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Old 05-05-05, 08:50 AM
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Spurs - A True Measuring Stick

mark kiszla
Spurs a true measuring stick
Mark Kiszla
Denver Post Sports Columnist

San Antonio - The NBA playoffs are graded on a brutal curve. Sorry. Anything less than perfect is failure.

All the hard lessons hurt. The sting of losing 99-89 to San Antonio and the regrets of what could have been in this opening-round series will be wasted, unless the Nuggets remember it all long after Wednesday night. They got schooled by the best in the league.

Far scarier is how much the Nuggets must yet learn.

If winning an NBA championship is the goal, then nothing else matters until Denver figures out how to beat San Antonio.

"The Spurs are the best team in basketball. I don't think there's any doubt," Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said. "Tim Duncan is one of those rare creatures in the NBA who can change the whole equation of every game. How do we beat San Antonio? Right now, I honestly don't know."

Raise a glass. Make a toast. Buy coach George Karl a cold one for putting Denver back on the NBA map.

But when that frosty mug is empty, there's nothing left for the Nuggets to do but go back to work.

Denver cannot be afraid to utter a goal never embraced as truly possible in Colorado.

"In any given year you have a chance to compete for a championship. I don't think this team is that far from that," said Karl, whose single unfulfilled basketball ambition is to win a league title.

While the Nuggets deserve to celebrate what they became under Karl, they must also remember that horrendous 17-25 start to the season revealed hard truths about weaknesses that must be addressed.

The NBA playoffs reveal nothing but the truth. And, for Denver, the happy truth was three players who proved themselves essential to the franchise's future.
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