Tonight's Game Four, pitting the Nuggets against the Lakers, is pivotal not only for the outcome of the first round playoff series, but it stands as an opportunity for George Karl to prove himself.
To say a man that's been around the game since the 70s needs to prove himself seems whacky, but follow along.
Karl's one of seven coaches to win 1,000 regular season games, a testament to his longevity as an NBA coach. In the world of professional sports, coaches are almost always more dispensable than players—not the case when speaking of Karl, especially in Denver.
He's out-lasted a long list of players that includes superstar Carmelo Anthony and his contract was renewed prior to this season for three additional years. Karl's got the chance to coach two different eras of Nugget basketball in Denver, a very rare opportunity indeed.
Still, for all the success he's enjoyed in the regular season, there's a big fat goose egg in the column following “NBA Titles” on his resume.
He's only been to the NBA Finals once, as his Seattle Supersonics were squashed by a Michael Jordan led Bulls team, while taking teams to two other Western Conference Finals—we all remember the 4-2 loss to the Lakers in 2009.
Yes, the Nuggets have been a postseason contestant each of Karl's eight seasons in the Mile High City, but they've only been out of the first round that one time, in 2009.
But, with a win tonight, Karl and his young new Nuggs can be the first of those eight squads to even up a series outside of two years ago.
No one gave Denver a chance to beat the Lakers in this series—every one of ESPN's 14 basketball analysts picked LA to win—but the Nuggets could make the best of seven series a best of three with a victory at Pepsi Center tonight.
They already know what they have to do; utilize their athleticism by relentlessly running the break, attack the rim aggressively and play all-out, frustrating defense on Kobe and Andrew Bynum.
It's how they dominated the Lakers in Denver Friday night, winning 99-85, it's how they'll have to play tonight to earn a second postseason victory.
For Karl, who tweaked his lineup leading into Game Three, this contest will test his coaching abilities even further, as he'll have to find the best matchups while convincing his team to play their way. He'll have to adapt on the fly and inspire his team with the vast basketball wisdom his brain contains.
Winning in the playoffs is dependent upon coaching and Karl can prove he's still got it by leading the Nuggets to a victory tonight, evening the series up at 2-2.
Game Four tips off at 7:30 p.m. MT on TNT.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Give him a follow on facebook and/or twitter for links to articles, interesting insight, breaking news and retweets from the best journalists and high-profile athletes.