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Mile Highs and Lows: A Recap of the Denver Nuggets in March

March is officially complete, and there is now six games standing in between the Nuggets and their first playoff game in six years

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

With March having come and gone, the Denver Nuggets are officially in the home stretch of the regular season. March meant nine road games for the Nuggets (the most of any month this season for them), and the team was able to go 5-4 in those matchups. While March had its ups and downs and the team was guilty of losing focus for key stretches, such as the times they gave up leads against the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, the fact remains that with six games remaining on the schedule, the Nuggets are still holding onto the second seed in the Western Conference. Not only that, but the first seed is still very much in play. This means that the Nuggets have not let the toughness of their schedule catch up to them quite yet.

Regardless of how the Nuggets finish the season, in two weeks they will take the court in a playoff game for the first time in six years - and that is definitely something worth celebrating.

Record in March: 9-6

Overall record: 51-25

Game of the Month: Denver Nuggets vs. Boston Celtics (3/18/19)

The Nuggets started a four-game road trip by going to Boston and getting a win. They did so thanks to great performances from Nikola Jokic and Will Barton, who scored 21 points and 20 points respectively. This win was important for a few reasons. First, Boston is a tough place to play, so the Nuggets getting a win in that arena to start the trip off right was huge. Second, the Celtics honored Isaiah Thomas with a video tribute during one of the timeouts, and that meant a great deal to IT and all of his fans. Third, with this win the Nuggets clinched a playoff spot for the first time in six seasons. The Nuggets celebrated the accomplishment in the locker room after the game, by dousing themselves in water. It’s now official - the Nuggets will have an opportunity to continue to shock skeptics by figuring out a way to win in the playoffs.

Highlight of the Month: Nikola Jokic buzzer beater against the Dallas Mavericks

The month of March was full of highlights in crunch time. On March 14th, Jokic stunned the Dallas Mavericks when he hit a buzzer beater in response to Luka Doncic’s unbelievable dunk on the other end that would have lost the game for the Nuggets. It was a crazy shot for Jokic and one that confirmed the Nuggets officially have their closer. While Murray, Paul Millsap, and Gary Harris have all come through in the clutch this month, Jokic has solidified himself as the player that most deserves to have the ball in his hands in those moments. This was just one of the plays that proved that.

Player of the Month: Jamal Murray

The Player of the Month battle was between Jokic and Jamal Murray. While Jokic continues to be the glue that holds this team together, Murray has come on strong in the month of March. He averaged 18.3 points a game and, more impressively, a field goal percentage of 45.5%, which is the highest of any month this season for him. He scored 25 or higher in four games this month and earned three gameballs from the Denver Stiffs Instagram account.

His best game this month came against the PIstons on March 26th. He was absolutely on fire in the first half and then hit two clutch shots with less than a minute remaining to help stem the side of the Pistons’ comeback. It’s encouraging to see Murray play so well with the playoffs looming in less than two weeks. We all know what Jokic will provide on a nightly basis at this point, but Murray remains the biggest x-factor on the team. If he performs the way he has in the month of March, the Nuggets’ chances increase drastically in the playoffs.

Story of the Month: Isaiah Thomas no longer in the rotation

Before the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 12th, coach Michael Malone decided to make a change to the rotation. Thomas, who had been splitting minutes with Monte Morris as a backup to Murray since returning from injury, notched his first DNP-CD that night. Since then, his only minutes have come against the Celtics, a game in which a tribute to him was made during a timeout and Malone felt compelled to allow IT to get game action. The decision is not super surprising considering that Thomas was not able to be effective in most of his minutes and the fact that Morris deserves a lot of minutes of his own. Still, it was a tough decision for Malone to make. It’s now looking as though Thomas will not be in the rotation come playoff time.

Knowing how skilled and hardworking Thomas is, he can be a valuable contributor on a lot of NBA teams. However, the Nuggets are a team looking to gain rhythm and consistency going into the playoffs, and with a backup point guard as good as Morris, it seems as though IT’s comeback will have to be continued on another team. One of the best things about Thomas is that whether he’s playing or not, he continues to provide enthusiasm and guidance on the bench. That’s the reason why he will still serve valuable to the Nuggets as they enter the postseason.

Surprise of the month: With six games to go, the Nuggets are still fighting for the first seed in the Western Conference.

Despite the Nuggets holding the first seed at multiple points in the season, the general consensus seems to be that the schedule in March and April would make it extremely difficult for them to be at the top of the conference when the season ended. The Nuggets played NINE road games in March and played eight games against teams bound for the playoffs. Going 9-6 in the month, combined with the Golden State Warriors dropping games they should win, has meant that the matchup between the defending champions and the Nuggets on Tuesday night will prove pivotal in the race for the 1st seed. With the Nuggets’ loss against the Wizards to close the month, it seems that they absolutely have to beat the Warriors on Tuesday night for them to still have a chance to claim that 1st seed.

Even if the Nuggets manage to win that game, it doesn’t get much easier for them as they face tough opponents from here on out and the Warriors have a much lighter schedule. Still, the Nuggets even having a chance to surpass one of the best teams in NBA history in the standings has been quite the pleasant surprise.

Grade for the month: B-

What’s new on Denver Stiffs:

The Stiffs are in playoff mode! Keep up with the site in order to gear up for the playoffs.

Ryan Blackburn has graciously done a daily update for fans on how the playoff picture looks each night. What teams do Nuggets fans need to root for on the schedule that night? What are the different playoff scenarios and how will that night’s games affect things as the playoffs get closer? Ryan has been answering all of these questions each day. Check out these snapshots on the website!

Andrew Feinstein dropped another excellent piece in which he develops a scoring system in order to judge the best regular seasons in Nuggets history. How does this season’s team rank amongst the other great regular seasons by the Nuggets?

Read Mike Olson’s insightful piece on the Nuggets’ struggles with consistency this month and why they will need to remain consistent to have a shot at winning in the postseason.

Gordon Gross dives into what is so special about this Nuggets team...not only are they competing this season but they’re in a position to compete for years to come.

Want to relish in the Nuggets earning a playoff ticket for the first time in six seasons? Read this article by Zach Mikash and this one by Brendan Vogt on their thoughts after the Nuggets clinched a playoff spot against the Celtics.

Jusuf Nurkic’s season-ending injury evoked a lot of emotion from fans of the league everywhere. Adam Mares penned a great piece on why his injury was so heartbreaking.