The Denver Nuggets’ season could come to an end tonight at the Pepsi Center. After a lot of lofty talk about the Nuggets being the only team that could make a run at the L.A. Lakers for the Western Conference crown, the Nuggets have stumbled through this first-round series against the Utah Jazz, and just one more chance to extend the series remains.

USA Today wonders how much blame can be placed on coach George Karl’s cancer-related absence, quoting acting head coach Adrian Dantley and point guard Chauncey Billups as saying that they miss Karl’s leadership and presence on the bench. Karl’s absence looms large–and we’ll have months to discuss the impact–but doesn’t give the Nuggets an excuse for poor execution and lazy defense.

The lack of assists in the most recent loss in Utah caused guard J.R. Smith to lash out on Twitter, which was promptly quoted by the Denver Post and many other media outlets: “You play selfish you lose selfish that’s all I’m saying about the game!” Smith tweeted.

Yet, Smith is one of the worst culprits when it comes to boneheaded shots and running one-on-five offensive schemes, but he has a point. Combine the lack of passing with discord among the players–Carmelo Anthony yelling at Chris “Birdman” Andersen for launching a 20-foot brick and Dantley seeming to have trouble commanding the strong personalities on the team’s bench–and the Nuggets are going to struggle.

And, there is more to complain about with the Nuggets’ recent play. ESPN points out that the Nuggets don’t seem to want to run plays they know work, such as a Melo/Nene pick-and-roll. The Denver Post’s Dave Krieger says the Nuggets are playing against an NBA officiating mindset that rewards the Jazz’s flopping, calling the NBA’s foul-calling “basketball socialism,” which rewards smaller and less-talented players for taking dives.

All that may be true, but let’s discuss it further if the Nuggets actually pass the ball and play team basketball tonight.