The Denver Nuggets are a really good team. In the classic sense of team.
They play good team defense. They move the ball on offense. They are well coached. They play hard. They play smart.
And all that does not stop a Kevin Durant or a Russell Westbrook.
Three times in the last month the Thunder and Nuggets have met — the last time being in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs — and each time Denver has played hard but the two elite players on the Thunder have been the difference. In Game 1 it was Kevin Durant dropping 41 points. And Westbrook with 31.
Yes, there was the terrible tip in call. The Nuggets should have had a better chance at the end. The referees robbed them of that chance. (Maybe we need more replay.) As hard as it may be, Denver needs to move past that.
The bigger issue is that if Durant and Westbrook continue pile on points bad calls on late tip ins will not matter. The Nuggets need to deal with big issues.
Denver will be without Arron Afflalo again, so look for a lot of Wilson Chandler on Durant. Which is not ideal but better than Al Harrington and Danilo Gallinari.
The other thing the Nuggets need to deal with is keeping James Harden under wraps. He had just 5 points for OKC in Game 1, but when Durant or Westbrook do not go off he seems to.
The Nuggets need their own star power. J.R. Smith is capable of having one of those games where he takes over the fourth quarter. Gallinari can get hot and seem to knock down everything, too.
It’s pretty simple for Denver — they need to limit the Thunder’s star power and find some of their own. And that is a whole lot easier said than done.