That," Billups said, "is what Dads and Moms are for."
by Anthony Cotton, Denver Post
If Carmelo Anthony felt the aftermath of the Game 6 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, a humbling 119-92 defeat that eliminated the Nuggets from the Western Conference finals, was too soon to wonder about next year, it was because he had a hard time letting go of this one.
Long after the final horn had sounded, Anthony sat in the Denver locker room, still in uniform. Eventually he took off his jersey, tossing it to a clubhouse attendant with a curse.
But if the defeat wasn't quite the present Anthony had hoped for on his 25th birthday, he'll perhaps acknowledge how far he's come this season.
Or even the last month. Chided entering the postseason for being unable to move his team beyond the opening round of the playoffs, Anthony moved a long way in establishing himself as one of the league's premier players.
Anthony averaged 27.2 points in the Nuggets' 16 playoff contests, second only to Alex English's 30.2 mark in 1985 in team history. Anthony's scoring was more than four points than in last season's four-game set against the Lakers.
In that series, the forward shot just 36 percent from the field; this year Anthony made 45 percent in the playoffs. There was also a stretch in which he tied a franchise record with five consecutive playoff games with at least 30 points.
On Friday, Anthony said he didn't "really like to look in the stats," which may have marked one of the biggest strides he's made in his sixth season. In turn, Denver became a legitimate title contender, which only brought more acclaim to Anthony.
"Yeah, I think this season . . . we came a long way as a team. And yeah, for me personally, this is —I feel like this is a new beginning for me," he said. * * *
by Chris Dempsey, Denver Post
Chauncey Billups slapped hands with fans, even as he smarted on the inside.
He walked off the court for the last time this season after the Nuggets' Game 6 loss to the Lakers, the book closed on a feel-good story no one is soon to forget.
The final chapter was a downer, written in quicksand script. Billups' last four quarters of the series read as such: 2-for-7 from the field, 10 points. A team he was on lost in the conference finals for the fourth consecutive season. The Nuggets, a team he believed could get a shot at all the marbles, fell short.
In time, the end of the story will fade away and what Billups meant to the team, and what returning to Denver meant to him, will be the enduring memory.
"Obviously (Friday) is a tough day in losing," Billups said. "But it's been absolutely the best year I've been a part of, outside of winning the championship in '04. Me coming home. Me being a proud Denver kid all my life. Me being able to help this team kind of turn that corner. It's just been awesome. I never would have imagined it." * * *
by John Henderson, Denver Post
Order was restored in the Western Conference on Friday night. That cute little story bubbling out of the Rocky Mountains turned into just another footnote in the legacy that is the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the Lakers' conference-clinching drubbing of Denver, they operated their offense as if they'd kept it under wraps until now. If Friday was a sneak preview of the NBA Finals, doubts about this up-and-down team disappeared in a wave of 3-pointers, pinpoint passing and stifling defense.
"We saved our best game for last," beaming L.A. coach Phil Jackson said.
The officiating, a dartboard for verbal harpoons from both teams all series, wasn't a factor. Wasn't one in the first half, either, when the Lakers torched the nets at a 60 percent rate. The Lakers were so wide open, ESPN needed a wide-angle lens to get a Nugget in the screen on some shots.
The Lakers didn't look like a team that had been questioned from coast to coast, from getting pressed to seven games by Houston, and getting outplayed for long stretches by the Nuggets early in the series. It looked like a team sending a signal to the East.
L.A. shot 57.3 percent (43-of-75) overall, 56.2 percent from 3-point range (9-of-16) and won the rebound battle, 38-27. They didn't miss a free throw in 24 attempts.
The only Nugget who made a dent in the defense was J.R. Smith, off the bench. However, his 24 points were offset by Kobe Bryant turning him, and every other Nugget defender, inside and out on his way to 35 points, 10 assists and one turnover. * * *
by David Ramsey, Colorado Springs Gazette
DENVER • This is no illusion.
The Denver Nuggets will return. They are not, like the 2007 Colorado Rockies, a one-year fluke.
They have the talent and hunger and youth to make this season's ride to the Western Conference finals a beginning instead of a destination.
A month ago, the Nuggets were a relative secret. For decades, an NBA team had competed in downtown Denver, but never had inspired devotion.
After trashing the Hornets and the Mavericks and briefly frightening the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets converted disdain to adoration. Our state finally fell for its basketball team.
Yes, the Lakers trashed the Nuggets 119-92 on Friday night to win this best-of-seven series.
Yet this basketball romance will linger. Colorado will again cheer for one of the NBA's elite teams in 2009-10.
With 2:42 left in the third quarter, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant dropped a twisting, hanging jump shot that was beyond the powers of a mere mortal.
The Lakers led by 20, and it was obvious they had clinched another journey to the NBA Finals. Pepsi Center fell quiet as even the most dedicated optimist waved farewell to hope.
