Now that the Nuggets have bested the Lakers in a thrilling Game 6 blowout, they will play in a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night for just the third time in their NBA franchise history.

Granted, the sample size is small.

As in two.

Since joining the NBA in 1976, our Denver Nuggets have found themselves in just two Game 7s. The first took place on May 3rd, 1978 at the old McNichols Sports Arena. In the Western Conference playoffs semifinals, the second-seeded Nuggets defeated the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (yes, the Bucks were a Western Conference team that year) 116-110 thanks to 37 points from David “Skywalker” Thompson.

The Nuggets’ second Game 7 appearance will be more familiar to the Nuggets fans of my generation. Down 0-3 to the Utah Jazz in the semifinals of 1994 (after upsetting George Karl’s one-seeded Seattle Supersonics in Round 1), the Nuggets improbably marched back to tie the series at three games apiece and found themselves back in Salt Lake City for a Sunday Game 7 affair on May 21st, 1994. It felt like destiny that that 1993-94 Nuggets squad would not only be the first team in NBA history to upset a one-seed in the first round, but that it would also become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit and a win series.

But it wasn't meant to be. The Nuggets came out super flat in that Game 7 at Utah, scoring just 12 first quarter points. Karl Malone delivered one of his better playoff performances for the Jazz – 31 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals – and the Nuggets never recovered from their slow start, scoring just 81 points to Utah's 91. I was depressed for weeks following that series.

18 years later – 18 years! – the Nuggets find themselves on the precipice of their third Game 7 in NBA franchise history. And just like the 1978 and the 1994 circumstances, the Nuggets can actually win this game.

The 2011-12 Denver Nuggets have one huge advantage over their Laker counterparts: depth. The Lakers essentially have one superstar (Kobe Bryant), two All-Stars (Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol), one solid starter (Ramon Sessions) and a bunch of sub-par role players (everyone else … and that includes Metta World Peace). They also have a head coach who turned three LeBron James‘ NBA Finals appearances into one. Their lack of depth is why the Lakers HAD to close out the Nuggets in Game 5. A prolonged series favors the team with depth and youth. The Nuggets have both. The Lakers have neither.

But the 1993-94 Nuggets had the depth and youth advantage, as well. It was enough to bring the team back from the brink and into a Game 7, but ultimately it was Utah's experience that won the day. Hence why the Lakers – as exhausted and worn out as they may be – should be the favorites on Saturday evening.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, this Nuggets team has already proven that they’re not content just to be playoff participants. Nor are they content to be thrown into the lot alongside recent Nuggets teams that bowed out of the playoffs’ first round without much of a fight.

They are Stiffs no more.

A note about the next Stiffs Night Out: I’ve been asked by a lot of readers if we’re doing a Stiffs Night Out for Game 7. Due to too many scheduling issues, we can’t pull together an official SNO on short notice. However, Jake’s Food & Spirits will be showing the game on all 10 HDTVs and we’ll have lots of Stiffs congregating there for the game. IF (or should I say … when?) the Nuggets beat the Lakers on Saturday, we’ll have our next Stiffs Night Out during the Nuggets / Thunder series. Go Nuggets!!

Reaction to Game 6 …

Uninspired Lakers hand reins to Nuggets's Joel McDonnell writes that the Nuggets have the last word on Thursday.

Denver Nuggets buying what coach George Karl is selling in Game 6 win – The Denver Post
Chris Dempsey writes about Karl's renewed connection with his team.

Kobe Bryant will let Lakers feel his fury after stumbling into a Game 7 – Yahoo! Sports
From Yahoo! Sports: Kobe Bryant plans to light a fire under Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol after their listless performance in Game 6 against the Nuggets.

Kiszla: Nuggets get even with public enemy No. 1 (Kobe Bryant) – The Denver Post
Mark Kiszla recaps Game 6.

Mile High Sports – Mission Unaccomplished
Chris Bianchi writes that just getting to a Game 7 isn't enough for this team.

2012 NBA Playoffs: Kobe Bryant stomachs illness to lead Los Angeles Lakers – ESPN Los Angeles
Despite being sick and weak, you can't blame Kobe for L.A.'s loss.