The Eight Best Plays from the Nuggets Season

I’m not entirely sure what the moment was when it happened, but it may have been June of 2010.

But first, let me take you back a year earlier, to June of 2009. I was sitting in the original Northwood Pizza (R.I.P.) with my friend Michael and we were watching the Lakers and the Celtics battle for the NBA Championship. We’ve been fortunate to see many great championships over the years and this one was certainly no different. In addition to the intensity of the game, I had grown up in Massachusetts from ages 3–9 and, having been planted in Southern California at the age of 12, it was safe to say I was heavily invested in the Celtics winning. That year, they did, and I was steadily becoming an NBA fan.

Back to 2010 we go, and this time around although the two teams competing were the same, the result was far more depressing. Partly due to an untimely Artest 3-pointer (seriously, wtf?), I left Northwood Pizza that night with a completely different feeling. While I had enjoyed the win the year before, the loss actually propelled my love for the game. The rise and the fall within my first year of investment had pulled out a different appreciation for the sport and the rest was history.

What was with the story? Well it was an apt way of explaining why I went ahead, with my friend Scott, and purchased Denver Nuggets season tickets. The Nuggets have since become my favorite team, hands down, and while a part of it was due to watching them 40+ times this year, the other part is that they are just a bunch of fun.

They are poised to end the year with the 4th-ranked offense in the league, and arriving at an After Earth-level-bad dead last in the league in defense ensures that the games will always remain close, frustratingly so. Suffice to say, I had a lot of fun and saw the Nuggets defeat the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and the Boston Celtics; so here are the top eight best things I saw them do:

8. Will Barton Goes Off for 35 Points vs. Clippers — 3/16/17

Some notes about Will Barton:

  • Every time he shoots, I assume it’s going to miss. His shooting stroke is one of the weirdest I’ve seen
  • He can also get up and catch an alley-oop that first hit the about a foot high on the backboard
  • His nickname is Will “The Thrill” Barton, which I guess I’m okay with, but I’m definitely not a fan of “Will Ballin” which is what the announcer at the Nuggets game once tried to start
  • The Nuggets got him from Portland a couple years ago in exchange for Aaron Afflalo, securely taking the W in that trade. This year the Nuggets repaid the favor, sending Jusuf Nurkic to Portland for Mason Plumlee, helping Portland pass Denver up in the standings and grab the 8-seed (fml)

That’s all I got.

7. Nikola Jokic Drops 40 at the Garden vs. Knicks — 2/10/17

To score 40 points and lead the Nuggets to a win at Madison Square Garden in February, Nikola Jokic used his entire bag of tricks to score. First, an awkwardly-beautiful drive to the basket; next, backing down the defender, finishing left-handed; after that, quick floater from 7 feet; a little later, face up 20-footer; then a 3-pointer and, well, you get the picture. Many people argue that the Garden is the best and most highly anticipated arena to play in, and Jokic sure proved that no moment is too big for him.

6. Nikola Jokic Runs the Break vs. Warriors — 1/2/17

Nikola Jokic is like opening the center console of your car and discovering a $10 bill hidden in there. Nikola Jokic is like waking up in January to a temperature above 40 degrees. Nikola Jokic is like grabbing a window seat on a flight and having the center seat remain vacant. Nikola Jokic is like waking up thinking it’s a Monday but it’s really a Sunday. Nikola Jokic is unassuming but an absolute delight.

5. Malik Beasley In General but Specifically His Dunk vs. Lakers — 3/13/17

Malik Beasley is the best bench celebration artist (a title I just made up and definitely like) that I have ever seen. Unfortunately the Nuggets are a sub-.500 team and I think you need to be above .500 to have your bench players dancing highlights make it onto Youtube, so enjoy the .gif above. For a more concrete highlight, watch him posterize the Lakers’ Ivica Zubac in garbage time of a Nuggets blowout below.

4. Jamal Murray Throws it Down vs. Pelicans — 4/7/17

On a night when he knocked down a career-high 30 points on 10–14 shooting, it was Jamal Murray’s relentless attacking at the basket that produced the highlights, not his typical 3-point shooting. A couple plays after being fouled hard going for a big-time slam, Murray brought it again and this time he wasn’t gonna miss.

3. Jamal Murray Three Straight 3-Pointers vs. Cavaliers — 3/22/17

My favorite player on this team (since not everyone can have Nikola Jokic be their favorite), Murray has been equal parts dazzling and frustrating. At 19-years-old, however, my mind tends to lend itself to the former. When Murray is on, you garner the same feeling you do when Klay Thompson is getting hot; every shot is going in. Up one point on the Cavs mid-way through the 2nd quarter, Murray’s three straight 3s put the Nuggets up 10 and they never looked back, cruising to an easy victory against the defending champs. That’s the kind of thing Jamal Murray can do to a team.

2. Juancho Hernangomez 27 Points vs. Warriors — 2/13/17

When you are playing a 46–8 team with Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant (Klay Thompson was sitting out) without your 1st- and 3rd-leading scorers, you need unheralded player stepping up. You just typically don’t think of them being the rookie from Spain who wasn’t even supposed to play on the team this year. Knocking down six 3s and 27 points in the biggest game of the season (to that point), now that’s something to look forward to more of. Say it with me now: UNOOO, DOSSS, TRESSSSSSSSSS. (Bonus props for making an absolute beauty of a dime to Gary Harris and holding up the 3 before the shot even goes in.)

1. Nikola Jokic Posts Up LeBron James — 3/22/17

The play of the Nuggets season. The Cavaliers game was something else, and the play above was a perfect microcosm of the game. LeBron James, thinking himself and the Cavs are simply too strong for the upstart Nuggets (justifiably, so) and Jokic and the Nuggets backing ’em down and putting it away. Just beautiful; Jokic is already a star.

Until Next Season…