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News » Selfish, lazy team needed slap in the face

Selfish, lazy team needed slap in the face

Selfish, lazy team needed slap in the face Sometimes, this is what it takes.

An embarrassment. A humiliation. Losing to a team so bad it is being compared to the worst squads in NBA history barely a month into the season.

"I would have liked to have come out of this with a win, and I would have said the same exact thing, but I think we did need this," Chauncey Billups admitted afterward. "I don't like losing, but I think we needed this."

It was as if Billups had hopped a time machine and returned to the team he joined a little more than a year ago - a team of individual showmen, a team of one-on-one players, a team that thought it could shoot its way out of any hole, no matter how deep.

And why not? It had been doing it throughout this season's first month. As if reliving its early run- and-gun days, the Nuggets went into Sunday night's game second in the NBA in scoring at more than 109 points per game, five more than they averaged a year ago when they became acquainted with the concept of defense.

They went to Minnesota last week, gave up 111 points and won comfortably. They gave up 125 to the Knicks on Friday and stole away with another win. They were learning they could get away with lazy play. Had they won Sunday, it would have only confirmed it.

"When we play certain teams, we feel like our offense can just get us through," said Billups, who went 2-for-13 from the field to go with J.R. Smith's 3-for-11. "And, quite frankly, it has most nights. Tonight was an exception. It couldn't get us through."

If there is such a thing as a morality play in Basketball, it came in the third quarter. The Nuggets had not played particularly well in the first half but led by 14 anyway. So they came out in the second half and played horse.

Nobody passed the ball. They had two assists in the entire quarter. They shot, they missed, they jogged back on defense and waited for a chance to shoot again. They were outrebounded, outshot, outhustled and outscored 31-12. The Timberwolves, who had lost 15 straight, began to believe.

"Tell me my play-hard team," George Karl steamed afterward. "Tell me the five guys I put on the court to play hard every possession. Tell me. I had it last year. I had a play-hard team last year. I don't have a play-hard team this year. And it's making me very angry."

The interesting thing about these Nuggets is that when they are caught playing the old way, the lazy way, it's as if they have been slapped in the face. They suddenly remember the lessons we thought they had learned.

"I don't need any more coaching other than play hard with intensity and pride, that we can go in that locker room and feel good about every night," Karl said. "And that's my fault. That's on me."

"We got exactly what we deserved," said Kenyon Martin. "A team ain't going to stop playing just because they lost 15 straight. It doesn't matter. They're a professional Basketball team. They got pride."

During the six-month, 82-game NBA season, every team has letdowns. The Lakers came to Denver and lost by 26 earlier this month. Of course, they had better excuses. They were on the second of back-to-back games, and the Nuggets are pretty good.

Losing at home to a team that comes in at 1-15 is something else. If that won't wake you up, you may be comatose.

Which is not to say the Nuggets don't have a few specific issues. They were outrebounded again Sunday, for the 10th time in 17 games. Someone named Nathan Jawai, a T-wolves backup big man, had seven boards in 13 minutes. Chris Andersen, the Nuggets' backup big man, had three in 19 minutes. Denver's lack of size may yet prove fatal.

But Sunday's lesson was not mostly about size or skill. It was about heart. It was about effort.

The truth is, a good team can sleepwalk through certain games on the NBA schedule and still come out on top. The more often this happens, the more tempting it is to do. Let's face it - it's easier not to play hard all the time.

Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to snap out of it. That's what the Timberwolves provided Sunday. It may be the most valuable thing anybody's done for the Nuggets all season.

Dave Krieger: 303-954-5297 or or

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 1, 2009


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