The Denver Nuggets needed to come from behind to avoid dropping to 0-2 to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night, and thankfully (for Denver fans), they completed a comeback to win 114-105 and even up the series.
It was a gutty win, though one that had me asking: Why are the 2-seed Denver Nuggets, a team that won 54 games this year and finished second in the West to the Warriors, needing to come from behind at home to avoid dropping to 2-0 to the Spurs?
All year long there have been whispers that this Nuggets team isn’t all that good, but having watched them play a few times, I knew that was nonsense. The Nuggets were excellent, with a deep team and a beautiful offense that ran through the hands of Nikola Jokic, who just put together one of the great big-man seasons of recent memory. Jokic averaged 20-11-7 at age 23, and Denver built a team that surrounded him with shooters and wing defenders. When it was working, as it often did, it was beautiful.
Look at this:
Anyway, yeah. Jokic is good. The Nuggets are good.
So why on Earth are they struggling to take care of a Spurs team that, while coached by Gregg Popovich, cannot claim to match the talent of this team?
And why is Nuggets coach Mike Malone channeling the Clippers of all teams as his team’s inspiration?
“I could see on some guys’ faces which way is this game going to go?” Malone said. “… I reminded them what the Clippers did [Monday] night and how much basketball is left. It’s only going to happen though if we believe, we commit, we fight and we attack, and the guys took it to heart — and we closed the game out on a 57-32 run from that point on.”
This is nice. This is great. But again: The Nuggets won 54 games this year, playing in a stacked Western Conference. They finished just three games behind the Warriors, who are Mecha Godzilla.
And here they are trying to channel the scrappy underdog spirit to win basketball games? The Clippers needed the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history and Lou Williams going bananas to come back and win a game against the Warriors. It was their Super Bowl. Barring another miracle, they’ll lose the series to Golden State 4-1.
The Clippers are an 8-seed playing against one of the greatest basketball teams ever assembled, though, so that all makes sense. The Nuggets are playing a well coached Spurs team who, from a talent perspective, might be the weakest Gregg Popovich has had in two decades.
The Spurs are a 7-seed, as they should be. Pop has done what he can with this roster, which has two great players in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, and a bunch of fine players. Rudy Gay plays 27 minutes a game for this team. Bryn Forbes plays 28 minutes a game for them. Bryn Forbes! I like Bryn Forbes, but, you know, it’s Bryn …read more