Coach Mike Malone’s team has fought their way to a second straight game seven in the 2020 playoffs. The Denver Nuggets have been written off and left for dead five or six times already in this postseason. Each time, the Nuggets’ resiliency is on full display and they find a way to survive another day. Tuesday night they will try to complete a second consecutive comeback for being down 3-1 in a series. Denver is one win away from its first Western Conference Finals since 2009.
Denver Nuggets Resiliency on Full Display in NBA Playoffs
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have each said after the last two victories that this team plays best with its back against the wall. So far in the 2020 playoffs, it has become a familiar position. Despite the flaws this team has, it’s clear that mental toughness and a refusal to quit are not among them. This young group has shown an uncanny ability to step up when everything is on the line. Now they have to battle the Los Angeles Clippers one more time with their season on the line.
Dead in the Water
The Denver Nuggets have been left for dead by pundits and fans alike several times over the last few weeks. The team’s resiliency emerged for the first time when they were down 3-1 in the first round to the Utah Jazz. Trailing by 15 points in the third quarter, Denver looked well on their way to the off season. Reserve guard PJ Dozier gave the Nuggets a defensive spark, and Murray went crazy on the offensive end as they survived elimination. Murray had another monumental performance in game six, and Jokic led the way as the Nuggets won game seven to outlast the Jazz and move onto the second round.
In the minds of most fans and pundits, Denver was dead in the water before the series with the Clippers ever began. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Los Angeles was the betting favorite to win the 2020 NBA Championship. They looked the part in game one, blasting Coach Malone’s team from the opening tip and cruising to a blowout victory. The Nuggets evened the series in game two before letting a fourth quarter lead slip away in game three. Once again it looked as if this team would be heading out the bubble after a slow first quarter led to loss in game four.
Backs Against the Wall
This young group in Denver has now proven over the past two seasons that they will come out swinging when their backs are against the wall. They were down 16 points in the third quarter in both games five and six before rallying late to win. This team is now 6-1 in elimination games over the past two postseasons. While Murray exploded offensively in the Utah series to save them, it’s been Jokic who has carried the load in round two. Both of these young stars have shown they are not afraid of the bright lights in the playoffs. This team as a whole has also shown they will not quit, regardless of how dire their situation looks.
Much like during the regular season, the Nuggets are getting it done with contributions from up and down the roster. While Dozier sparked the run that got them going in game five of round one, it was veteran Paul Millsap who did so in round two. He scored 12 points in the third quarter as Denver made their first of back to back second half comebacks. Michael Porter has struggled shooting in the playoffs, but has hit big threes late in the fourth quarter of each of the last two games. The defensive efforts of Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, and Gary Harris cannot be overlooked either.
The Denver Nuggets Next Step
The Nuggets resiliency will be tested once again on Tuesday, as they face yet another game seven. This will be the fourth winner take all game in the last four playoff series for Denver. They will need to get off to a much better start in this one. Relying on another late game comeback is not an ideal situation. Getting Murray going early would help propel the Nuggets as they try to reach the Western Conference Finals. This would also be a good time for Grant or Harris to break out of their shooting slumps. The onus will be on Jokic and Murray to carry this team as expected. Denver’s young stars will need at least one other player to step up offensively to finish off the Clippers.
The Denver Nuggets have all the momentum. A quick start would add even more pressure to an opponent trying to stave off a playoff collapse. Even if they don’t start the game off quickly, the one sure thing is that this team will not stop fighting until the end.