The Denver Nuggets have come so far since their game-82 loss

Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Over three years have passed since the Denver Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs in game 82 of the 2017-18 season, an overtime thriller against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The recent win shows how far they have come.

It might be the most excited I have ever been as a basketball fan. Game 82 at the end of the 2017-18 season, a win or go home clash between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Jimmy Butler era had just begun in Minnesota with Tom Thibodeau at the helm, going against the rising star Denver Nuggets who, after moving on from Jusuf Nurkic, were committed to building around Nikola Jokic and second-year guard Jamal Murray.

This Denver Nuggets roster was far from perfect and still incredibly young, but it was ready to move on from NBA League Pass favorite to playoff team and solidify its place in the league.

Paralleling the obvious fight for the playoffs was the different teambuilding styles they employed: Denver built slowly and through the draft while Minnesota brought in Thibs, Jimmy Butler, and friends to play next to their two number-one overall picks in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Denver’s best player was Nikola Jokic who was trying to prove he deserved a spot as the All-NBA center going against KAT which was fun (and still is).

That Nuggets team also relied on players like Wilson Chandler (48 minutes that night) and Devin Harris (10 minutes) while not getting anything from Trey Lyles, Richard Jefferson, or Malik Beasley (all got DNP-Coaches decision).

It ended sadly as the Timberwolves moved on and made their first playoff appearance since 2004.

I remember sitting there, fuming, as the commentators sang their praises for Taj Gibson, saying he came over there as a gritty defender, one that wanted a smaller role on a winning team. I guess it was technically right and maybe it just hit me at the wrong time but it really ground my gears.

Taj Gibson defends Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Taj Gibson defends Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Twitter was ablaze with Thibs praise, flashbacks to the Derrick Rose (also on that team) teams, and how the two once again made it to the playoffs.

I was furious because, like many others, I thought the Nuggets had a brighter future ahead, they were younger, and the playoff experience would’ve done them more good, and it gave fuel to the wrong side of the KAT vs Jokic argument.

Well, I wasn’t mad for long.

Denver Nuggets: How far have they come

While three years ago was a nail-biter, this most recent matchup was… unimportant.

I would’ve loved to sit there and watch the Nuggets beat the T’Wolves to keep them out of the playoffs in 2018. But if I was to have it any other way, I think this timeline is the best, Denver grows into a title contender with a huge window while the Wolves hit the lottery every year and plunge deeper into irrelevancy (please excuse me if you’re a Wolves fan, I’m still very upset from that night).

Since that overtime loss all those years ago, the Denver Nuggets are now 11-0 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and while Denver’s core has grown into their own and the rest of the roster has matured beautifully, this Minnesota team hasn’t.

It’s no longer a debate which center is better, Jokic is even about to be voted in as the MVP of the league, who cares about some big man entering the lottery for another year.

What’s even sweeter about this win is that the Nuggets were without Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris, Will Barton, and PJ Dozier. The soon-to-be MVP started the night next to Aaron Gordon, JaVale McGee, Facundo Campazzo, and Austin River. He finished the night with 31 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists while shooting 14-21 from the floor.

Minnesota had their full roster minus Malik Beasley.

Denver is no longer worried about making the playoffs on the final night of season, we’re now one of the big boys, let’s enjoy it.

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