In staff meetings down there, one can imagine the devil suggesting torture for his residents by simulating airport security.
One is thus reminded of this scenario, from late last Thursday, in the drab back hallway of Oracle Arena. See, some NBA teams go through a form of TSA checks when leaving the arena, and then the guys can just get on a bus and are dropped off at a chartered plane. So here were the defeated Nuggets, yearning to escape that night's nightmare — the season-ending Game 6 loss — stuck in the security line, waiting and waiting to be searched and wanded.
But once they got through airport security, and once they got to the airport in Denver, the nightmare hadn't faded. The Nuggets had, indeed, lost in the first round again.
"It was heavy, still heavy. I don't think any of us expected it to end this way," said Nuggets coach George Karl, whose No. 3-seeded team lost to the Warriors. "I'm highly disappointed it did. The process of where this team came, 57 wins, I think is a big step forward. But no one likes to hear that in the middle of the playoffs. ... We made a big step this year, but it wasn't validated by a playoff win."
That's the question — did they truly take a step? Can you have a successful season without a successful postseason? What was surely frustrating to Nuggets fans was that the postplayoff quotes sounded eerily similar to the postplayoff quotes from the previous May.
Some look at the Nuggets and say, "Perhaps their starless, fast-paced style isn't suited for the playoffs."
Others look at the Nuggets and say, "Look, 57 wins in the Western Conference is hard to do, so this is a good team that just had a bad playoff matchup."