On Thursday in Portland, the Denver Nuggets can accomplish something the club hasn’t in a decade: reach the Western Conference Finals.
But it’s how the Nuggets put themselves in a position to clinch a berth in the conference finals on Wednesday that has the team looking very “dangerous” moving forward in the NBA Playoffs.
In what would be described as the most complete win of the postseason, Denver routed the Portland Trail Blazers 124-98 at Pepsi Center to take a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Thursday.
“Off the top of my head, I think this was our best performance so far,” said guard Will Barton after the game.
Barton said the performance was indicative of him and his teammates “buying in” and trying to “win right now.”
“I just feel like everyone’s trying to make the right play, the right pass, the extra rotation on defense. Guys are locked in,” Barton said. “And like I keep saying, everyone on the team wants to win. And when we have that mindset, we’re a pretty dangerous team.”
On the night, the Nuggets had six players score in double figures, led by superstar-in-the-making Nikola Jokic, who had 25 points, 19 rebounds and six assists.
Four more Denver players scored on the night, including fan favorite Juancho Hernangomez, who’s late three, and subsequent celebration, made the rounds on Twitter.
Juan Hernangomez dancing as the Nuggets take the 3-2 lead 😂 pic.twitter.com/uXpmewsdVC
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 8, 2019
But, that unselfish attitude isn’t something new to the Nuggets, said head coach Michael Malone after the game. It’s been the team’s philosophy all season.
“That’s who we’ve been. You go back to the 82-game regular season, we were second in the league in assists per game,” Malone said. “It’s something we harp on. It’s something we practice. It’s something we preach. And that’s part of our culture, being selfless. Making plays for a teammate and playing for each other, not just with each other.
And when things are clicking, as they did Wednesday night, it’s something special to watch, Malone added.
“They’re connected. You can tell by watching us play how much we care for each other. And that’s probably one of the things I love most about our group,” Malone said.
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