Sunday afternoon, the Nuggets were embarrassed by the Lakers on national television, as they were blown out 103-88.
Andrew Bynum’s beastly 10-block performance was legendary. It was only the second time in NBA playoff history a man recorded a triple-double including blocks and he swatted seemingly every shot attempt the Nuggs put up in the paint.
Of course, Kobe Bryant lit up the scoreboard as well, putting up 31 points despite starting slowly.
And the way the game was dominated by LA was disheartening to Denver fans.
The Lakers methodically ran their half-court offense to perfection while the Nuggets couldn’t get out and run—their biggest strength.
LA controlled the pace—just as many other teams have against the George Karl-coached Nuggets—and Denver self-destructed.
Part of the blame certainly rests on Karl’s shoulders for the style of play he employs.
Certainly, run and gun is fun to watch and it wins in the regular season.
But in the playoffs, games are slowed down and those that can execute most efficiently in the half-court are the teams that win games, series and eventually, titles.
So, Karl’s style of play should instill little confidence in his players, if they’ve been playing attention and realize the man in charge has never won a championship.
But what’s more worrisome is the message the old ball coach conveyed to his young team in Game One.
Mid-way through the third quarter, Karl told his team they should try to learn the rest of the game. Yes, the team was down 15-plus at that point, but there was still hope of winning with 18-plus minutes on the clock.
Those hopes vanished when Karl basically told his team the game was over and they should treat it as a learning experience.
In the fourth quarter, his team still being blown out, Karl noted that the Lakers were in the process of setting a playoff record for blocks.
Was he frustrated?
Obviously, but he’s got to realize his players are even more upset than him with Bynum’s brick wall stopping all their shots dead.
It’s not just that Karl told his team they had no chance of winning in the third quarter or that he embarrassed them by noting the history being made at their expense, but it must be realized by Karl that this Nuggets team is a fragile bunch.
The average age of Denver’s team is 26 years old, making them the second-youngest team in the playoffs.
For JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov, it was their first playoff contest. It was only Danilo Gallinari’s sixth game in the playoffs, Kosta Koufos’ 11th.
The complete lack of experience was evident early in the game, when Denver was easily flustered and only mustered 14 in the first.
It was equally as evident throughout the game as the youthful team didn’t have the mental toughness to overcome the Lakers’ fight.
What Karl said late in the game did nothing to bolster their shaken psyches, it likely killed the Nuggets’ confidence.
Can they come back? Yes.
Not without confidence, Mr. Karl.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Follow him on facebook and/or twitter for breaking news, links to piece and need-to-know info on everything Colorado sports related.