A season that started with so much promise for the Denver Nuggets is rapidly spinning out of control, as the Utah Jazz now leads 3-1 in the playoff series. Yesterday’s 117-106 Nuggets loss in Salt Lake City was a case study in a talented team imploding in the playoffs, as the game was full of selfish play, bone-headed mistakes, and lackluster defense. The Denver Post’s game recap pins the blame on Utah’s exemplary team play and hustle and on the Nuggets not playing as a team.

Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 39 points, but was committed too many offensive fouls and turnovers. The Denver Stiffs blog has a clear, concise perspective: “The Utah Jazz are kicking the Nuggets’ asses.”

In terms of playing as a team, coaching, defense, and overall effort, the Nuggets just don’t have it right now. At one point Chris “Birdman” Andersen threw up an ugly 20-foot jump shot, which predictably bricked off the rim, and Anthony yelled at him on the bench later on.

Then, there’s J.R. Smith, who has gone cold, shooting 15-44 for the series, “despite being guarded most of that time by the eminently beatable Kyle Korver,” writes ESPN.

Wednesday’s game at the Pepsi Center will be the Nuggets’ last chance to pull it together and extend this series, but things aren’t looking good. Only eight of 189 teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

It’s not even clear that coach George Karl could marshal his dispirited troops. Rick Reilly spent some time with Karl recently for a piece on ESPN showing that Karl is recovering, but that watching his team play so poorly is not just frustrating, it’s scary. If things start off poorly, he doesn’t even finish watching. Karl said his second brush with cancer has taught him to be a better person and a better ambassador to basketball, and that he has a two-thirds chance of returning to coach if the Nuggets make it to the second round, a scenario that doesn’t look likely at this point.