DENVER – Thanks to a dominant 19-12-11 triple-double effort from Nikola Jokic and 26 points from Jamal Murray, the Western Conference-contending Denver Nuggets made short work of the road-weary defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, 124-102 Saturday night in front of a raucous sellout crowd at the Pepsi Center
Denver, who surrendered a NBA-record 51 points in the first quarter to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in a 31-point loss, got back on track against a visiting Cavaliers team that just looked anxious to head back east after a long six-game West Coast trip.
Led by perhaps the best big in the NBA in Jokic and a promising lineup that has veterans such as four-time NBA All-Star Paul Millsap, Trey Barton, Trey Lyles, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Gary Harris, the Nuggets are capable of playing with anyone in the league, the question you have to ask is; why aren’t the Nuggets getting more love nationally?
Naturally, one will immediately cry East Coast bias as a lot of the national hoops coverage tends to talk primarily about big-name marquee teams such as the aforementioned Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors—and even the equally small-market Milwaukee Bucks, so why isn’t Denver getting the same national pub as the aforementioned teams.
Denver may be the best 30-win team that no one talks about, which is a real shame because of all of the talent and skill that they have. With their win over Cleveland, Denver improved to 31-14, the best mark in 45 games in franchise history.
And what’s really scary is that while everyone continues to sleep on the Nuggets, Denver—currently second in the West could easily secure home-court advantage all the way to the conference finals, pending what happens to Golden State, who is currently one game ahead of them.
They don’t have the flashy names or big-name box-office draws, but thanks to head coach Michael Malone, the Nuggets don’t need it, as they play a seemingly team-oriented style of hoops that needs to be appreciated. Thanks to the underrated backcourt duo of Murray and Beasley, Denver can run out and shoot with the best, they can take you down low with an under-the-radar MVP candidate in the one they call, “The Joker”, and they can bang you in the post with the aforementioned and perennially unsung hero in Millsap.
If you’re sensing a theme of the Nuggets being underappreciated, under-the-radar and seemingly ignored, is because they are. An old Thai proverb states that there are no secrets in the world. Perhaps that is true, but why does it feel like the Nuggets are waiting to be mined in terms of NBA relevancy like their namesake?
According to NBA.com, Denver ranks in the top ten in a wide range of scoring and advanced analytical categories such as:
- Rebounds per game: 46.3 (8th)
- Assists per game: 27.5 (2nd)
- Opponents points per game: 106.2 (6th)
- Field Goal percentage: 46.8% (10th)
- Three-Point Percentage: 35.8 (10th)
- Net Rating: 5.2 (5th)
- Offensive Rating: 113.2 (5th)
- Defensive Rating: 107.9 (11th)
- Points In The Paint Per Game: 52.2 (5th)
- Clutch Wins: 19 (1st)
- Plus-Minus: 36 (3rd)
- Bench points per game: 38.9 (10th)
- Offensive Rating (In Wins): 116.2 (9th)
Based on the stats above, the Nuggets will be a tough and formidable foe for anyone who plays them in the playoffs, and God forbid that if they get home court, their raucous fans, up-tempo style of play as well as the altitude will wear teams down.
If you haven’t know or seen much of them, get ready to following the All-Star break, because like their town’s storied Old West frontier history, there will be a proverbial gold rush to uncover the NBA’s undiscovered new gem.
Special thanks to Amy O’Brien and the Denver Nuggets Public Relations department for their time and assistance with this feature.