In the 2013-14 season, while the Denver Nuggets were starting to sludge their way through the Brian Shaw era, the Colorado Avalanche were making a magical turnaround after a downfall of their own. Backed by the historic goaltending of Semyon Varlamov  and on the shoulders of a promising young core of forwards, the Avs went from the second-worst team in the entire NHL just one season prior to winning the Central Division and finishing with the third best record in the league the next.

Colorado started that year 13-1, and thanks to an inspirational speech by former defenseman Ray Bourque at his restaurant in Boston during that early stretch, the Avalanche players adopted “Why not us?” as a mantra to remind them to never stop believing in themselves. After all, this was a team that was supposed to be in the middle of a rebuild, certainly not anywhere near the top of the standings.

The Avs took that motto and ran with it – but in the end, lost in the first round of the playoffs in a heartbreaking Game 7.

The 2018-2019 Denver Nuggets have some striking similarities to that Avalanche team. Like the Avalanche, the Nuggets were driven by a young core of players supplanted by a small handful of vets, and bolstered by a scorching start to the season were able to easily qualify for the playoffs after missing out the previous year. Both teams won the division, broke franchise records and revived fan bases along the way. In hindsight, though, the 2013-14 Avs couldn’t get it done when it mattered. They simply overachieved in the regular season and nothing more.

Down 1-0 in the playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs, it’s easy to look at these Denver Nuggets and say the same thing might happen, and it very well could. The doubts surrounding this team are plenty and some of them are legitimate.  The difference here is that the Nuggets still have time to finish writing the narrative.

Coming back from any playoff deficit is difficult, especially when doing so will require the Nuggets to win a game at an arena they haven’t won in since 2012.  But this team is no stranger to adversity. Injuries alone plagued Denver more than anything this season, which has caused a ripple effect on lineups and chemistry that the starters are still trying to overcome. Through it all, the Nuggets have found ways to win.

Typically there isn’t room for moral victories in the playoffs, but if there’s any solace from Saturday’s loss it’s this: the Nuggets played good enough to win Game 1. Ignoring the outcome, for it being the first playoff game for six of the nine players in Denver’s rotation and for Michael Malone as head coach, the game did go well.

As strange as it seems, the Nuggets shouldn’t quite be feeling the pressure. They are a more talented and deeper roster than San Antonio. They were ready for the schemes they faced. The effort was there. The breaks of the game just happened to favor the Spurs. Now that the initial jitters and adrenaline of playoff basketball is out of their system, the players can simply go out in Game 2 and play – and that’s when Denver is at its best.

Even within the Mile High there are doubters lining up to pounce on the opportunity to jeer at the Nuggets’ failure. The beauty of the playoffs is that absolutely nothing is written in stone after one game. There’s still plenty of basketball left to be played. Until the final buzzer sounds and one team advances, the series could go any way.

So why not us?

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