But there was another moment from this game that will linger. With 10:21 left in the fourth quarter, and the Nuggets trailing by 21, the Nuggets crowd rose for a final declaration of devotion.
They waved white towels and stomped and shouted mean words about Bryant. For 6 minutes, the crowd roared its support.
The Nuggets didn't have a chance. It didn't matter. The crowd ignored the numbers on the scoreboard as the party kept right on going in downtown Denver. * * *
by Jeremy, Roundball Mining Co.
First of all, congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers. They are truly the best team in the Western Conference and I think have a great chance at becoming the 2009 NBA champions.
While we are all disappointed in the outcome of the Western Conference Finals the Denver Nuggets have given us a very memorable year of basketball. There will be plenty of time to discuss what went wrong in game six and what needs to be different next season for this team to be a champion. For tonight let's just appreciate the accomplishments of this team.
Thank you to the players, coaches, front office and ownership for all the hard work over the past few months and few years that has gone in to making the Denver Nuggets the second best team in the Western Conference.
I have no idea what the future holds, but it certainly seems that this team can have an incredible future. As Carmelo Anthony said in the postgame press conference this is a beginning not an ending. I cannot wait to see what the 2009-10 season has in store for this franchise. * * *
by Nate Timmons, Pickaxe and Roll
First off ... congratulations to the Lakers. They were by FAR the mentally stronger team in this series and deserve great credit for taking this series 4-2. There is no shame in losing to a better team and the Lakers proved they deserve a shot to play for the NBA title.
Denver had a great season and the best post-season in franchise history. That is probably why this loss hurts so much.
This was probably about the worst Game 6 that any Nuggets fan could imagine. After playing 4 spectacular games in the series ... the Nuggets decided to make one clear cut adjustment ... DOUBLE TEAM THE LAKERS and specifically Kobe Bryant.
This was probably the worst decision that I've ever seen from a team. The Nuggets competed and split the series 2-2 through 4 games. Then, for what seems like no reason ... George Karl and his staff decided to abandon their philosophy of guarding teams one-on-one. Instead, the Nuggets (who have had rotation issues all season) went to a double the ball strategy that works on teams that don't share the ball and play a selfish brand of basketball, but one that will kill you against unselfish teams.
The Lakers and specifically Kobe Bryant play unselfish basketball (this isn't the 81 Kobe anymore) ... so Denver's strategy went out the window, but instead of adjusting ... the Nuggets kept with it (doubling) and lost both games 5 and 6 giving up easy looks and playing sloppy defense. It was back to the Enver Nuggets (yep no more D in Denver.) * * *
Posted by "Distortedman" to Pickaxe and Roll
Well its over for the Nuggets, but it was an incredible season for our team. I know much has been made of the fact that none of the NBA experts, analysts or highly paid TV idiots even predicted that this team would even make the playoffs. I agree with Coach GK that we should celebrate how great this team played all year, overcame adversity, and ultimately brought the fans to their feet numerous times.
- Nuggets Defense held opponents to 44% shooting in the regular season, best D in 15 years.
- Chauncey made the Conference Finals for the 7th year in a row, while the pistons collapsed without him.
- Nene had his best year, second in FG%, and went 12-12 shooting in a game against the Jazz.
- J.R. Had an excellent year; Second place 6th man of the year. He also set a franchise record 11 made 3-pointers in a game.
- Birdman was a beast, second place in blocks at an average of 2.46 in about 20 minutes per game.
- Kenyon went 10-10 from the field in shooting against the Bull (11/23) for a season high 26 points.
- Carmelo Anthony became the 3rd youngest player to reach 10,000 points against the Thunder(2/4) * * *
by Andrew, Denver Stiffs
* * *
As stated on this blog many times before, what makes the NBA Playoffs so special is that over the course of a seven-game series — and if both teams are relatively healthy — the better team always wins. And there's no doubt that the Lakers are the better team right now and deserve our congratulations.
The Nuggets might be more talented and deeper from the neck down (which is debatable now that we've seen the "real Lakers" play these last two games), but from the neck up the Lakers were clearly the superior team. They simply didn't beat themselves with senseless turnovers, technical fouls, rushed shots and the other maladies that plagued the Nuggets throughout the Western Conference Finals.
Additionally, Friday night's game made it clear to me that the Nuggets and their fans weren't conditioned properly - physically and mentally — to play this deep into May. While the Lakers might have looked lethargic at points in this series, they were simply saving themselves for the knockout punch needed in Games 5 and 6.
Kobe Bryant in particular was exceptional in this area. It was as if he had just been on cruise control until the time came to close the series out, which he did with more energy than anyone else on the floor on Friday night.
