You still want Will Barton taking the last shot

When Gary Harris nailed the 3-pointer late Thursday night to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, it changed the narrative of the week. The Denver Nuggets finally hit a buzzer-beater to win the game.

In the excitement, I couldn’t help but think of those back-to-back losses earlier in the week and how this time Will Barton didn’t take the final shot.

On back-to-back nights Barton had the chance to make the last shot of the game. They would have been huge wins — knocking off the Eastern Conference’s best, Boston, and ending a road losing streak against the San Antonio Spurs. Instead, Denver lost both games. Will Barton missed both shots.

The disappointing narrative is that Will Barton missed the final shot on back-to-back nights.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports


Is Anything More Interesting Than a Broncos Story?

It was in the hours before I sat down to write my weekly column that this idea for a story started seeping into my brain. This would be my take for the week instead of writing about the Colorado Avalanche’s ten-game winning streak or the Denver Nuggets’ next All-Star (Jamal Murray or Nikola Jokic) or the possibility of a Colorado Rockies Hall of Famer. The pull was too great.

This magnetic energy occurred, even as my interest was more wrapped up in the Australian Open late at night or the NBA All-Star draft. I knew the most important story of our time in sports right now. It’s the events surrounding U.S. Gymnastics and the need for an independent investigation as called for by Aly Raisman. I still found myself drawn to write down the first lines:

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” That must be the opening question to Baker Mayfield at the most important football game of the year—the Senior Bowl. This is where directions (North and South) become roadmaps for building a football team. This is a game where the Denver media fever pitch over the scrimmage resembles the tons of Munchkins in Oz having just banished the witch that was the Broncos last season.

The Senior Bowl? Really? Why was I writing this?

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

It’s a new year — and the Nuggets are bad again

It’s been a really bad month for the Denver Nuggets — and January is barely half over. Denver has a 4-5 record this month, but the losses have been painful and the wins have been pitiful.

This week included two examples of ‘bad wins’. A 105-102 win against the Dallas Mavericks, the second worst team in the Western Conference, was nearly a disaster. The Nuggets had an 85-59 lead in the third quarter before they lost their composure. They also had a ‘bad win’ against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier in the week.

It’s a toss-up when considering which loss has been the worst during this stretch. Two losses against teams battling for the worst record in the NBA — the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings — were both pretty bad. The Hawks loss was a home game. The Kings loss came after an easy win over the Utah Jazz the previous night. However, the Nuggets’ effort made you think that they were playing uphill at Red Rocks Amphitheater against Sacramento.

Going into this season, I felt like the Nuggets needed to make the playoffs to avoid making major offseason changes. There was a point in December where that looked like too low of a goal. Expectations changed too soon. The Nuggets are currently out of a playoff spot with an uphill battle the rest of the season.

Let’s go through the list of potential excuses for the team.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Landeskog wears the ‘C’, but MacKinnon finally leads the way for the Avalanche

You just can’t look away from Nathan MacKinnon these days. Whenever he’s on the ice, my eyes have trouble following the puck because I want to know what No. 29 for the Colorado Avalanche is doing. If magic is about to happen, it will be channeled through MacKinnon.

This emergence of MacKinnon as one of the NHL’s best players is about more than his point total, All-Star game appearances or early MVP consideration. It’s about what he does with the puck.

Every night, it feels like MacKinnon is mastering a new skill on the ice. Aided by his talented line mates Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog, he’s finding new ways to dazzle in the offensive end. His skating ability leaves opposing skaters trying to catch him and goalies trying to find him. He sends passes that video game controllers wouldn’t be able to pull off. The speed can really only be captured on slow-motion instant replay.

MacKinnon, put simply, has become one of the best players in the league. This ability to demand your attention, away from the puck, has always been my measure for great forwards in the NHL. Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg had it. Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid have it. Since Matt Duchene was traded, MacKinnon’s been right up there with the NHL’s elite.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Michael Malone made defense a priority, so now he gambles on trust

To say that the Denver Nuggets are a talented young team isn’t telling the whole truth. They can shoot pretty three-pointers with a combination of guards and big men. Their Serbian star Nikola Jokic slings passes from any angle. The Nuggets can finish at the rim.

