Nothing seems to bring more fear to the Denver Nuggets than a non-pandemic Game 7.

Prior to Game 7 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Nuggets were 4-3, with two of those wins coming in their 2020 NBA postseason run.

Now, the Wolves hung on another Game 7 L on them.

Denver held a 53-38 halftime lead after Minnesota opened the game with a 12-5 run. It looked like the Nuggets flexed their championship experience after they pushed their lead to its largest (58-38) two minutes into the second half. With their backs against the wall, the Wolves fought back with a 54-24 run in the second half, utilizing the team ball that had been the hallmark of Denver’s 2023 NBA title run.


When the game was hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter, it was Nikola Jokic who ascended and kept the fight going. His teammates, meanwhile, faltered down the stretch. Jamal Murray, who had 24 points in the first half, only had six points in the fourth quarter and nothing to show for from behind the 3-point line. The Nuggets bench? Christian Braun was the only one with points to show for (five points). The rest of Denver was also caught staring on a couple of possessions which ended in back-breaking putback dunks for Minnesota. 

In the end, you know you don’t deserve to go to the Western Conference Finals when Rudy Gobert makes a shot like this.


It’s unfortunate that Jokic was seemingly going at it alone in the second half and the Nuggets themselves were veering away from what got them a 3-2 series lead. They went away from Aaron Gordon, who was a matchup nightmare in previous games but finished Game 7 with more fouls (five) than points (four). Denver didn’t expand their rotation in an effort to put more pressure on Anthony Edwards, who scored 12 second half points, with none being more crucial than this one.

This Game 7 was reminiscent of Game 7 of the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals, where the Nuggets blew a 17-point lead to the Portland Trail Blazers. CJ McCollum toyed around Denver’s defense and sent them packing in front of their fans. Now the Nuggets will head into the offseason with a need to decompress before searching for what they would need to avoid another ending like this next season. Besides, they’re the only defending champions (save for Jokic) you’ll hear complaining about how tiring it is to be hunted.

The Denver Nuggets are now the fifth consecutive defending champion not to advance past the second round and the ninth one to lose a Game 7 at home. For a team that loved to talk and wanted all that smoke, they seem to want to duck and cover when they themselves get smoked.

While they can’t take that kind of heat, at least Jamal Murray can now throw all the heat packs he wants without getting fined for it.