DALLAS — After starting off the season with a promising (6-5) record, the Denver Nuggets have hit a major bump in their quest for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Monday night the Nuggets head into Milwaukee for the second game of a five-game road trip having lost their last six games by an average of 11.6 points.
With three of their losses coming to the last two NBA champions (two to the San Antonio Spurs and one to the Golden State Warriors), the Nuggets feel strongly that if they just tighten up on some little things, they’re closer than what the standings show to getting things turned around in the right direction.
Nuggets rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay talked to Today’s Fastbreak about what he’s learned by going through the extended losing streak, and what it’s going to take to break it.
“We definitely played like three of the top teams in the NBA recently, but that’s part of the NBA. You have to grind wins out. But at the same time it’s fun being able to compete, especially with it being my first year,” Mudiay said. “We definitely have had mishaps. We have to play defense for 48 minutes. It’s like the last two minutes of the quarters we kind of fade down instead of bringing that intensity a little bit higher than when we started doing it up at.”
Getting outscored in the third quarters of every loss during the streak has been the Achilles’ heel of Denver. In the last six games, teams have outscored the Nuggets by an average of 9.1 points in the third quarter to either seize momentum or put the game away for good.
There was no bigger example of this than in Saturday’s defeat against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks outscored the Nuggets 25-5 in the third period, which included a 16-0 run that lasted almost nine minutes, to win 92-81.
The loss to the Mavs in particular has led the Nuggets to do some soul searching to try to find a way to consistently play a complete 48-minute game to end this lengthy losing streak.
“We got to do it. We got to find a way to do it,” Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari said after the loss. “I don’t know how, but we have to find a way to do it. This game is a mental game and we are not there yet.”
This offseason, the Nuggets brought in veteran guard and sharpshooter Mike Miller to be a person the team can lean on when things get tough. Having won two titles with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. in Miami, Miller knows a thing or two about getting through tough times in the Association.
Despite watching the young Nuggets take their licks of late, the veteran sees a lot of positives the team can use to end the streak and get better in the big picture.
“We are confident. I think that’s a good thing about our team, the coaching staff instills that in us,” Miller said. “We’ve had a tough schedule and we got a chance to win every game, which is good. We just got to keep plugging away. We have enough talent to win. That’s the most important thing. We have the right structure and the right system in place. We just got to trust that and go out and do it.”