Denver has a young, offensively talented team.

When it comes to their defense, however, they’re a prosecutor’s dream. Their effort and preparation are not consistent, and it makes the Nuggets a hard team to trust.

Coach Michael Malone is a staunch believer that the only effort you can count on is your defensive effort. Sometimes the shots don’t go in on offense, and to still win those games, you have to furiously play defense.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

2018: A better year in Denver sports conversations

One thing was clear when reviewing the combined internet a year ago: From sports to pop culture to politics, 2016 needed to end. As Americans, we lost a piece of our identity with the crumbling discourse found across social media, the divisive politics and the loss of public icons. Somehow, we thought that the changing of a calendar would ease some of the burden.

January 2017 wasn’t too different from the previous year. We gained confirmation that 2017 was a continuation of 2016 when the New England Patriots rallied from 25 points down in Super Bowl LI. See, it all comes back to sports. In all seriousness, it was just one of the reasons to feel this way.

Of course, now it feels foolish to think that much would change because of the end of the calendar year. The prospects for 2018 don’t seem to bring hope of big changes.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

The Night Before (Denver sports fans’) Christmas

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the town,
Fans wondered which quarterback was next to go down.
The Rockies’ gloves hung in the clubhouse with care,
In hopes that a pennant soon would hang there.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

The Nuggets are quickly (and not so quietly) making a name for themselves

The Denver Nuggets are ready for your attention. They’re ready for the league to schedule them in big games. They’re ready to be circled on the schedule as a big matchup.

The Denver Nuggets feel ready, and they might be right.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

With court in session, a new judge of character for CU basketball

Freshman McKinley Wright IV’s debut for the Colorado Buffaloes broke from tradition. Head coach Tad Boyle made it clear in the Buffs’ home opener that Wright would be driving this team. He was the first freshman to start since Spencer Dinwiddie (now with the Brooklyn Nets) and he led the team in minutes that night. Wright’s drives at point guard pointed to a new era for Colorado basketball and a refreshing one.

Last year’s team bottomed out. The juvenile behavior of then-fifth-year seniors Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson was exasperating for a team not living up to its potential. Both players were suspended and struggled on the floor. Even with Derrick White’s stellar 2017 campaign (which led to White being picked in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs), the team didn’t gel with all of the distractions. It’s a good thing Tad Boyle didn’t have any more hair to pull out.

It’s been interesting watching the ups and downs of the Tad Boyle era. Seven-plus seasons have culminated in one NCAA Tournament win and a Pac-12 Championship, both in 2011-12. That record is really selling what Boyle has done short. CU has won 20 or more games nine times in school history, and five of those seasons have been with Boyle on the bench. The talent Boyle consistently recruits is far above what Colorado was prior. NBA teams have drafted four CU players in the last six years. All four are still playing in the NBA — Alec Burks (2011, 12th overall), Andre Roberson (2013, 26th overall), Dinwiddie (2014, 38th overall) and White (2017, 29th overall).

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Crazy for thinking this Colorado Avalanche plan might work

The Avalanche have been locked out of NHL success for years, but for the first time in a while it appears they may have found the keys.

It’s not yet polished. Even with a young team and exciting prospects, there are moments of panic on the ice for the Avalanche. For example, a smooth pass sails out of the zone and there’s a scramble for the team to regain composure. It’s not the lack of talent that keeps fans on edge now — it’s a lack of experience.

While it seems counterintuitive, this problem is incredibly refreshing. Almost everything about the way the Avalanche are now running this team is refreshing.

You see, the Avalanche fell into a trap. This trap was not the defensive scheme that bores hockey fans to death. It was a calculated assault on their way of doing business in which the whole league conspired against them.

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Originally posted on Mile High Sports