It has been over three years since the Denver Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs in Game 82 of the 2017/18 season, an overtime thriller against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The latest win shows how far they have come.
It could be the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen as a basketball fan. Game 82 at the end of the 2017/18 season, a win or a home game between the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The era of Jimmy Butler had just begun in Minnesota when Tom Thibodeau was at the helm, facing up against rising star Denver Nuggets who, after moving from Jusuf Nurkic, was determined to be around Nikola Jokic and security guard Jamal Murray in their sophomore year to build up.
This Denver Nuggets roster was far from perfect and still incredibly young, but they were ready to move from NBA League Pass favorites to the playoff team and cement their place in the league.
In parallel with the apparent battle for the playoffs, the various styles of team building were deployed: Denver built slowly and by draft, while Minnesota got Thibs, Jimmy Butler and friends to play alongside their two number 1 picks in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The best player in Denver was Nikola Jokic, who tried to prove he deserved a spot as the All-NBA center against KAT, which was fun (and still is).
The Nuggets team also relied on players like Wilson Chandler (48 minutes that night) and Devin Harris (10 minutes) without getting anything from Trey Lyles, Richard Jefferson or Malik Beasley (all had a DNP coach’s decision) .
It ended sadly when the Timberwolves moved on and made their first playoff appearance since 2004.
I remember sitting there furious when commentators praised Taj Gibson, saying he came there as a gritty defender who wanted a smaller role on a winning team. I think it was technically right and maybe it just hit me at the wrong time, but it really grounded my gears.
Twitter was on fire with Thib’s praise, flashbacks to the Derrick Rose teams (also on that team) and how the two made it to the playoffs again.
I was furious because, like many others, I thought the Nuggets had a better future ahead of them, they were younger, and the playoff experience would have brought them more good, and there was the wrong side of the KAT-versus-Jokic- Arguments fuel.
Well, I wasn’t pissed off for long.
Denver Nuggets: How Far Have They Come?
While three years ago was a nail biter, this final matchup was … unimportant.
I wanted to sit there and watch the Nuggets beat the T’Wolves to keep them out of the playoffs in 2018. But if I had it otherwise, I think this timeline is the best, Denver grows into a title contender with a huge window as the Wolves enter the lottery every year and delve deeper into the irrelevance (please excuse if you get one Wolf fan, I’m still very upset from that night).
Since that loss of overtime all those years ago, the Denver Nuggets are now 11-0 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and while the Denver core has grown into its own and the rest of the roster has matured wonderfully, this Minnesota team hasn’t .
The Nuggets have been 10-0 against the T’Wolves since game 82 in the 2017/18 season.
I don’t think they need advice on how to defend KAT. https://t.co/hwjnceJD9X
– Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn) May 13, 2021
There is no longer a debate about which center is better, Jokic is even about to be elected as the league’s MVP, who will see to it that a great man gets into the lottery for another year.
What’s even sweeter about this win is that the nuggets were without Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris, Will Barton, and PJ Dozier. The soon-to-be MVP kicked off the night alongside Aaron Gordon, JaVale McGee, Facundo Campazzo and Austin River. He finished the night on 31 points, 14 rebounds and four assists while shooting 14-21 off the floor.
Minnesota had their full list minus Malik Beasley.
Denver no longer worries about the playoffs on the last night of the season. We’re one of the big boys now. Let’s enjoy it.