When the month of September began, the Denver Nuggets were in the final stages of completing their epic 3-1 comeback against the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. After a couple of humiliating blowout losses, the Nuggets were able to win three in a row to advance to the second round, earning themselves a ticket for a best-of-seven series against one of the title favorites, the Los Angeles Clippers. What ensued was nothing short of a miracle. The Nuggets fell behind in the series once again as the Clippers took a commanding 3-1 series lead, forcing the Nuggets to dig deep and ask themselves if they had what it takes to come back from a 3-1 deficit, not once, but twice in the same postseason.
Obviously, as we all know by this point, the answer to that question was “Yes.” With Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic leading the way, the Nuggets managed to shock the NBA by eliminating the Clippers. Despite being down by double digits in both Game 5 and Game 6, the Nuggets rallied and came away with the series victory, earning a ticket to the Western Conference for the first time since 2009.
While the Nuggets once again fell behind 3-1 in their series against the Los Angeles Lakers, they were not able to achieve the comeback for a third straight time. Still, I think the emotions that best describe Nuggets fans after the season came to an end was proud of the team for their resiliency, and excited for the bright future.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the highs and lows of another exciting month.
Game of the Month: Game 7, Denver Nuggets (104) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (89)
After defeating the Clippers in Game 5 and Game 6, the Nuggets earned themselves a chance to secure the series with a Game 7 victory. Unlike the previous two games, the Nuggets did not need to come from behind by double digits in the second half. Instead, they went on a run in the third quarter and actually had an 8-point lead at the end of the third. It only got worse for the Clippers from there, as they struggled mightily to get back into the game while shooting horribly on the offensive end. Meanwhile, the Nuggets got another amazing 40-point performance from Jamal Murray to help them close out the Clippers and complete their shocking upset. It was, by most standards, one of the most impressive wins this franchise has ever had.
Highlight of the Month: Jamal Murray with a Jordanesque layup
Jamal Murray has literally done it all this postseason. After his amazing 360 layup against the Utah Jazz in the first round, many thought that highlight couldn’t possibly be topped. However, in game 4 against the Lakers, Murray perhaps did just that, with an amazing layup that reminded many of the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan. Check it out below.
Player of the month: Jamal Murray
After a stunning first round performance from Murray to help the Nuggets defeat the Utah Jazz, Murray only continued to impress as the postseason continued. The series against the Clippers started out a little rocky for the point guard, who was being guarded by some of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Patrick Beverley, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George. That did not deter Murray for too long, however. Eventually, he was tearing up their defense just as he did against the Jazz. The Clippers simply had no answer for him, as he did just about everything possible to help the Nuggets win three straight games to advance to the conference finals.
Against the Lakers, it was much of the same for Murray. In Game 4 when the game was close in the last few minutes, LeBron James took it amongst himself to guard Murray, the ultimate sign of respect coming from James. Murray, once again, did not waiver. He continued to attack the basket to put his team in the best possible position to win. Whether you want to chalk it up to fatigue, officiating, or another reason, Murray’s performance was unfortunately not enough to allow the Nuggets to overcome the powerful Lakers, but I think Nuggets fans can all agree that Murray has proven himself to be a superstar.
Jamal Murray averaged 26.5 PTS, 3.3 3PT, 6.6 AST, 4.8 REB & 0.9 STL during the 2020 NBA Playoffs!— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) September 27, 2020
R1: 31.6 PTS , 6.3 AST, 5.6 REB
WCSF: 22.6 PTS, 6.4 AST, 4.4 REB
WCF: 25.0 PTS, 7.4 AST, 4.4 REB#MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/Qz7Ds7d1GF
Story of the Month: The Nuggets were one of the best “feel good” stories of the bubble
The Nuggets entered the bubble a step behind other teams, as several players were late to arrive to Orlando due to COVID restrictions, and injuries to some of their star players depleted the team even further. That is just one of many reasons why nobody saw it coming when the Nuggets were able to come back from a 3-1 deficit in two consecutive series. That really has to sink in for one to understand just how impressive the accomplishment is. Before this postseason, only 11 teams had ever managed to come back from 3-1, and the Nuggets did it in back-to-back series!!!
Between out-of-this-world shooting performances from the Jazz and two straight blowout losses in the first round, and having to come back from double digit deficits in two straight elimination games against the Clippers, the Nuggets had every reason to fold and start preparing for the offseason. Instead, they extended their season all the way to the conference finals before finally being sent home by a team that is led by the best player in the world right now. If that’s not a feel-good story in the midst of so much chaos, I don’t know what is.
Surprise of the month: Jerami Grant found his offense in Lakers series amidst his toughest defensive challenge
Throughout the postseason, a question that was posed a lot was “Who is going to be the third player to step up for the Nuggets as a third option on offense?” There were plenty of options: Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Paul Millsap... The answer, though, may have come as a bit of a surprise for those that watched the 2019-20 Nuggets’ season. Although Jerami Grant took a minor step back in his scoring average this season as he adjusted to a new role, but he took a few giant steps forward in this category in the Western Conference finals series against the Lakers.
Despite the fact that he had the toughest defensive job of anybody on the team, having to share time on both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Grant managed to have a breakout series in terms of his offense. In the last three games of this series, he averaged 21 points a game, shooting 47.6% from the field. In these games, he looked like a legitimate third option on offense, as he was able to convert on drives to the basket, make open shots on the perimeter, and even showcase some mid-range game. It’s a small sample size, but I think it was enough to show why the Nuggets cannot afford to lose him in the offseason.
Grade for the Month: A
The Nuggets fell short of their ultimate goal of winning a championship, but how can you not give the team that exceeded all expectations in the face of so many challenges an A?
What’s new on Denver Stiffs:
Relive the amazing 2020 postseason run from the Nuggets, and look forward to the future, with these September pieces from the Stiffs:
What moves should the Denver Nuggets look to make in free agency? Daniel Lewis dives in to these questions in this article.
Evan Fiala authored an article perfectly summarizing the biggest takeaways from this season.
Ryan Blackburn compares this season’s Nuggets team to a Shakespeare comedy, concluding that there is nothing “tragic” about what transpired this season.
Prior to Game 4 between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers, Gordon Gross analyzed what it would take to dethrone LeBron James to get a series victory.
Prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Nuggets, Quenton Albertie completed an exclusive interview with former NBA player Carlos Boozer, getting his thoughts on the current Nuggets team and his predictions for the series.
After the Nuggets secured their first Western Conference finals appearance since 2009, Nick Hertzog shared some lessons that he’s learned from the Nuggets’ amazing postseason run.
Ahead of the Lakers vs. Nuggets matchup, Zach Mikash took a look at previous battles between these two teams in the playoffs.
Ryan Blackburn looked back at the Nuggets’ series against the Clippers to find out exactly how the miraculous comeback was achieved.
Daniel Lewis analyzed Michael Porter Jr.’s comments after their Game 5 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semi-finals.
Back when the Nuggets had only completed one 3-1 comeback this postseason, Ryan Blackburn highlighted his biggest takeaways from the incredible series against the Utah Jazz in the first round.
Quenton Albertie wrote an article prior to the Nuggets’ Game 7 against the Clippers in the second round, sharing his thoughts on the perseverance that led the team to their fourth straight Game 7 over the span of two seasons.