Moving over to the fans, Pepsi Center had the worst energy of the nine playoff games played there this year. Like the team on the floor on Friday night, the crowd was flat, lethargic and lacked energy. Every time I gazed at the crowd, I saw multiple people yawning. Making matters worse, I was greatly disappointed to see so many fans leave early (it was a Friday night, where did these people possibly have to go?).
After everything positive that the Nuggets and their players did for Denver sports this season, they deserved a standing ovation from all the fans at game's end, not just those who remained until the bitter end of Game 6. And as my friend and seat-mate Keith pointed out, even Rocky had an off night. As an example, the Mascot Hall of Famer waited until the game was completely out of reach late in the fourth quarter to launch his "GO NUGGETS!" chant. The crowd needed it about 30 minutes earlier. * * *
by Mike Wolf, Denver Nuggets Examiner
Wait, did I just see a suspicious guy in a "Members Only" jacket walk into the bathroom? It didn't have to end like this, did it? In front of 20,000 of their own fans, the Denver Nuggets' title hopes flamed out at the hands of the scorching Los Angeles Lakers (57 percent shooting, 56 percent from downtown, 100 percent from the line!), who won Game 6 and the series, 120-101.
I would have rather watched the television screen suddenly go black in the fourth quarter — like in "The Sopranos" series finale -- instead of sitting there wondering how many Nuggets threes it would take to come back from 16 down with 5 minutes left (counting possible Laker baskets, 6 and some free-throws, I thought). But there weren't enough Big Shots to go around, and the crowd was a little too Melo.
The toughest loss I ever experienced as a basketball player was in the state semifinals the year after winning the state championship. I didn't touch a basketball for months afterward, and still have nightmares about the game. I would ask myself 'Why didn't I punch the other team's best player in the mouth in the fourth quarter? Why didn't I get the ball to our best player more often?' I still remember walking off the court dazed, never to play competitive basketball again, wondering what our coach would say about the game.
But you don't dissect losses like that. And after the worst loss in Nuggets franchise history (the '85 team had no shot at winning the series or title once Alex English broke his thumb) by a team that had a legitimate shot to win it all, with the best basketball player to ever come out of Colorado running the show, I don't want to dissect this one. * * *
by Johnny Domenico, Nuggets' Nuggetz
Basketball can be a complicated sport and the difference between winning and losing can come down to a variety of factors.
Game 6 was pretty simple:
The Lakers made their shots, the Nuggets didn't.
I'm going to take some time before I put together some thoughts about the season, but I'll leave you with this:
Here's to the best season in Denver Nuggets history, and here's to seeing an eager, hungry Denver Nuggets team back in the Conference Finals next year ready to take the next step.
by Michael Roberts, Westword.com
As I write this blog, the Nuggets are down by 24 points to the Los Angeles Lakers with 1:36 to go in game six of the Western Conference finals — playing out the string in the kind of loss we'd come to expect in previous years, but had thought the Nugs had finally managed to outgrow. Denver didn't look ready for prime time, and they were so self-conscious about the officiating that by the second half, Kobe Bryant was able to treat defenders look turnstiles.
And yet: What a run. What an incredible run. Better than '94. Better than '85. I haven't had as much fun watching the Nuggets since David Thompson was in his prime. Yes, I feel shitty, as I'm sure every Denver fan does. But that's balanced by a sense of sweet satisfaction, and a creeping suspicion that this team isn't a one-year wonder. Wait 'til next year is a loser's mantra. But this time around, it doesn't feel nearly as empty as usual. Thanks, Chauncey. Thanks, Melo. Thanks, J.R. and Birdman and Dahntay and all the rest. It may have ended ugly, but memories of the beauty will linger for a good long time.
posted by "Newsman35" to Nuggets Talk message board
I agree about [the Nuggets] not being one of the most brilliant teams. Lots of talent, almost all the right pieces, they can't keep a lesson learned for more than one game. Thats the difference between us and the Lakers, each game they adjusted, adapted and evolved.
The Nuggets were no more clear about what to do in game 6 than they were in game 1. But I do feel that they have almost all the right pieces. I think their biggest need is for a major big with decent inside shooting ability. I wouldnt be surprised to see the Nuggets trade Nene and Hunter next year to land someone with serious height. I really think someone like Brad Miller would have helped. It really is a shame that we didnt get McDyess because his inside scoring would have really helped.
All in all a very satisfactory year. I do think that if the players can learn a few lessons and make a few adjustments they have a chance to be back next year. I really wish that JR could channel his energy and talent into becoming a good point. I know it sounds dumb but he has all the tools to be good at it if he really had a vision for it.
The Bottom Line:
1. Congratulations to the Lakers — the best team won in this series. (There, we said it, are you satisfied?)
2. Our Nuggets are a team on the rise but were clearly not quite ready for primetime.
3. It really hurts to end a season this way: with a blowout loss in our own building. But considering the range of possible outcomes for a team and its NBA season, losing Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals ain't too bad.