In what has become typical for the Denver Nuggets in recent years, they have managed to fly under the radar for most of this season despite coming in as the reigning NBA champions.

The emergence of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder has garnered most of the attention in the Western Conference while the dominance of the Boston Celtics over in the East has made them a hot topic among pundits.

With public scrutiny focused elsewhere, the Nuggets were able to coast through most of the regular season, but they have finally kicked into gear after the resumption of play following the All-Star break.

Denver has won each of its five games since the mid-February break, including their latest one–a 103-97 win against the Miami Heat in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals–and they are now closing in on the West’s top seed. They actually moved into first place for a couple of days in early February, though an untimely three-game losing skid leading up to All-Star weekend pushed them back down to fourth place.


The Nuggets won the first four games of their current winning streak by an average of 15.5 points and while their win against Miami was only by six points, it was still quite an impressive one. They managed to pull off the victory even without Jamal Murray who left the game in the first half and did not return due to an ankle sprain. Denver also weathered a rare off-night from two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic who hit only six-of-15 field goal attempts and racked up four turnovers.

Jokic wound up with sub-par numbers by his standards–18 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a block–but what was encouraging was that the rest of the Nuggets’ starting five picked up the slack.

Michael Porter Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Aaron Gordon all had strong performances that helped Denver build a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Porter scored 30 points through the first three quarters and also recorded 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Caldwell-Pope added 18 points, four three-pointers, two rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block while Gordon chipped in with 16 points on five-of-eight shooting, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a block.

Come the fourth quarter, Caldwell-Pope and Gordon, together with timely baskets from Jokic, helped the Nuggets stave off Miami’s fourth quarter rally that brought their lead down to a low of two, 99-97, with 11 seconds left to play.

Denver wound up winning by six, 103-97, to extend their winning streak to five. More importantly, they moved within 1.5 games of the Timberwolves for first place in the West and guaranteed home court advantage over the first three rounds of the postseason. 

With the Nuggets now gaining momentum, it would be far from a surprise if they wind up with the West’s best record for the second year in a row. This should also help Jokic’s already robust case to secure a third NBA Most Valuable Player award, though Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been deserving of consideration as well.

Denver’s run will be put to the test during their next three games where they will face two Western Conference rivals and potential first round opponents in the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns.

Following these two games, they will then face the league-leading Celtics for the second time this season in what could be a preview of this year’s NBA Finals. The Nuggets pulled off a 102-100 win in their first meeting last January 20 and another victory would send a stern message to Boston that the road to the NBA title still goes through Denver.