Updated: March 22, 2013, 1:46 AM ET

1. Nuggets Take No. 14, But Streakin' Ain't Easy

By Aaron McGuire | TrueHoop Network

Since a Jan. 1 upset of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, the Philadelphia 76ers have suffered an 0-14 drought in road games. The luckless lottery hopefuls were coming off of a late-breaking back-to-back (a 29-point thrashing at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers, one must remember) and heading into an arena where the home team had won 15 of its last 15. The Denver Nuggets have averaged 111 points per game during that home streak, a stark contrast to Philadelphia's 88 points per game during their current road losing streak.

All this is to say that the world had a pretty good idea of what to expect: an annihilation. Oddsmakers tabbed Denver as a 14-point favorite, DESPITE missing Wilson Chandler and Ty Lawson because of injury. The game seemed destined to be a blowout where a clearly superior team runs wild on a down-on-their-luck lottery squad with nothing left to play for. Very reasonable logic, although it missed one important fact.

Corey Brewer
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsCorey Brewer, the man who saved the streak.

Talent gaps are talent gaps, and oftentimes, no amount of extra heart and hustle is going to make up for that. But the spirit of an NBA underdog manifests itself in a certain curious way when winter turns to spring and lottery position firms up.

Every once in a while, for whatever reason, a lottery team doesn't simply lie on the mat and tap out. It'll show a fire it can't tap into on a regular basis. It'll come out roaring, throw the first punch, and thoroughly eviscerate a team that shouldn't be letting it in the game at all. In this case, it wasn't just "whatever reason." The reason was simple.

NBA teams, tanking or not, love ending streaks. There's nothing quite like cracking the perceived invulnerability of a team on a long winning streak. The press starts talking about their championship pedigree, its players start believing their own hype, game previews become little more than their streaking statistics and lofty praises. Fans start looking ahead and checking wins off on the calendar. "Oh, look, we're playing the three worst teams in our division. We're DEFINITELY getting at least three more wins in the streak."

Expectations. Glory. Complacency. It sets in rather quickly. And it changes the game. Suddenly, it isn't just about a bad team versus a good team. It's about an underdog proving it belongs. It's about a lesser team upending the expectations and throwing conventional wisdom under a bus. It's about the flaws of the contender, not the flaws of the lesser lights. The game becomes more akin to a March Madness upset than a garden variety NBA blowout.

The Nuggets -- due to a furious late burst and a well-timed breakout night for journeyman Corey Brewer -- don't have to suffer the ignominy of losing the streak to a team that they should've beaten. But make no mistake. Win or not, Thursday wasn't their night. As the buzzer sounded to the whoops and hollers of a Denver crowd, a visible sigh of relief passed across Nuggets coach George Karl's face. Nuggets play-by-play announcer Chris Marlowe summed it up best as the players left the court: "Ladies and gentlemen, you just saw the biggest theft since the crown jewels were stolen in the 18th century."

No kidding. Philadelphia spent much of the night lording over the Nuggets, thoroughly outplaying its hosts in an exceeding strange turnaround. They rebounded better, they scored inside better, they moved the ball better. And they deserve all the credit in the world for it -- they fought the good fight, and they put a tangible fear into the hearts of the better team. They played swarming, trapping defense and kept Denver out of their comfort zone all night long. Heck, they managed to outscore the Nuggets in the paint. That hasn't happened since mid-February!

Philadelphia's valiant effort, even in defeat, reminded everyone watching of one of the world's most sacred truths -- probability isn't inevitability. Simply having a high chance of hitting the flush doesn't mean you will. Someday, a No. 1 seed will fall to a No. 16 seed. The Miami Heat have had to come back from the dead against teams they should've destroyed numerous times over the course of their incredible streak -- every team on every great streak does. Adversity doesn't have to come from an obvious place -- it can come from the most unexpected pasties on the schedule. In the end, Philadelphia's effort was in vain -- the streak goes on.

But just ask the Nuggets: It sure isn't easy to win 14 straight games.

Aaron McGuire's work appears regularly on Gothic Ginobili

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