Love him or hate him, Bruce Springsteen is notorious for his dedication to his audiences, performing his guts out for hours on end through thousands of shows over the course of a 50-plus year career. The average Springsteen concert is longer than the average professional football game, and regularly goes far longer. His longest show ever was four hours and six minutes long, an overseas affair. His longest U.S. concert was in Philadelphia and clocked in at four hours and four minutes. Easy to do when you start out in your teens, right? Not so fast. Bruce knocked out those 244 minutes last October, less than a year shy of his 70th birthday.
The Boss? He’s pretty much a boss.
Consistency breeds a lot of goodness in any discipline, whether you’re a rocker, a crooner, a sushi chef, or a basketball player. Consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action. Coming out of the All-Star break, your Denver Nuggets had been one of the more surprisingly consistent teams in the league, with winning streaks of seven, six, five (x2), and four (x4) games throughout the season. Stacking that up, 39 of their 43 wins this season have come as a part of a streak that was four games or longer. They also have a few losing streaks sprinkled throughout the season, with four and three (x2) game slips marring one of their best campaigns to date.
Their newfound consistency has also been a massive part of why they’ve won as many games as they have, frequently wearing opponents down in workman-like fashion, enabling them to run away from teams at their best, and stay close enough to reel opponents back in at their worst. Even when their shots weren’t falling, the Nuggets typically stayed in the contest, having been blown out only three times over these first sixty four games.
But with 72 quarters of basketball left in the regular season, Denver finds itself in one of it’s least consistent spots. Even the re-gelling core of Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray have shown the individual offensive consistency of a richter shock, though they’re still find the open/hot player in the moment. The Nuggets long-vaunted bench recently finds itself struggling to find much of a rhythm at all. To that end, in last night’s too-narrow win against the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver’s bench added 26 of the Nuggets 115 points. 23% of the points is probably why the bench only saw 28% of the minutes, with each of the starters exceeding 30, and Millsap logging 40. It was a much-needed win, but not without its vexing moments, as well-catalogued by Gordon Gross in last night’s recap.
18 games until the postseason starts. The Nuggets remaining schedule is brutal, as seen above. Warriors twice, Timberwolves twice, Trail Blazers home-and-away. One each of Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Pistons, Celtics. It will be a rugged ride getting to the finish, but this season the Nuggets have beaten every team on that list but Detroit, many more than once. Their weekend begins with a true test of their current ability to play 48 minutes of consistent basketball against the current champs.
The sooner the Nuggets can eliminate the disappearing acts over such lengthy stretches, the better a shot they have at some staying power in the postseason. Denver still holds a semi-comfortable 4 game lead over the three teams that sit at 39-25, with Houston shooting into third place by way of tiebreaker over Oklahoma City and Portland. Those four contests loom large on the horizon, and will probably be key as to whether the Nuggets are able to hang onto the two seed until season’s end. Consistency will probably be key to that success or failure.