Well, the Denver Nuggets were right back in the same spot they have found themselves in all postseason long.
Entering Game 5 against the Utah Jazz in the first round, they trailed 3-1.
Entering Game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round, they trailed 3-1.
Entering Game 5 on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets trailed 3-1 once again.
Denver is 6-0 in their elimination games this postseason bringing their record to 7-1 over the past two years of playoff play, but against LeBron James and the Lakers, their resiliency was not enough to extend the series.
The Nuggets 2019-20 season has come to an end after their 117-107 loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers. Denver started slow, Murray ended up with a contusion in his right knee, but despite that, the Nuggets proved that they belong among the elite teams in the NBA during their postseason push.
Here are three takeaways from the Nuggets Game 5 loss.
Troubling start for Denver
The pressure was on from the start.
Not only did Denver lose their best wing defender to foul trouble early in the first quarter, but Gary Harris was quickly followed by Nuggets superstar center Nikola Jokic, who maddeningly took a foul in transition early in the first quarter before picking up his second foul just before the six-minute mark.
As if losing their best offensive and defensive threats was not enough, Jamal Murray was having issues scoring himself. He only had two points in the first quarter and they both came at the free throw line. He also struggled to create with others with only one assist that was amplified due to the two turnovers he committed.
The one silver lining for the Nuggets in their dreadful first quarter was the play of Michael Porter Jr., who had a quick seven points on 2-3 shooting to go with two rebounds. He added tons of shot making ability when the Nuggets were without Jokic due to foul trouble and while Murray was struggling.
Somehow the Nuggets went into the second quarter only trailing 33-30, but they were lucky to face such a small deficit considering how they played. Their defense was already struggling, but their six turnovers stimulated the Lakers play in transition which allowed Los Angeles get into a rhythm early. From that point forward, the Lakers dictated how the game would be played which put the Nuggets at a massive disadvantage from the start.
Jamal Murray suffers right knee contusion
As the Nuggets continued to have issues in the first half, Murray joined in with many struggles of his own.
Simply put, he was just slower. His defensive rotations were slower. His burst was less impactful. He struggled to explode around the rim. His jumper was always short.
It was clear that Murray was not right. Was it exhaustion? Murray had logged more minutes than anyone in the playoffs heading into Game 5 so that was certainly an option; especially when taking into account the six elimination games he helped Denver win prior to Game 5. Murray also had battled through bumps and scratches all postseason long so nagging injuries also could have been a factor.
Still, despite all the speculation, Murray’s diagnosis was finally shared when Allie LaForce reported on the TNT broadcast that Murray was battling through a right knee contusion.
Despite the pain, Murray continued on and did everything he could for the Nuggets to extend their season, but even as Denver’s historic postseason push began to look like it was coming to an end, he kept fighting as he did at every moment throughout the playoffs.
Murray finished with 19 points and eight assists in a whopping 43 minutes to finish out his incredible postseason campaign, but it was not enough as the Nuggets fell in Game 5 to the Lakers.
The season may be over, but the 2019-20 season was a resounding success for the Denver Nuggets
Denver has been playing with house money ever since they pushed the Clippers to Game 6 and then Game 7 before eventually becoming the first team in NBA history to come back from being down 3-1 in back to back series
No one thought they had a chance against either team from Los Angeles. Denver was always the looked at as the young and upcoming team; not a true title contender.
The members of the Nuggets proved all of the people who thought of them in those terms wrong. They overcame adversity at every turn no matter the previously unbeatable odds they were faced with. Denver overcome a Jazz team built to exploit Denver’s most worrisome issues. They went toe-to-toe with the odds-on favorite to win the title in the Clippers and won. They pushed the Lakers harder than anyone in the postseason.
The growth of the Nuggets is undeniable. They belong among the true title contenders of the NBA and that fact is now unavoidable. Jamal Murray has become a superstar in front of everyones eyes. Nikola Jokic is still just as good as everyone thinks he is; if not even better. Jerami Grant has emerged as the perfect complement on both ends of the floor. Michael Porter Jr. has a chance to become Denver’s third star if he keeps progressing at this pace.
Oh, and the Nuggets are still one of the youngest teams in the league. They are no where near done. Really, they are just getting started.
The Denver Nuggets have arrived.