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The Nuggets won’t win back-to-back NBA titles, after all

The inevitable didn’t happen, after all. The Denver Nuggets will not be winning back-to-back NBA titles, thanks to a stunning, 98-90, loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals on Sunday evening at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado.

The Nuggets capturing their second title in a row en route to becoming the NBA’s next dynasty seemed like a foregone conclusion during the 2023/2024 regular season, didn’t it?

Sure, Denver spent all season fighting with the Oklahoma City Thunder just to claim first place in the Northwest Division. However, even though the latter ultimately won that prize, as well as the top seed in the Western Conference, both teams finished with 57 regular season wins. Since the NBA seeds its playoff teams based on win/loss totals, Denver entered the postseason as the number two seed in the Western Conference.

Also, the Nuggets had the consensus best player in basketball in one Nikola Jokic, a three-time NBA MVP–including 2021, 2022 and 2024–who perhaps should have also won the award a season before, when he led them to their first championship.

Yes, the Celtics were the top team during the regular season with 64 victories, but come on? Everyone knows the Western Conference is superior to the Eastern Conference.

The Nuggets were going to do it again.

True, the inevitable seemed in jeopardy when Denver fell behind to the Timberwolves, 2-0, in the semi-finals, with both losses coming at home. But after the Nuggets rebounded to win the next three, Jokic appeared destined to enter the chat when discussing the game’s all-time greats–including Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Finally, who wasn’t expecting a championship repeat after the Mavericks knocked off Oklahoma City in the other Western Conference semi-final on Saturday and when the Nuggets had built a 20-point third-quarter lead on Sunday?

I bet the Nuggets fans at Ball Arena were expecting it. They may have even been on their smartphones buying tickets for Game 1 of the Western Conference final.

Unfortunately, if sports has taught us anything over the years, it’s that it’s never smart to look ahead.

Despite all of the cries that sports are rigged by the great Powers that Be in (insert the city that a particular league’s headquarters are located in here), they remain the best reality television.

Not only did the Timberwolves storm back to win, but they overcame the biggest Game 7 deficit in league history along the way. As a three-time MVP, Jokic may yet enter the chat when discussing the NBA’s all-time great players, but he now may never come close to compiling the number of team championships that those aforementioned all-time legends have on their resumes.

Maybe the Timberwolves, the third seed in the Western Conference, will advance to their first NBA final and win the whole thing. Perhaps the Mavericks, the fifth seed, will knock off Minnesota on the way to their second world championship.

Could the upstart Pacers, the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, capture their first NBA title? If they do, they’ll first have to knock off Boston, a franchise that is the very definition of NBA royalty thanks to winning 17 championships over the years.

The Celtics are old NBA money. The Nuggets could have joined the Warriors, who, with two-time MVP Steph Curry leading the way, won four of their seven NBA titles between 2015 and 2022, as new NBA money.

Do the Nuggets have what it takes to win another NBA title before it’s too late?

That’s a discussion for another day because the Nuggets have now exited the 2023/2024 championship chat.




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