INSIDE THE NUGGETS

Game 5 will decide if the Nuggets can be back-to-back champions

May 14, 2024, 4:00 AM

The Denver Nuggets will be back-to-back NBA champions if they win Game 5 on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It just kind of feels that way, right?

After a stunning 2-0 deficit to the Wolves in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs, the Nuggets did even something more shocking in Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota. They won both comfortably and had an iconic sequence that will go down as one of the best in Denver sports history.

If they win it all — again.

Right before halftime of Game 4 the Timberwolves were down seven points, clawing back into it and getting the crowd re-energized after the Nuggets weathered the storm.

That’s when the impossible happened.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a three to put Denver back up 10. They would feel good heading into the locker room with a double-digit lead should they be able to get one more stop.

Oh, they did so much more than that.

Nikola Jokic got a steal and hit Michael Porter Jr. for a dunk with 1.6 seconds on the clock. The lead was 12. And then after an errant pass from the Wolves, Jamal Murray sunk a 55-footer at the buzzer that we’ve all watched at least a dozen times. It was a magical moment.

The reactions are so good. From Michael Porter Jr., to assistant coach David Adelman, to bench player Hunter Tyson, to Michael Malone and Aaron Gordon. Everyone looked like a kid in a candy store, just like the rest of us jumping up and down and yelling at our televisions.

If there’s another parade downtown this summer, that blissful stretch will no doubt start the title montages. It was chaos in the most beautiful way possible. 36 hours later and re-living it over and over doesn’t get old.

That’s what one calls a springboard.

It’s the instant in time we’ll all look back on as knowing the Nuggets could win yet another NBA championship.

If they win Game 5.

The last thing Denver can afford tonight is to keep the trend in this series going. They have to break the curse of the road team winning every game. At some point, they need to send the fans who paid their hard-earned money to be in the building home happy.

If you look at the rest of the field, neither Dallas nor Oklahoma City seems particularly unbeatable. Luka Doncic is a great player who has the basketball stick to his hands like glue. The Nuggets can get him out of that boring pace and run the Mavericks out of the gym.

If OKC even survives Dallas (a big “if”), the Thunder are still too young to win the whole thing. You have to learn how to lose, like Denver did, before you go all the way.

Out East, Boston has laid two eggs in these playoffs against both Miami and Cleveland. And each beatdown came at home, proving the Celtics can lose focus way too often. That won’t work to top the Nuggets four times in seven games.

No, the dirty little secret is the Nuggets and Timberwolves might be the two best remaining teams in the field of eight. The survivor has the path to becoming champions. The winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series goes on to advance nearly 83 percent of the time.

You don’t have to be good with numbers to realize whichever team takes the pivotal contest later tonight at Ball Arena has the inside track to the Western Conference Finals. And frankly, to win the whole thing.

But as Anthony Edwards pointed out after Game 4, the Nuggets have the best player in the world. Anyone who counted out Nikola Jokic looks like a fool. He’s answered all of his haters in an emphatic way the last two victories.

This is the moment. One more win and the Timberwolves might be broken both mentally and physically. Get Game 5, and another parade could be right around the corner.

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