Our Denver Nuggets finished up the week logging their 2nd win in a row after coming back from being down by double digit points against the Dallas Mavericks Thursday night. The game wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win and it keeps them within 1 game of 1st place in the Western Conference.
Denver has just 15 games remaining in the regular season which may be enough time to capture the 1st position heading into the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs sit at 7th place in the West with the Los Angeles Clippers rounding out the top 8, and I’d much rather see Denver match up against the Clippers than the Spurs led by winning coach Gregg Popovich.
There isn’t much time for Denver to gain on the Warriors so they’ll need to kick it into high gear and keep their winning streak going if they hope to regain the lead.
Let’s look back at this week, and identify some top takeaways heading into the final month of the regular season.
Nuggets blow out the Minnesota Timberwolves playing loose and free
What makes the Nuggets’ offense so effective is their ability to move the ball through Nikola Jokic to get it into the hands of any player who is open to make a shot. However, the last month or so it’s seemed as though Denver forgot who they were and relied too heavily on finding their own shots vs working to make plays for their teammates. Essentially, they weren’t playing as unselfishly as they had been earlier in the season.
Against Minnesota, the Nuggets’ offense was free-flowing resulting in an incredibly fun game to watch, and ultimately a blow out win.
Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray alone combined for 53 points, with Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Monte Morris bringing another combined 46 on top of that. The more the ball moves around, the more players bring in double digit points. Combine that with steady defense, and that’s usually always a recipe for a win.
The Nuggets have seemingly rediscovered their groove once again, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. As I mentioned above, Denver only has 15 games to take the Warriors’ lead away from them, and if they continue to play loose and move the ball they may be able to get the job done.
Nuggets’ strength now lies in closing close games
The NBA on TNT’s Kevin Harlan said that the Nuggets are 14-3 in games decided by 4 points or less. Harlan relayed that statistic during the Nuggets’ less-than stellar performance against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.
The Nuggets came back from a 12-point deficit in the 4th quarter to close out a 1-point win against Dallas with none other than Jokic logging the winning shot.
Although us fans aren’t thrilled when the Nuggets cut it this close, they seem to thrive on the challenge to come back from a deficit and secure a win. And the end of this game was nothing short of magical.
Why is this gnarly win so important?
Because before this season, Denver’s primary weakness was their ability to close out close games. They would come so close to the finish line, and seemingly give up right before crossing the finish line.
Years ago I was challenged to take one specific weakness and turn it into my strength, and I’ve found that it’s not too hard with a little extra effort and focus. That’s not to say I don’t have any weaknesses, but I no longer just accept a weaknesses as it is and move on. It’s possible to change and grow, and even if our weaknesses don’t become something we excel at, we can at least improve.
That’s exactly what the Nuggets have done this season. They’ve taken something that used to be their downfall and turned it into the very thing that they love to be good at.
This bodes well for not only this season, but for the future of an organization that seems bound for a title.
Timing is right
I’m excited to see the Nuggets getting these types of wins at this specific point in the season. They’ve seemed to regain focus of their offensive identity while also capitalizing on winning close games.
These two things will be a deadly combination for their opponents in the post-season. Most playoff games aren’t blowout wins so if the Nuggets match up against San Antonio they will need to employ their best strategies on offense, and stay focused through the final buzzer to close out close games.
As I’ve said before, I’m looking forward to the Nuggets playing into the higher ranks of the post-season, but winning the first round is the first order of business. If they can continue to lock in on what they know works, I’m confident they’ll be able to capture the first round soundly.