Daily Nugget: Denver clinches first playoff spot since 2013

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

Over the next several weeks, the Daily Nuggets will transform into stories that reflect on memorable moments in Denver Nuggets franchise history. And what better way to start than by reflecting on the impressive 2018-19 season, specifically the moment Denver clinched a playoff spot for the first time in six years.

That’s right, on this day last year, the Nuggets went into Boston and defeated the Celtics 114-105 to clinch a spot in the 2019 postseason. Despite the fact Boston was one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and was 26-10 on its homecourt up until that game, Denver used depth and a balanced scoring attack to defeat the Celtics.

Seven players scored in double-figures for the Nuggets, led by Nikola Jokić and his 21 points, which also included 13 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and two steals. Will Barton III followed with 20 points as the Nuggets dished out 29 assists and knocked down 14 3-pointers.

Denver’s defense also played a crucial role in the victory, as the Celtics shot below 42 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. The Nuggets owned a 51-37 advantage on the boards as well, further boosting the victory.

"Going into the season the goal was just to make the playoffs,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the win. “But now it's 'let's fight for the No. 1 seed, let's fight for homecourt advantage.' I love the mindset of our players right now.”

Malone went on to reveal the motivation that continuously fueled Denver throughout the 2018-19 campaign, saying "After you miss the playoffs two years in a row by one game, we were motivated. The guys have bought in and have been great this whole year."

There were only three players on Denver’s 2018-19 roster that were even in the league in 2012-13, the last time the Nuggets made the playoffs before the appearance in 2019: Paul Millsap, Will Barton III and Isaiah Thomas.

With Thomas departing in the 2019 offseason, only Millsap and Barton III remain on the Nuggets’ current roster as representation from the 2012-13 season, highlighting how much can change over the years.

Should the 2019-20 NBA season resume in the coming months, the Nuggets will look to push even further in the playoffs during their second-consecutive postseason appearance.

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