The Denver Nuggets packed it in early during the 72nd and final game of this strange, shortened 2020-2021 NBA regular season. They lost the game 132-116 and the starters played only sparingly in the second half—the strategy was clear: allow the Portland Trail Blazers to beat them on the final day of the regular season.
The reason for this can be explained thusly: LeBron James. The Los Angeles Lakers won on Sunday night, so had the Nuggets beat the Blazers as well, it would have meant that the Lakers, not the Blazers, would have finished sixth in the Western Conference and in line for a first-round date with none other than our third-seeded Denver Nuggets.
No disrespect to Damian Lillard and company, but this is the King and the Brow we’re talking about here—I think anyone would have liked to avoid that duo in a first-round tussle.
Now that the regular season is over and done with and we’ve taken stock of what the team has gained and lost during this campaign, it’s time to look ahead to this best-of-seven first-round matchup with Dame Dolla and the Trail Blazers, which begins later this week.
It’s no secret that Denver has been dealing with a seemingly never-ending logjam of injuries, specifically in the backcourt, which isn’t ideal considering the trio of Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Norm Powell is who they will be matched up with.
So, how will Denver head coach Mike Malone—who has made an argument for coach of the year considering his team’s success in the face of all these injuries—navigate his rotation in the playoffs?