If only Nuggets,
could play Utah!

Apr 17, 2007 4:26 AM

Despite losing last Saturday to Memphis and seeing an eight-game win streak end, the Denver Nuggets approach the NBA playoffs with a positive frame of mind.

"I told my team we’re going to play these next games, through Monday, and then we might come up with a philosophy after that," Head coach George Karl told the Denver Post. "But, we’re going to play to win games. We’re going to compete. Our rotations aren’t going to change."

The Nuggets are basically in a holding pattern up to the final regular season contest Wednesday at San Antonio. Denver hosted Minnesota on Monday at the Pepsi Center in what figured to be a Nuggets blowout victory. The Timberwolves bowed out of playoff contention several weeks ago.

Bettors can get widely different prices shopping around Las Vegas for futures on Denver’s chances of winning the NBA title. Caesars Palace lists the Nuggets at a conservative 20/1, while the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook is more flamboyant at 60/1.

Denver was in second place the NBA Northwest, six games behind front-running Utah. But, if the truth be told, the Jazz have been in a tailspin the past month and would be a very good matchup for the Nuggets if the two were to tangle.

Unfortunately, Denver sits in the No. 6 slot and likely to face the Spurs in the first round in the best 4-of-7 series. The first two games will be played at San Antonio, where the Spurs were 31-9 at home and 2-0 against Denver prior to this Wednesday’s regular season finale.

Tim Duncan was tossed from Sunday’s loss to Dallas, which left the Spurs as the No. 3 seed in the West and relegated to meeting a Denver team that is playing its best basketball of the season.

However, the Nuggets play that wide-open style of ball that produces lots of points but few stops defensively. Denver ranks 26th out of 30 in defense.

At least Denver enters the San Antonio series mostly healthy. That’s a rarity and essential if the Nuggets have any chance of upsetting the Spurs.

Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony are each among the top five NBA scorers, while Marcus Camby has been excellent on the boards and shot-blocking. Nene has dropped some 25-to-30 pounds and his minutes have picked up. Plus, the addition of Steve Blake and increased scoring from Linas Kleiza have given the Nuggets much-needed depth.

That said, the pick is San Antonio in 6.