The Denver Nuggets are one win away from making their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.
To do so, they punched the Los Angeles Lakers in the mouth in the Western Conference Finals, winning three straight to start the series. No team in NBA playoff history has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit, so the Nuggets are sitting pretty as one.
Getting here required one of Denver’s most impressive wins of the postseason, a 119-108 Game 3 win on the road. The Nuggets brought a businessman-like approach to Los Angeles. Instead of gathering around the conference table, though, Denver silenced the Lakers-faithful crowd by handing out trades in the hostile environment of Crypto.com Arena.
“We talked about it after Game 2 in Denver that we wanted to come in here and try to get not just one, but two games. We ended up coming out very professional,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said.
Denver carried this attitude of professionalism throughout the year. For the first time in franchise history, they finished as the #1 seed in the Western Conference and spent more than 100 days in first place during the regular season.
As such, Denver has had home court advantage in each of their playoff series and has gone 2-0 in all three playoff games. They are. Still He has not lost at home to this point.
But they are still waiting for a full four-game playoff run. In the first round, they won Game 3 in Minnesota and dropped Game 4. The loss caused a rare upset in this successful playoff run, forcing the Nuggets to play one final game at home.
In the second round, Denver dropped both road games in Phoenix with a convincing 2-0 lead. The Nuggets didn’t want to repeat history when facing a talented team like Los Angeles, which cut its teeth on defense and boasted two Hall of Fame supernovas in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“We went to Phoenix last round and dropped two games. We wanted to change that narrative. We won 2-0, so we want to come on the road and make this a real business trip. We are. We’re coming to get the two games. We got one tonight,” he said. Caldwell-Pope said of Game 3. Like Monday, we have to keep doing what we did here and try to come out with a second.
That’s what makes this Denver team special. They are stepping up each playoff round with focus and play.
The Lakers’ backs were against the wall on Saturday. Lose a crucial Game 3 at home and your playoff run is essentially over. Still no team recovered from a 3-0 deficit. Denver was always going to get Los Angeles’ best shot.
Realizing this, the Mile High staff came out strong to build a 32-20 first quarter lead. Denver has outscored Los Angeles in two of the three first-quarter conference finals, and tied the Lakers, 27-27, in the other. First punching is a major theme in the series.
“We came out aggressive, you know, this is a business trip. We wanted to come in and let them apply the pressure and put the pressure first. We wanted to throw the first punch. The first quarter and we did exactly what we wanted to do,” Caldwell-Pope said.
Strong defense ended the upset and won the 3rd game. Denver beat Los Angeles by 108 points, and in Game 2, they scored 103 more points. For a team that hangs its hat on its offensive output, the Nuggets have also been restless on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think we’ve been on a string. We’re on the same page with what we’re doing. Even with timeouts, adjustments and play-by-play, everybody’s on the same page. When we mess up, we don’t get down too much. I think the biggest thing is just take the next possession and get back at it.” Jamal Merai said. “You can’t hang your head in the game, and we’re doing a good job of trucking in and getting back on the same page.”
Owning games requires focus and commitment, all of which fall under the principle of viewing the 3rd and 4th conference finals as a business trip.
“I think we came here with a good focus, a good mindset. We played the game really well,” Nikola Jokic said of Game 3. His full attention was really great. We had two disagreements. and miscommunications. But it was universally good. They scored 108 points. This is a very good number. “
That process doesn’t happen overnight. The Nuggets have built this maturity over the years and are now stealing playoffs on the road. In addition, they added veterans like Caldwell-Pope, Jeff Green and so on. DeAndre Jordan They only helped that process. As Malone pointed out, this is Denver’s fifth year in the postseason. You know what to expect.
“I think this team is playoff-tested,” Malone said. “That’s five years in a row, and we’ve made it past the first round in all of those years, except for last season when we lost to Golden State for the world championship.”
Of course, Denver’s business trip isn’t over. Now is not the time to put the suitcase and the bag in the closet. They still have Monday’s Game 4 on the road against the Lakers with nothing to lose. A 3-0 streak is widely believed to be the toughest game to win.
“I think the mindset is that you have to go out there and take it. This season, this season, I told the guys after this win: You’re fighting human nature. Up to 3-0, what’s the natural tendency? Take it. Take a deep breath and relax. That’s when you get yourself to They’re going to be in trouble,” Malone said of his team’s mindset heading into Game 4.