Nuggets can't win title this way

Maybe we should throw confetti or hold a parade. In a 116-102 victory
against Utah on Wednesday, the Nuggets tried something completely
different: They gave a professional effort.

So let them eat Twinkies.

But please understand: Denver absolutely, positively cannot win a
championship this way.

And team management knows it.

This season cannot end soon enough, because team officials privately admit this NBA franchise has much work to do. If nothing will satisfy Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke except being No. 1, then he faces the most difficult decisions he’s had since purchasing the franchise a decade ago.

What will make it so hard?

There is much to like about these Nuggets, from the nearly unstoppable scoring of Carmelo Anthony to the unflappable leadership of Chauncey Billups to the snarling intensity of Kenyon Martin.

But, in its soft heart, Denver is a basketball team that wants to win pretty. On a Wednesday night that gave a raucous crowd in the Pepsi Center one more chance to get up and dance, the Nuggets avoided elimination, but the beauty of the victory was no more than skin-deep.

NBA championships are won by players who are defensively sounder and mentally tougher than these Nuggets ever can be. True champions do not have trouble summoning a professional effort until the situation is win or go home.

"I think winning eases everything," said Anthony, who acknowledged the team had endured more than its share of drama while struggling in the series. "When you win basketball games, there is nothing that can be said."

Give you one guess at the identity of the lone team in the playoff field of 16 that has shot at least 50 percent from the field during the postseason. It’s the Jazz, which also happens to the only team that has scored at least 100 points in every game of the opening round.

Those are the cold, hard statistics. "We know we have to play defense," interim Nuggets coach Adrian Dantley said.

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