Unlike our competitors in Los Angeles who hoisted up their 10th NBA Championship (in Los Angeles, 15th for the franchise) last night, our Nuggets will be hosting up a different type of banner tonight: our franchise's sixth division title. Whee!
I don't mean to make light of the Nuggets accomplishments from last season, but just want to put things in some perspective. The good news is that historically speaking, the Nuggets have played well (4-1) in games where said banner is lifted up to the rafters.
After winning their first Midwest Division title in 1976-77 (also the Nuggets first season in the NBA), the Nuggets crushed the Bucks 133-115 to kick off the 1977-78 campaign. The Nuggets would win a second straight Midwest Division title that season and open the 1978-79 campaign with a 118-117 squeaker of a victory over the Spurs at McNichols Arena.
Moving into the 80s, the Nuggets won the Midwest Division twice again. After besting their division in 1984-85, the Nuggets opened on the road in 1985-86 at Golden State and won, and then came back to McNichols to hoist up their banner and beat the lowly Kings 123-112. And to follow up on their 1987-88 division title, the Nuggets beat the Rockets 120-117 to kick off what became a disappointing 1988-89 season.
The Nuggets lone loss in games where they hoist a division banner came in 2007 when they lost to the Timberwolves at Pepsi Center 112-109. Kevin Garnett torched the Nuggets for 27 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks to spoil Denver's home opener. Garnett seems to have a habit of doing this as evident by his Celtics victory at Cleveland last night.
But pass success and/or futility has no bearing on the immediate future. And tonight, the Nuggets will hoist up that sixth division title banner followed by a grueling 48-minute affair against longtime division rival Utah. The Nuggets opened their 2008-09 season at Utah and lost, but went on to split the season series with the Jazz 2-2. With the Jazz's shooting guard corps decimated by injury (Ronnie Brewer could miss tonight with back spasms, C.J. Miles has a thumb injury and Kyle Korver just underwent knee surgery), I'm looking for the Nuggets to improve their banner-hoisting record to 5-1.
A victory tonight won't come easy, however, as it never does against a Jerry Sloan coached team. And the Jazz looked pretty sharp in the preseason, finishing 5-2 with victories over our Nuggets and division rival Portland. Keep an eye on Jazz rookie Eric Maynor who showed flashes of his talent during the preseason, and could potentially fill in the void left by Miles, Korver and even Brewer if Brewer has to sit out a few games.
It's Opening Night! I can't wait. Go Nuggets!!