Nuggets clinch playoff spot with blowout win over Cavaliers

Matt Brooks
Writer & Digital Content Specialist

They're back. The defending champions have officially clinched a playoff spot.

The Denver Nuggets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 130-101, on Easter Sunday. The 29-point defeat was Denver's third-largest win of the season. They're now 52-23 on the season.

"I thought the energy, the positivity, that connectedness," said head coach Michael Malone, "It was just, I know it sounds cliche, but that to me was Denver Nuggets basketball."

This is Denver's sixth straight season making the postseason, the longest active streak in the Western Conference. They're the first team in the West to clinch a playoff spot this season, and this was the 37th time in franchise history that the team has made the playoffs.

"To be a playoff team six years in a row, that's sustained success, which is what you all strive for," said Malone. "But as I told our players, like, that's cool. Six years in a row, but that wasn't our goal this year to make the playoffs. We have a bull's eye on our backs. We are the reigning World Champs. So, that's what our goal is—to repeat—and it's going to be a hell of a challenge. But we're all signed up for that."

Nikola Jokić recorded his 128th career triple-double with 26 points, 16 assists, and 18 rebounds. He's 10 triple-doubles behind Magic Johnson for third place on the all-time leaderboard. Nikola's notched 22 triple-doubles this season.

"We know that if you play the right way, you've always got a good chance of getting a shot," Reggie Jackson said about Jokić. "He's one of the most encouraging guys, one of the best superstars at building you up and putting you in a position to be successful."

Three-point shooting was a major component in the Sunday matinee win. The Nuggets made a season-high 22 shots from deep. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope accounted for a season-high 6 of those long-range makes, and Jackson tied his season-high in three-pointers with 5.

Denver shot a combined 63.6 percent from deep. This avenged the 28.6 and 25 percent three-point shooting performances they mustered up in the losses to the Phoenix Suns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively.

Christian Braun was a huge spark off the bench with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal.

The first half had Braun's fingerprints all over it. He played suffocating defense on the Cavaliers and scored 7 points off the bench. Caldwell-Pope was also feeling it from the perimeter and dusted Max Strus on two off-ball plays to hit two of his four made three-pointers for 14 points. Denver finished with a 65-56 lead at the break.

The Nuggets could not miss from deep coming out of the break. They made 11 of their 18 three-pointers in the second half to quickly build a 20-point lead. Then, Denver's defense took over, rotating on a string to hold Cleveland to just 21 points in the third quarter. From there, it was no sweat for the good guys.

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