Pressure. Not for the Denver Nuggets in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
Finding themselves down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the West semifinals, Denver’s resiliency glimmered once again. After trailing 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz, the Nuggets are now a ridiculous 6-0 in elimination games.
The Nuggets own two pieces of Orange Roundball League history. They not only climbed out of a 3-1 hole twice — a first in a single postseason while tallying the 12th and 13th time it’s happened in the NBA playoffs to date — they tied another record. They’re just the second franchise in the league’s 74-year run to go a perfect six-of-six when staring elimination between the eyes.
— NBA (@NBA) September 16, 2020
Are you kidding me, folks?
Fortunately for me as a diehard Nuggets fan going back to the early 1990s, I’m not kidding. A simply unprecedented and remarkable feat for a team that apparently consumes pressure as their pregame snack inside the ‘Bubble’ in Orlando.
If this isn’t Mile High Basketball Magic, I’m not sure what it is. Taking a page or two from the Denver Broncos in these 2020 hoops playoffs, the true magic that resonates throughout the Mile High City is back. Instead of the pigskin this time around, it’s all about the orange.
Enter the lethal duo of Jamal “Blue Arrow” Murray and Nikola “The Joker” Jokic. These stud muffins have paved the way for this extremely young squad. Even when they’ve struggled, they’ve conjured up pure greatness on the hardwood when it was needed the most.
Pressure, pressure, pressure throughout the entirety of these 2020 playoffs has equaled buckets, buckets, buckets for this juggernaut combo.
In Game 7, Mr. Murray went ahead and produced his best game of the series with a game-high 40 points for the Nuggets. Jamal did so with incredible efficiency, drilling six triples from the land of plenty, going 15-of-26 from the floor, and converting on all four of his free throw attempts.
What about Mr. Jokic? Well, he went ahead and collected a gargantuan triple-double with 16 points, 22 rebounds, and 13 assists in Denver’s 104-89 closeout victory over head coach Doc Rivers’ Clippers. The Nuggets are the No. 3-seeded team in the West for a reason, my friends. They’ve won games under immense pressure during the regular-season with clutch play, and they’ve delivered in Orlando.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) September 16, 2020
Before the season tipped-off, Nuggets’ head coach Mike Malone, his staff, and his players already had their goal. That goal was to win a championship.
After Game 7, Coach Malone said:
“Our goal was never to get to a Game 7. Our goal when we started this whole season was to win a championship, and as outrageous as that may sound for people outside of our group, we never lost sight of that.” As a sidenote, Malone turned 49 on Tuesday. Happy Birthday, Coach Malone.
When it comes to confidence, just ask The Joker. “We are just not accepting that somebody’s better than us,” Jokic said. If the best center in the NBA is saying these things with both Jamal and Nikola leading by example on the court, the rest of the roster should follow suit. They certainly have.
I have some intriguing numbers for y’all. Take a look at what the Nuggets have done in the second half of Game 6 and Game 7 defensively when compared to the first half.
With no other options left, this is straight-up clampdown defense. Add tremendous shot-making on the other end of the floor, and that’s playoff basketball that’ll lead to a “W” every single time. The box scores above reveal the Nuggets holding the Clips to under 20 points in the third and fourth quarters of Game 6 and Game 7. That’ll get it done in the NBA playoffs.
Collecting an extra day of rest before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday night, the Nuggets are poised and ready to flip the script on the Los Angeles Lakers. In Denver’s first appearance in the West finals since 2009 when they fell 4-2 to the late Kobe Bryant’s Lakers, the Nuggets are 0-6 all-time in the postseason when facing the Lake Show.
Pixel a little Mile High Basketball Magic in the air with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading the way and the Nuggets will be looking at their first-ever appearance in The Finals.
Until next week, be smart, stay safe, and stay healthy.