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News » Nuggets can only blame themselves in Game 6 loss

Nuggets can only blame themselves in Game 6 loss

Nuggets can only blame themselves in Game 6 loss
DENVER (AP) - This was no conspiracy.

The referees, the NBA and the networks didn't have a thing to do with knocking the Denver Nuggets out of the playoffs Friday night and setting up at least one half of the Kobe-LeBron dream matchup in the finals.

Los Angeles beat the Nuggets and the Nuggets beat themselves in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. The refs called a grand total of 22 fouls against Denver in its 119-92 loss - and seven of those came in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.

This one was simply a matter of one potentially great team finally hitting its stride against a good one that ran out of gas, patience and poise.

"Forget about tonight. Tonight wasn't Nuggets basketball," coach George Karl said.

At least not the brand the Nuggets had been playing this season - a season in which they became a true contender for the first time since 1985, back when they wore rainbow uniforms.

On offense, they were never the aggressors, rarely taking the ball to the hoop to create contact and get free throws. Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups - the heart of this team - were off target (a combined 8 for 24), Nene was invisible (8 points before he broke his left forearm in the fourth quarter) and the Birdman, Chris Andersen, never took off (2 points, 2 rebounds).

The Lakers, meanwhile, shot 57 percent, led by Kobe Bryant's 12-for-20, 35-point, 10-assist night. He hit from 21 feet, 22 feet and 3-point range at the end of the first half to push L.A.'s lead to double digits.

"No one in basketball could've covered him" during that stretch, Karl said.

Still, Denver's inability to get in anybody else's face on the perimeter or put a body on anyone inside made things way too easy on a team that doesn't need any help.

Even the Denver fans who had been booing everything in purple or a referee's shade of gray turned on their own team when Luke Walton spotted up for a wide-open 20-footer late in the third quarter that made it 75-59.

Before the game, Karl said all the talk about the officiating had obscured what was a pretty good series - at least until the finale.

"In a lot of ways, we've helped them put their pieces back together and they've helped us grow up faster," he said.

The Nuggets still have some growing to do.

The Lakers need to piece together a game plan for either the Orlando Magic - or LeBron (and the Cleveland Cavaliers).

The enticement of a Kobe-LeBron final helped shape the debate over the officiating in this series. The thought, sinister as it may be, simply wouldn't go away: Maybe the NBA was doing its best to ensure the glamour pairing, and maybe the refs were subconsciously seduced by the prospect of said showdown.

Fueling that fire was the fact that Phil Jackson's complaints after a loss in Game 4 drew not only $50,000 in fines, but also a Game 5 that had some Nuggets howling about inconsistencies in the officiating they felt favored Los Angeles.

Had Denver been able to guard Bryant, account for the suddenly resurgent Lamar Odom (20 points) - "Whoever woke him up should be fired," Karl said - neutralize Pau Gasol (20 points, 12 rebounds) or make a shot when it counted, maybe that debate could have been continued to Sunday.

Instead, the Nuggets have to look back at squandered opportunities, not so much in Game 6 but earlier in the series.

Denver might have been the better team throughout Games 1, 2, 3 and 4 but couldn't make a key inbounds pass at the ends of Games 1 and 3, which ended up costing them in two close losses.

The Nuggets also fell apart at the end of Game 5, getting outscored by 16 points over the final 16 minutes. Suddenly, all the old slams on the Nuggets, the pre-Chauncey slams - lose their cool too easily, rush too many shots, don't commit on defense - came flooding back.

It got no better in the finale.

"Don't think about what happened for the last 2 1/2 hours," Karl implored the media and fans. "There was too much good in this season to not celebrate."

But the real celebration was taking place in the Lakers locker room.

And if there's a conspiracy in the NBA, it will have to play out in Orlando or Cleveland.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 30, 2009


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