Ups and downs define first half of season for Nuggets

Denver approaches midway point with 20-20 record
by Aaron Lopez

While searching for the best way to describe the first half of his first season as Nuggets coach, Brian Shaw pointed in the direction of Elitch Gardens adjacent to Pepsi Center.

“I think about the roller coaster that’s over there,” Shaw said. “It’s been up and down, up and down, which happens in a season. The downs have been really down. We’ve had some good ups, but I want the roller coaster ride to go up a little bit more before it starts to descend.”

The Nuggets have a 20-20 record as the season’s midway point approaches Thursday, but it’s been a topsy-turvy journey to .500. They’ve enjoyed win streaks of seven and five games, offset by losing streaks of seven and three games.

Denver has posted solid road wins over playoff-contending teams Dallas, Golden State and Toronto, only to fall at home to Cleveland, Philadelphia and Utah.

The highs and lows aren’t limited to wins and losses.

Point guard Ty Lawson is enjoying an All-Star-caliber season, averaging 18 points and 8.9 assists – both career highs – but he and his teammates learned Tuesday that forward Danilo Gallinari will not return this season following knee surgery.

Through Tuesday’s games, the Nuggets were tied for ninth in the Western Conference standings.

“It’s on us to determine from this point on what kind of season we’re going to have,” Shaw said. “We have a half a season to really make up some ground or stay in the middle of the pack or outside the playoff race. It’s up to us. There’s no excuses. We know the hand that we’re dealt in terms of the guys that we’re going to have to get it done with.”

Denver practiced Wednesday before heading to Portland for Thursday’s game against the Trail Blazers.