The Denver Nuggets’ reign as NBA champions didn’t even last a full year. It looked as though they were going to survive the second round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves when they somehow found a way to take a 3-2 series lead despite losing the first two games of the matchup. The Nuggets appeared to be dead in the water after those two losses at home, but whatever Michael Malone did behind the scenes after their Game 2 loss proved effective – but not so much that they were able to fend off Anthony Edwards and company completely.

Maybe, just maybe, if one of their key players in the form of  Michael Porter Jr. did not disappear in the second round, it’s the Nuggets who would be preparing for a mega-date against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 Western Conference Finals. 

Porter had Los Angeles Lakers fans flipping tables in the first round every time he hit a big shot, and there were a lot of those. Porter averaged 22.8 points on an incredible 55.3 percent shooting from the floor and 48.8 percent from behind the arc. He made life even harder for the Lakers, who were already spending so much resources in an ultimately futile attempt to slow down Jokic and Murray.

Against the Timberwolves, MPJ seemingly turned into the same ghost Tobias Harris became in the first round. Porter actually fared well in the first three games of the Timberwolves series, but over the final four games, he coughed up just 6.3 points on a brutal 28.6 FG% and 19.0 3FG%.

After the Nuggets’ 98-90 loss in Game 7 versus Minnesota last Monday, Porter shared his big regret in the series.

Via Katy Winge of AltitudeTV:

“Michael Porter Jr said he apologized to the team after the game and felt like this loss was on him. He said if he would’ve played the way he knows he can play the Nuggets would’ve won this series.”

But the lack of support behind Jokic and Murray went beyond just Porter’s anemic production. In fact, the Nuggets had the worst bench offense among all teams that reached the conference semifinal round. Denver backups produced just 16.9 points per game. That left Jokic and Murray doing even more work on the floor which left them gassed, especially in the second half of Game 7.

It was not the only reason why the Nuggets got eliminated, but it was clear that the stars did not get enough support.