The Denver Nuggets are really good and could finally end their NBA title drought
This could finally be the year for the Denver Nuggets.
Driving the news: The second half of the NBA season starts Thursday and the Nuggets currently have the best record in the West at 41-18, and are on a three-game winning streak.
- This is the first time in franchise history the team had 40 wins before the break, according to ESPN.
- No team has a better home record than the Nuggets, who are 27-4 at Ball Arena.
- Only two teams in the NBA have a better overall record — the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
Yes, but: While the Mile High magic is dazzling right now, the Nuggets have, historically, run out of party tricks when they hit the playoffs.
- They are one of six teams without an NBA Finals appearance despite making it to the Western Conference Finals four times.
- The team has a combined 1-8 record over their last two playoff series. Last year, they lost in the first round to the eventual champion Warriors and in the 2020-21 season, they were swept by the Suns in the second round.
Reason for hope: The pieces are in place for a deep playoff run. It starts and ends with the triple-double machine and reigning league MVP Nikola Jokić.
- Jamal Murray — who earlier this month posted a season-high 41 points — is having a phenomenal season after missing all of last year while recovering from ACL surgery.
- The team also traded for solid perimeter defender and shooter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last summer. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone labeled him as "the missing piece" for the team.
Threat level: The Golden State Warriors. They are 9th in the West and are at risk of missing the playoffs entirely, but they're still the defending champs.
- The Phoenix Suns' recent acquisition of superstar Kevin Durant makes the Nuggets' path to winning the Western Conference tougher, writes local sports analyst Jake Shapiro.
- Others see things differently: "I'm not going to disrespect Denver, I think they're still the favorite [in the West]," NBA commentator Charles Barkley said earlier this month when reacting to the trade.
Between the lines: Some observers say Jokić has a shot at a rare individual three-peat.
- If Jokić wins MVP again — and it's a Joel Embiid-sized if — he would join Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the only players to get the award three consecutive times.
- The last time that happened, Bird was hitting jumpers in short shorts.
What they're saying: "I think Denver needs to use this as fuel — make people realize Jokić is a deserving MVP once again, and then get to the Western Conference Finals and make a run at a title," 9News Weekend Sports Anchor Jacob Tobey said last week over suggestions Jokić shouldn't win MVP again.
Of note: Guard Reggie Jackson, who played hoops at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, joined the team last week to add some depth to the team's backcourt.
- Jackson, the Denver Post points out, took a jersey number previously worn by another homegrown talent he called his favorite Nuggets player: Chauncey Billups, who now coaches the Portland Trail Blazers.
What's next: The Nuggets are back in action on Thursday at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tip-off is at 5 pm.
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