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Denver Nuggets: Likably Unlikely

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Nothing came easy, but your Denver Nuggets find themselves in an unlikely sweet spot heading into the playoffs

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets
Nothing came easy, but your Denver Nuggets find themselves in an unlikely sweet spot heading into the playoffs
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We were over an hour into the movie when I let out my umpteenth “Psh!”. My best friend finally leaned over to figure out what my problem was. “The whole thing is just unbelievable,” I whispered, “This many things just don’t go wrong in real life.”

“You know this is a true story, right?” he whispered back.

“Huh.” I said.

I’ll admit, the last 30-40 minutes of Apollo 13 were a much more enjoyable with that little tidbit in place. The odds that crew faced and overcame were truly incredible. Wildly unlikely, but even more amazing as they made it happen against all odds.

Last night, your Denver Nuggets capped off an unlikely season of their own with one of their most unlikely finishes in years. After a lackluster and uninspired 44 minutes of play, the Nuggets reeled in the Timberwolves patchwork squad, who had built a lead of 11. Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton suddenly found themselves and the bottom of the net. The same five guys who were on the floor to start Game 1 found a different gear for the last 240 seconds, and scored the last 15 points of the game to steal back the win that Denver needed so desperately to ensure this outcome. Amazing. Unlikely.

1,200 miles away, the few players the Portland Trail Blazers were willing to play in Game 82 found a different gear themselves, coming back from a 15-point deficit after three quarters to storm back and outscore the Sacramento Kings by 20 in the 4th, after the Kings scored 87 in the first half. Portland somehow landed themselves in the three seed with a 7-2 run to finish the season after losing Jusuf Nurkic to injury. With that seeding, the only way the Nuggets would face the Warriors, Rockets, or Jazz will be in the Western Conference Finals. Incredible. Unlikely.

Even more worrisome to Nuggets Nation, had Denver choked away the game last night, they would have wrapped up the season with a 4-6 record over their last 10 games. Even having gone 5-5 is a fretful enough concern, but somehow the Nuggets kept stride enough to hang onto a top-two spot, a distinction they have held ever since Christmas Eve. Outrageous. Unlikely.

The team that was certain they’d slide into that two-spot, the Houston Rockets, let a semi-sure win slip away in the closing seconds Tuesday night against a streaking Oklahoma City Thunder squad after Paul George hit a game-winning three to take the contest, another unlikely result. Had the Nuggets lost last night, the Rockets still would have moved into the two spot, and seemed certain to be at least seeded at three until Portland mounted their big comeback. Insane. Unlikely.

But after a season in which your Denver Nuggets played their hearts out through an astounding number of injury games lost, with the second-youngest squad in the league, and after mounting an unrealistic record on the second half of back-to-back games, having only lost one such contest all season, after meaningful contributions during the season from nearly every one of the players up and down the bench, with someone always stepping up when the previous guy had fallen or fallen apart, these amazing Denver Nuggets progress to the postseason after one of the least likely outcomes they have had since they defeated the Seattle Supersonics as the eighth seed in 1993. There was a bit of poetry to 1993 stud Bryant Stith being a part of last night’s festivities, as he was just as familiar with unlikely finishes from unlikely heroes.

Things certainly don’t get easy from here. Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs come to Denver on Saturday night to kick off the second season at the Pepsi Center. Just because the Spurs show up as the seventh seed doesn't make this first round an easy out for the inexperienced Nuggets. The quote of the night came from an obviously emotionally exhausted coach Michael Malone said, “Coach Popovich has five rings. I have a wedding ring.” Perfect.

An unlikely season has been capped off with an unlikely finish for your Denver Nuggets. If your favorite team wants to keep moving forward, they’ll need to be playing much better basketball than they have over the last month or so. But far less likely things have happened. Saturday night, we start over. Here’s to a run of unlikely proportions for the team we like most of all.

Poll

With their crazy and unlikely finish, the Denver Nuggets will:

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Lose in the first round
    (131 votes)
  • 12%
    Win in the first round, lose in the second round
    (109 votes)
  • 54%
    Win in the second round, lose in the Conference Finals
    (483 votes)
  • 1%
    Win the Conference Finals, lose the Finals
    (17 votes)
  • 16%
    As unlikely as it seems, this team will win it all
    (142 votes)
882 votes total Vote Now