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The Rise of the Denver Nuggets: A Journey to the NBA Championship

2015: Malone and Jokic disembark

After several years of ups and downs, the Nuggets begin the dreaded rebuilding process by firing coach Brian Shaw and, after discarding the experienced Mike D’Antoni, they unexpectedly offered the bench to Michael Malone.

Malone, in his second chance in the NBA after a painful first experience in Sacramento, landed in Colorado at the same time as a 20-year-old Serbian giant, seen by some as too clumsy and soft and by others as a gifted basketball player. His name was Nikola Jokic.

2016: The core is formed with Murray

After a mediocre first season, the Draft smiled at Denver by giving him a seventh pick with which they chose Canadian point guard Jamal Murray.

“These two players represent a large part of our future,” Malone said then about the couple formed by Jokic and Murray, the core of the team until the victory this Monday in the Finals against the Miami Heat.

In an unusual move in the NBA, Malone gave direction to the Serbian center, who began to show his potential with six triple-doubles in his second season.

2019: back in the playoffs

Despite missing out on the playoffs in the last game of 2018, Denver kept its faith in Malone and, ignoring the serious physical questions he was carrying, selected the talented Michael Porter Jr. 14th overall in the Draft.

A year later, the Nuggets reached the postseason for the first time in five years thanks to their second place in the West, but they fell in Game 7 against Portland in the conference semifinals.

2020: hatching in the “bubble”

In a closed-door playoffs in Orlando due to the covid-19 pandemic, Denver was one of the great sensations, coming back from two playoffs in which it was falling 3-1, against the Jazz and Clippers.

Murray earned the respect of the NBA in those series with two 50-point performances against the Jazz.

Denver’s journey derailed against the Lakers in the conference final, as had already happened in 2009 and 1985.

Malone, however, assures that the defeat hides a bright future. “This group has understood that they have an opportunity to do something truly unique,” he stated. “I have told my players to remember the pain of this elimination, because all the great teams go through it one day.”

2021: Murray injury

With 40 days to go before the 2021 playoffs, Murray tore his ACL in a game against the Golden State Warriors. At the time, he recently recalled, he feared the Nuggets would trade him, but Malone assured him they were fully confident he would come back stronger.

His absence, which lasted 555 days, was added to those of other starters such as Monte Morris and Will Barton. The Nuggets made it past the first round against Portland but were then swept by Phoenix. As a consolation prize, Jokic was named MVP for the season.

2022: Jokic repite MVP

In 2022, Jokic retained the MVP award in a frustrating season for the Nuggets, which began with Porter Jr. undergoing back surgery and ended with a first-round exit to the Warriors. “I think next year, if we sign good players and we’re healthy, we’ll be a real contender again,” Malone insisted.

2023: the hour of triumph

All of Malone’s good omens came to fruition this season. The Nuggets were reinforced with the experienced guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, champion in 2020 with the Lakers, and Murray and Porter Jr returned to the court in top form.

As a result, the team finished top of the West and started the playoffs as one of the favorites for the ring. First, he left on the road the Timberwolves led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards and the Suns led by Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, before sweeping the Lakers led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis 4-0.

In the Finals, against Jimmy Butler’s Heat, the Jokic/Murray duo made history in Game 3 with a triple-double of more than 30 points each, something never seen in all of history. This Monday the duo culminated the ascent of Denver, a city at the foot of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, to the summit of the NBA.

2023-06-13 11:08:15

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