What a difference a year makes.

Almost exactly one year ago to the day, the Denver Nuggets faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a winner-takes-all match with an appearance in the playoffs up for grabs. Though the Nuggets fought hard, they couldn’t pull through in overtime and went home empty handed in a painful end to their season.

Tonight, Denver closes the regular season against Minnesota once again. Instead of just trying to nab a playoff spot, however, the Nuggets are playing for the second seed in the Western Conference. Instead of just being on the short list of teams with good “young cores,” the Nuggets now will get the chance to put their money where their mouth is in the playoffs. Losing that game last year might have been the best thing to happen to the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have long been eliminated from the playoff race, their time as one of the up-and-comers in the West short lived.

A lot is still on the line tonight. But no matter what happens, no matter what seed the Nuggets end up at, or who they will play in the first round, tonight will not be the last game of this incredible year. And for that, we should celebrate.

The Basics

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (36-45) at Denver Nuggets (53-28)

When: 8:30 PM MT

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to watch: Altitude (not ESPN anymore)

Rival blog: Canis Hoopus

What to Watch

Rebound Game

Last night’s game against the Jazz was abysmal for a variety of reasons. Nikola Jokic looked like he could care less about basketball. Will Barton failed to score a single point. Paul Millsap continued his trend of disappearing in Utah. For a team looking to make a playoff run, it was not a confidence-inspiring effort at all.

The good news is Jamal Murray found his shot and Malik Beasley and Monte Morris led an impressive bench unit that had also been struggling of late. Now comes the final tune up. Having everyone, both the starters and the reserves, on the same page would be a great way to end the year. Denver smashed the Wolves last month in a complete game blow out, which unfortunately is the last time the Nuggets genuinely looked unbeatable. Tonight will be a great chance to right the ship once and for all.

Nuggets Playoff Scenarios Heading into Tonight’s Game

Denver’s hope for the best-case scenario in playoff seeding was bailed out twice last night, on two buzzer beating shots by Paul George and Moe Harkless. (And on one James Harden missed free throw). If the Nuggets take care of business and the dominoes fall right, they would completely avoid Golden State, Houston and Utah. These three teams by far have given Denver the most trouble this season, and wouldn’t match up with the Nuggets until the Conference Finals, should they advance that far.

Of course, this means not only are we Nuggets fans tonight but we are rooting hard for Portland to beat Sacramento, in which case the Trail Blazers would overtake Houston for the three seed. If Portland loses, they stay at four. If Denver loses, the Nuggets will be the three seed and would face the Rockets in the second round.

At the other end of the bracket, assuming a Nuggets win tonight, it’s looking likely that Denver will end up matched against San Antonio or the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. (There are a few different scenarios at play). Otherwise, Denver would face Oklahoa City first, which is far from a worse case scenario.

All in all, things are falling into place. NuggLife as we know it might be over. Let’s get this bread!