In the closing seconds of the Game 6 between Denver and Golden State, the Nuggets were down by four and it was becoming clear that the Nuggets were about to be eliminated. AP photographer Marcio Jose Sanchez captured this heartbreaking image of Nuggets coach George Karl as all the high hopes of an absolutely stunning season came to a crashing halt as Denver lost, 92-88.
Its a picture that captures the heartache that many Denver fans likely felt as they watched their team that had won an NBA franchise-best 57 regular season games and earned the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs fall to the No. 6 Warriors. Superstar Stephen Curry stepped up and made some clutch baskets again in Game 6, as he had done in Game 4, and helped carry his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Sports writers and fans have speculated about the Nuggets' potential without a superstar all season and it appeared that they had proved all the critics wrong. But for the ninth time in 10 seasons, the Nuggets were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs.
Coach Karl summed up his take in a post-game presser Thursday night, via The Associated Press:
We didn't lose this series tonight. This is a proud loss. We lost this series in Game 1 and 2. We didn't play well enough to sustain the confidence. We won Game 1 on a last-second layup. In Game 2, we gave away everything we worked for with 57 wins in the season. And that's on me.
ESPN's Ethan Strauss writes that some changes need to be made on the Nuggets team:
The Denver problem is as much about finding structure as it is finding that elusive superstar. The Nuggets are young; for all we know that superstar is in their midst. Curry wasn't described as such before this series, specifically. We don't yet know what Ty Lawson will grow into, or what Kenneth Faried will become.
Changes need to be made. As well as the Warriors played at times, this won't do for the future. When Karl took responsibility with "That's on me," he may well be right.
The Denver Post's Mark Kiszla took the Karl "That's on me" responsibility to one logical conclusion asking if Karl should be fired after yet another disappointing playoffs. Kiszla asks:
This postseason predicament is not all Karl’s fault. But, should Denver be eliminated 4-1 by sixth-seeded Golden State, would it be time to admit the Nuggets need to go a different direction on the bench?
Obviously all the blame can't fall on Karl's shoulders -- the Nuggets played incredibly in the regular season without a superstar and the Warriors played incredibly during the playoffs series with a superstar. And Karl has taken his Nuggets into the second round once in 2009, but that was with Carlmelo Anthony, a bona fide NBA superstar. But this season the Nuggets were supposed to defy all the NBA stereotypes about superstars and when it mattered most, they came up short.
Does this loss mean the Nuggets' starless experiment is a failure? Or does this conclusion of this series just highlight the youth of the Denver Nuggets team as Andre Iguodala said after Game 6? Do some changes need to be made in the team, in the coaching staff or does the team just need more time to mature?
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