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Are the Nuggets still a serious title contender after another bad loss?

The Denver Nuggets lost to the Rockets in another sign of the team's struggles.

DENVER — The Denver Nuggets blew a chance to secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference on Tuesday night by losing to the lottery-bound Rockets, relaunching debates over whether Denver’s late-season miscues are the result of laziness or real flaws.

In a Wednesday edition of the Locked On Nuggets podcast, hosts Matt Moore and Adam Mares broke down the loss and what it means for Denver.

“The Nuggets’ ceiling is good enough to beat any team in the NBA this season,” Moore said. “But the problem I’m having is you can’t rely on the idea that you’re going to hit it.”

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In the Rockets game specifically, Denver played poorly on defense and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic didn’t bring his A-game.

“The whole team takes their emotional cues from Nikola,” Mares said. “He had no sense of urgency, no sense of discipline and focus.

“The result was they spiraled out of control and Nikola wasn’t able to help them when it mattered.”

Jokic had eight turnovers in the game and head coach Mike Malone only kept him on the floor for 25 minutes because of the lopsided result.

“Denver needs effort to defend well,” Mares added. “They can’t defend easy. They have to play hard to defend well, and they need, for whatever reason, motivation to play hard.”

Looking ahead to the postseason, both hosts agreed it’s an open question as to whether the Nuggets can secure needed wins and execute to close out series.

“If you go hard every night … you don’t have another gear you can get to in the playoffs,” Moore said. “They need to show a little bit of killer instinct on the road, and they just haven’t done it this year.” 

The Nuggets close the season with games against Phoenix and Utah on the road before hosting the Kings on Sunday.

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