As much as the stars have crossed the Denver Nuggets this season, the bruised and battered team continues to push ahead in the NBA playoffs, defying all odds.
Driving the news: The Nuggets will battle the Suns in the Western Conference second-round playoff series that tips off tonight in Phoenix.
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Why it matters: Pundits all but wrote off the Nuggets after No. 2 player Jamal Murray went down in April with a season-ending injury. Yet, the team has shown resilience and adaptability, with numerous under-the-radar players stepping up to fill key roles anchored around their likely MVP, Nikola Jokić.
True to form, Jokić helped secure his team’s round two spot by scoring 36 points last Thursday to knock out the Portland Trail Blazers.
What the big man’s saying: “Nobody can take the fight out of us,” Jokić told reporters after the consequential Game 6 win last week. “We’re never going to quit. Quit is not in our vocabulary.”
State of play: Despite the Nuggets’ surprising success, key players are still out of commission due to injuries — including Will Barton and PJ Dozier. And the Suns are favored to win this next round (and perhaps the championship) after defeating the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last week.
Yes, but: Major upsets are nothing new for Denver coach Michael Malone.
Last year, his team made history by becoming the NBA’s first team to rebound from two 3-1 deficits in the same postseason.
This year, his center — Jokić — is expected to become the lowest draft pick to ever clinch the honor of NBA MVP.
Of note: Should the Nuggets defeat the Suns, they’ll make consecutive conference finals appearances for the first time since 1975 and 1976.
The bottom line: If you know the Nuggets, you know not to underestimate them.
The series schedule (*if necessary):
Game 1: Monday, June 7 | 8pm MT | TV: TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, June 9 | 5:30pm MT | TV: TNT
Game 3: Friday, June 11 | 8pm MT | TV: ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, June 13 | 6pm MT | TV: TNT
Game 5*: Tuesday, June 15 | TBD | TV: TNT
Game 6*: Thursday, June 17 | TBD | TV: ESPN
Game 7*: Sunday, June 20 | TBD | TV: TBD
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