The Denver Nuggets did show up at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday night, did overcome an early 16-point deficit, and did briefly hold a lead over the Utah Jazz in the third quarter.
But whether or not they really believed they could steal a win on the Jazz's home floor was brought into question following their 124-97 loss to Utah.
When a reporter asked Denver coach George Karl if he was disappointed that his team wasn't able to create some distance between the Nuggets and Golden State for the final playoff berth in the western conference by beating the Jazz on Saturday, Karl had a priceless reaction.
He raised an eyebrow, and reminded the reporter that his Nuggets just won at an extremely difficult place to play in Golden State on Thursday night.
"We're supposed to go out and win at Golden State and at Utah?" Karl asked. "We're playing good, but I don't know if we're playing that good. This is a tough place to win. I'm not sure that Utah might not be the best team in the Western Conference. I'm not a student of everybody yet, but I know that they're (darn) good."
The Nuggets, losers of nine of their last 11 against the Jazz, were reminded of that early and late in Saturday's game.
Denver seemingly sleepwalked through the first quarter, falling behind 23-7 a little more than six minutes into the game. The Nuggets missed eight of their first 10 shots, while allowing the Jazz to shoot 75 percent from the field in the first quarter.
The Nuggets, however, opened the second quarter on a 14-0 run and made a game of it until there were a little more than four minutes left in the third. That's when Carmelo Anthony was whistled for a flagrant foul on Utah guard Deron Williams, igniting the Utah crowd, as well as the Jazz on both ends of the floor.
Williams made the two free throws to give the Jazz an 80-73 lead, and Denver would never get closer the rest of the way.
The Nuggets disagreed with the flagrant call, but were unanimous in their feeling that they never recovered from it.
"It was frustrating because I didn't feel like it was a flagrant," said Denver guard Allen Iverson. "Obviously, we didn't want him (Williams) to get hurt or anything like that, but I've seen worse. I've been involved in worse. It was a bad call, but they called it and you got to keep playing from there. It happened at a serious part of the game and they grabbed all the momentum from that point on."
Denver packed it in early after losing the game's momentum. Iverson and Anthony were pulled from the game with 6:25 left.
Despite the loss, the Nuggets still control their playoff destiny. They are tied with Golden State for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, as each team has a 48-32 record with two games remaining. Denver holds the tiebreaker over the Warriors.
The Nuggets close with home games against Houston (tonight), and Memphis on Wednesday.
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