Nuggets playoff history: Will George Karl's genius peak following Carmelo's reign?


The Denver Nuggets are perennial playoff contenders, but will this year be the one they break through?

Make it 10. For 10 straight years, the Denver Nuggets have earned playoff bids, the second-longest mark in the NBA behind the San Antonio Spurs' streak of 16 straight postseason berths. But among all the teams on that shortlist of success, it's the Nuggets who have been dealt the most disappointment.

Only once in its last nine playoff appearances has Denver advanced past the first round. And for the first five years of that streak, the Nuggets couldn't earn more than a single playoff victory in five games.

Could this be the year? George Karl, in his seventh year as head coach, and his No. 3-seeded Nuggets squad can prove that patience pays off with a deep run.

OK, so 2012-13 isn't Karl's only success story. He led the Nuggets to the 2008-09 Western Conference Finals after beating the New Orleans Hornets and Dallas Mavericks -- both with 4-1 series -- in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Behind Carmelo Anthony, a team with a veteran point guard (Chauncey Billups) an athletic power forward (Kenyon Martin) and an explosive bench scorer (J.R. Smith) wasn't quite enough to beat the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets fell in a six-game series to the eventual NBA champions.

The 2012-13 squad is similar in makeup. Karl's winningest Denver team may be retooled, but its weaknesses are hard to find sans the lack of a go-to scorer. Denver has a veteran point guard in Andre Miller, a calming influence behind starting point guard Ty Lawson. The Nuggets have a dynamic frontcourt in young Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. And they also roll out a high-scoring bench of Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler, who will be tasked with making up for the season-ending loss of forward Danilo Gallinari.

So about that go-to scorer: Denver's answer without one was the acquisition of do-it-all small forward Andre Igoudala -- a defensive stopper, playmaker and leader. He plays into Karl's always up-tempo offense, but unlike the days of Anthony, he and Lawson fit into the mold of a team where every player has a fuse ready to be lit.

In recent history, Anthony repeatedly pushed Denver to successful postseasons. The beginning of the 10-year postseason streak began in 2003-04, his rookie year, then culminated in the conference finals run in 2009. The streak even survived past Anthony's tenure in 2011, when the Thunder beat Denver 4-1, and again in 2012, when Los Angeles pulled out a first round, seven-game series.

Coincidentally, the beginning of Denver's streak was the end of one for another team. The Nuggets fell in the first round to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kevin Garnett in 2004, ending a seven-year streak of first-round exits for Garnett.

That's the circular nature of the NBA. Although he needed a fresh start in Boston to do so, Garnett -- once criticized for his first-round failures -- eventually won an NBA title.

The Nuggets as a franchise can only hope patience and a little change themselves serves up a successful postseason run.

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