Written By: Kaya Crawford
Edited By: Sarah Wingo
Monday night, the Denver Nuggets made franchise history as they advanced to the NBA finals for the first time. With a 113-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4, the Nuggets swept the Western Conference Finals and set their sights on a championship. Nikola Jokic, who had three triple-doubles in the series alone, ended the night with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists. His teammate, Jamal Murray, scored 25 points to assist in the win. Forward, Aaron Gordon, also stepped up to score 22 points while defending LeBron James throughout the series. With multiple high scorers and strong defense from the Nuggets, we can expect to see quite a show when they play in their first NBA Finals game next Thursday.
The Nuggets entered the playoffs after a successful season. Finishing with a 53-29 season record, they found themselves in the No.1 spot entering the Western Conference Playoffs. The Nuggets had a nine-game winning streak—the longest of the season—with their longest losing streak being four straight losses. Their success continued into the postseason where in the first round of the playoffs, they beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 4-1 series and had a 4-2 series win over the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals. Concluding their playoff with a sweep, the Nuggets are entering the finals on a high.
Jokic’s rise to fame
While the Nuggets are only just now receiving the media attention their team warrants, Jokic has had the spotlight on him for the past few years. A two-time, back-to-back MVP and the MVP runner-up this year, the Joker is a player unlike any other in the NBA and has contributed tremendously to the Nugget’s success. The 28-year-old Serbian averaged 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists over the course of the Nuggets’ three playoff series.
In Monday night’s game, he scored his 8th triple-double in the postseason, breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record for most triple-doubles in a playoff run for the last 56 years. With his playoff performance, he was named the Western Conference Finals MVP. A skilled player both offensively and defensively, Jokic has captured the media’s eye for most of his professional career and has played a crucial part in bringing his team into the spotlight.
The Nuggets are finally in the public eye
The Nuggets have long been an underrated team in the public eye and the players are eager for the recognition they deserve. After a historic performance by Jokic in Game 2, the media focused on the Lakers’ performance which Coach Michael Malone had something to say about. In the post-game press conference, Malone was quoted saying "... No one talked about Nikola just had a historic performance. ... The narrative wasn't about the Nuggets. The narrative wasn't about Nikola. … You put that in your pipe, you smoke it.”
Nuggets Nation continues to express concerns over the lack of national media attention for the team. Even after Jokic was named MVP twice, NBA Sportscaster Lisa Salters admitted that she had no exposure to him until the playoffs. Although the team was ranked as the No. 1 seed in the West, there was little attention on them until they started winning in the postseason against well-known teams, including the LA Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. This lack of media respect may be one of the motivating factors for the Nuggets’ success.
Despite the lack of media attention, the Mile High City is ecstatic to see the Nuggets in the NBA finals for the first time. The Nuggets have been close to a win before with the 1976 team, when they lost to the Nets in the last ABA final, but have never made it all the way to the championship. Even with the cheapest tickets as of Tuesday being $750, we can expect a full house at Ball Arena when the Nuggets play in their first-ever NBA finals game on Thursday. Be sure to watch to see if Jokic and the Nuggets continue to make franchise history!