Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets: The buck stops here


photo courtesy of the Harry S. Truman presidential library – https://www.trumanlibrary.org

President Harry S. Truman had a famous sign on his desk, one that coined a phrase that has stuck in the American conscience ever since. Though there are clear records of a few others preceding Truman having the same phrase on their desk over a decade earlier, it truly seeped into the broader fiber when Truman started quoting it in his speeches to the American public.

Truman used the phrase when talking about several important topics he had to make a decision about, including having been the only person to have used nuclear warheads in warfare, bringing an end to World War II. The fact that Truman even got to make that call was a surprise to the American public, as he ascended to the presidency from the Vice Presidency just 11 weeks into Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fourth term, when FDR’s health issues brought his surprisingly abrupt decline and passing. Truman knew that someone had to be the one calling the shots, had to decide what the direction of the country was going to be.

Compared to that, this decision is really a piece of cake for your Denver Nuggets. What direction are you going to take? Are you the team that made an appearance during the first half of the Spurs game on Tuesday night? The offense is shiny, but you’d better never go cold in that mode, as your D is a sieve. Or are you the defensive pests who turned that second half into a war of wills, finally breaking an undermanned and exhausted San Antonio into submission?

Are you the team content to shoot a series of bricks against an opponent who is harassing you down low, or are you the guys running into the teeth of it, notching and-ones and some early foul trouble for the bad guys, finally knocking them out from beyond the arc because you drew them into the lane in the first place?

See, after the Bucks stop here… or actually, we stop in Milwaukee, you’ve got a week. A week to heal up, take a breath, and give some real thought to the direction you want these last 24 games to go. That’s right, barely more than a quarter season remaining. Only two dozen, with Paul Millsap’s return (hopefully) on the near side of the far side of the break. It certainly doesn’t get any easier from here. What does the home stretch bring?

As of today, you’re in eighth place in the conference. The scary part is you’re a half game away from being out of the playoffs. The interesting part is that you’re only three games away from being the three seed. Three through eight in the West is currently jammed tighter than a new jar of pickles.

Two-thirds of your remaining opponents boast winning records. 16 of the 24. There won’t be many nights off, and a few losses you’ve had this season against teams with losing records means there won’t really be any nights off.

14 of the 24 are against Western Conference foes, most of them jockeying for playoff position as well. Every game from here counts to them as much as it does you.

Four division games left. Doesn’t sound like many, does it? Did I mention that those are three of your last four games, though? The Northwest Division currently boasts four teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today, the Nuggets fourth among them. You’re in the toughest division in basketball, and the fifth-place Jazz are only a game-and-a-half back of you. Have five teams from a division ever ALL made the playoffs?

A brutal two week stretch over the second half of March that puts Denver on the road for seven games in a row, their longest roadie of the year, wrapping up in Oklahoma City. That stretch could be the story of the season or the Nuggets undoing, depending on whether or not they are playing their best game independent of the arena. Speaking of the road…

13 away games left, with 11 at home. A terrible road winning percentage (.296) has not been in your favor. You need to beat that average on the way out to get into the playoffs, or you’ll only see 3-4 wins out of those road games. 3.8, to be exact. Your gaudy home winning percentage (.767) will also bring you another 8-9 wins on top of that. 8.4, to be exact.

So, let’s just say you can notch those dozen wins that those percentages bring you, on average. That’s exactly what the last 24 will be. Average. A dozen wins, a dozen losses. Does .500 ball get you into the playoffs this year, dear Nuggets? Quite probably not. To your credit, it would seem that you don’t either, as you’ve won five of your last six, with the Thunder, Warriors, and the aforementioned Spurs on that list.

So, here’s a week to think it over, Denver Nuggets. At your best, you could really strike fear into the hearts of most any team out there. A switching, swooping, machine. At your worst, you might get whupped by the Washington Generals. No one’s giving you anything from here, and it’s only gets tougher. But on the far side is a postseason bid, with some matchups there that could help you make a mark on the casual NBA fan’s radar.

Even if you don’t make it in, you want to know you gave it your best shot, yes? I, for one, really like your odds. But the hard part is up to you. You see, dear Nuggets…

The buck stops here.

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