Meltdowns push Nuggets to brink
Meltdowns push Denver to brink
DENVER - To make the NBA Finals for the first time - and bring their tattoos, athleticism, and exuberance to the biggest stage of all - the upstart Denver Nuggets must win two games in a 48-hour span against a savvy Los Angeles Lakers team that is shooting for its 30th Finals appearance.
Oh, and LA hasn't lost back-to-back games since March.
The Nuggets might very well be the better team in the Western Conference finals, with a deeper bench, more muscle and better health than the tired, injured and often disjointed Lakers. But they also tend to implode at the worst times.
There's the taunting after big shots, the complaining after calls and the botched inbounds passes that cost them Games 1 and 3 and a chance at brooming the Lakers right out of the playoffs. Now, the Nuggets are one loss away from vacation.
"For most of the series, we outplayed them for most stretches of the game," Chauncey Billups said. "We just couldn't get over the hump in the fourth quarter in a few different situations."
Nor can they get out of their own way at times.
Denver has committed 11 technical fouls in this series and defensive stud Dahntay Jones is one more flagrant-1 foul away from a suspension. Coach George Karl said he won't rein in his players for Game 6 tonight in Denver, however.
"You guys are almost saying you've got to have savvy and poise to be a championship team," Karl said yesterday. "I mean, you think the Detroit Pistons have the poise that the San Antonio Spurs have?"
"No, I mean there's a different way of handling emotional, passionate, intense players." he continued. "We have some guys who are emotional. Maybe a little too emotional. But for me, I'm not going to tell them to stop that because I think that stops them from becoming a competitor.
"Right now, we're competing on the best stage on a pretty good level. I think the Lakers know we're there."