by Alex Poletti
Photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Despite facing elimination after a massacre at the hands of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the mood in the Denver Nuggets clubhouse is hardly somber. Instead, the scrappy team is teeming with excitement, as they are now able to play good basketball trailing three games to one.
“We wanted to get that first win out of the way so we could focus on those three losses,” head coach Michael Malone says. “We waited until game three to get it, which isn’t what you want. But regardless, we’re in the best position, down 3-1 to a serious title contender from Los Angeles.”
This is not uncharted territory for Denver, who upset Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, winning three games with their backs against the wall to advance to the Conference Finals. Not a team to mess with a good thing, the Nuggets are hoping to repeat their success here.
“We just click when we’re supposed to lose,” Denver star Jamal Murray says. “When the series is even, or even when you’re trailing, there isn’t a drive to win, you know? It really only kicks in when you either lose and go home to your wife and children or continue living in an Orlando hotel room eating CVS-quality food.”
What makes the Denver Nuggets so successful in their formula is that the large deficit not only affects their drives, but their opponents’ as well.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Lakers guard Alex Caruso says. “They’re so disarming when they’re losing by so much. It just makes me want to stop trying all together, especially as a role player, and just put the entire weight of the series on LeBron and AD.”
Caruso doesn’t seem to be alone in this opinion, as all team members not named LeBron James or Anthony Davis have pretty much stopped any attempt at putting in effort during practice. For the Lakers, this is a matter of team philosophy.
“LeBron and AD have single-handedly carried us this far,” small forward Kyle Kuzma says. “My thought is if they can’t win us one game out of the next four on their own, then we really don’t deserve to be here anyway.”