The Hoop Collective: Why Denver’s biggest edge could dissolve come playoff time
Brian Windhorst and a team of Sportzshala insiders dig into life and news from and around the NBA world, including the Denver Nuggets clutch gene, the next step for young star Brooklyn Nets, and other issues impacting the Memphis Grizzlies season.
With three minutes to play and six points on Monday night, the Toronto Raptors were in prime condition to pull off a stunning win.
But they had a problem, they were playing the Denver Nuggets at the end of a tight game in Denver. This situation has been torture for the Nuggets’ opponents this season. And so it was again.
There is no team that can match the devastating effectiveness of the Nuggets in the clutch this season, and neither have the Raptors. Denver won the final minutes 15-4, though the end was marred by the controversial removal of Raptors forward Scotty Barnes, and suffered another casualty.
With a big market, star teams behind them in the standings, and losses before the conference finals in the last two seasons, even when Nikola Jokic won the MVP award, the Nuggets are sometimes not respected.
Even now, despite sitting in first place in the Western Conference for most of the season and leading the Memphis Grizzlies by seven games to almost lock out top spot, the Phoenix Suns have overtaken Denver as favorites to win the championship. . West after being traded for Kevin Durant, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
But the truth is, the Nuggets are a winning machine, especially in clutch time. Determined when the score is within five points in the last five minutes or in overtime when the Nuggets dominate their opponent.
For every 100 possessions Denver has played in the clutch this season, he’s outperforming opponents by funny 24.5 points. If a team plays a close game with the Nuggets in Denver, it’s just merciless as they choke the other team by a ridiculous 34.7 points per 100 possessions.
By comparison, the Philadelphia 76ers are the second-best team in the clutch with Joel Embiid and James Harden developing amazing chemistry, including an impressive road win that ended the Milwaukee Bucks’ 16-game winning streak on Saturday. .
Philadelphia was excellent but only outscored the teams by “only” 15.2 points per 100 clutch possessions.
One blow to the Nuggets’ title chances is that their defense isn’t elite – to be honest, with the exception of the Grizzlies, none of the league’s best defenses are in the West, and Denver is just 12th. place on the defensive. rating.
But when they have to make clutch stops, when play slows down and half-court play becomes paramount, the Nuggets rise to number one with 92.7 points per 100 possessions.
Two off-season acquisitions, versatile guards Kentavius Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown, seem to have made a huge difference to the Nuggets on that front, paired with Aaron Gordon, who has the bulk and ability to switch to defense in times like… chaotic moments. at the end of the game.
Led by always-cool playmaker Jokic, the Nuggets are 2nd in the league in offensive ratings. It’s not a surprise at all. The Nuggets are second in offense in the NBA and lead the league in three-point percentage (39.0).
“They have a couple of new players and a couple of players who have been out for a while with injuries, but overall they have a lot of continuity compared to a lot of the rest of us,” the Western Conference coach told Sportzshala. “Jokic and [coach Michael] Malone has been together for a long time, and when you play them, you can feel their feelings in those moments. I envy it.”