Nuggets meltdown, likely choke away number one seed in Western Conference

Apr 12, 2024; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Victor Wembanyama (1)
Apr 12, 2024; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Victor Wembanyama (1) / Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

It looked for all intents and purposes as if Wednesday night’s marquee matchup between the Nuggets and Timberwolves would essentially decide the number one seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets got a massive win in that game, putting themselves in the driver's seat.

They walked away with a one-game lead over the Wolves and Thunder with only two games left in the regular season. All Denver had to do was beat the lowly Spurs and Grizzlies, and the one seed was theirs. They had seized control of their own destiny by establishing dominance over the Wolves. 

For the second year in a row, it appeared the Nuggets would have homecourt advantage, and the road to the Finals would go through Denver. But unfortunately, the Spurs - and to some extent, the Nuggets - had other ideas.

Nuggets choke job

The Nuggets, with their entire rotation intact, jumped out to a 23-point second-half lead, before squandering it all and losing to the Spurs 121-120 in the waning seconds of this game. Victor Wembanyama was incredible for San Antonio, scoring 34 points to go along with 12 rebounds, and 5 assists. 

That included an amazing run in the third quarter where he took over the game and scored a ridiculous 17 points in about three minutes of game action.

Denver was never really able to respond from there and couldn’t hold off the late Spurs charge. Even their usually reliable crunch time play wasn’t up to snuff as they were outplayed in the game's final minutes, culminating with a Devonte Graham game-winning runner with under a second to play.

It’s a very disappointing loss and a hard pill to swallow for the Nuggets after it seemed like the conference was all but sewn up. Still, the company line for Denver has been that seeding doesn’t matter. 

Can Denver win on the road?

They have stressed repeatedly that being healthy is all that matters. Well, now that will be put to the test. They’ll most likely end up the third seed now, and possibly have to go on the road for multiple rounds if they aim to repeat as champions.

They can certainly do it, and they will almost certainly still be the favorites to come out of the West. But they made things a lot more difficult for themselves with this collapse in San Antonio on Friday night.