Nuggets bounce back, shoot the lights out, play smothering D, clinch playoff berth

Mar 31, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) during the second half
Mar 31, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) during the second half / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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It would take an awful lot for Nuggets fans to panic about regular season games during the dog days of March. The team has been near the top of the Western Conference standings all year and is now gearing up for a playoff run and an attempt at defending their NBA title.

They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, and the right to be above reproach. There is no need to question regular season losses. Even when the team plays poorly, we know who they are and we know what they’ll be when the stakes are raised.

Still, the Nuggets have played some ugly basketball lately, losing back-to-back games, both at home. They scored under 100 points in both games and looked lethargic, almost like they’d hit a wall and run out of gas.

Nuggets bounce back in a big way

It wasn’t cause for much concern, and certainly nothing to panic about, but it was tough to watch nevertheless. Luckily, the Nuggets provided some sweet relief on Sunday as they went out and manhandled the three seed in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers 130-101.

Even without Jamal Murray, Denver was dominant on both ends. Jokic led the way with an MVP performance, silencing any injury noise with a 26-point, 18-rebound, 16-assist masterpiece. The rest of the Nuggets weren’t so shabby either. As a team, they shot a ridiculous 21/33 from three-point range (a season-high), and the defense was on a level we haven’t seen for several games.

This looked like a team that wanted to refocus and get back on track, and that’s exactly what they did. This should silence any skeptics, or anyone who was worried the team was wearing down.

Nuggets clinch a playoff berth

With the win, the Nuggets also officially clinched an outright playoff berth. They also got some help in the standings as the Timberwolves lost to the Bulls. The Nuggets now sit at 52-23, second place in the Western Conference.

 They’re half a game behind the Thunder who are atop the standings at 52-22, and half a game up on the T-Wolves who are 51-23. The Nuggets and Wolves still face off once more this season, on April 10th in Denver, a potentially consequential game.