As confident as any fan of the Denver Nuggets could possibly be – and they should be – their team isn’t home free just yet. But on the eve of Game 5, in Denver, with all the ghosts and demons and dragons mercifully ready for their last breath, a fan base that has suffered since its birth can just about taste it.

Being a Nuggets fan, however, isn’t quite so simple. It’s a complicated love, one that is fiercely loyal, yet fragile at best. The hard times have been hard. From Paul Westhead’s “Turn ‘em loose Nuggets ” and the 11-71 1997-98 season to “So long, Melo” and “Hello Brian Shaw”, the stretches of underachieving or downright futility have been long and plentiful. Years have come and gone where the only thing worth watching at a Nuggets game was Rocky the SuperMascot.

And the good times have arguably been even tougher. The run in ‘85 that came to a screeching halt the moment Alex English broke his thumb. Anthony Carter’s inbounds pass in 2009. The hope from the Bubble followed by the bubbling being burst when Jamal Murray tore his ACL just weeks before the very 2021 postseason.

Up until now, the franchise’s shiniest shining moment was watching Dikembe Mutombo roll around the floor in Seattle, clutching the basketball after the eighth-seeded Nuggets knocked off the No. 1 Supersonics. It was an incredible moment, but it also took place in the first round.

That aforementioned taste? The one that currently lingers thick in the thin air of Denver? For Nuggets fans of old, it’s always been a buttery tub of popcorn at the movies; the scent is intoxicating; the first bite only stirs the senses for more; but the bucket always seems to get kicked over onto the aisle during the previews. Biting hard on the Nuggets has always been a gut punch in the making, a heart about to be broken.

This feels different though. These Nuggets are undoubtedly the best team in all the land. They swept the mighty Lakers. They went into South Beach and stole two from the battle-tested Heat like a bully swiping someone’s lunch money. Luck hasn’t played a part in what’s on the verge of happening.

Those Nuggets never had the greatest player in the world. In the world! These Nuggets do.

Those Nuggets didn’t have a roster full of players perfectly suited for their role. These Nuggets do.

“It’s really rare,” power(ful) forward Aaron Gordon said when asked following Game 4 just how rare is it to have everyone on an NBA roster selflessly buy into what a team is trying to accomplish – a situation, it would appear, the Nuggets currently have.

“It’s a blessing,” he added appropriately.

And you can forget about missing superstars, unlucky intangibles and missing pieces, too. The simple math of the here and now is undeniable. Those Nuggets never – ever! – had a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

These Nuggets do.

Perhaps it was Murray who best echoed the exact sentiment of a fan base that’s been ready for this moment for 56 years.

“We need to do this thing,” Murray said calmly after Game 4.

Please, Jamal – and Joker and AG and Cowboy Bruce and MPJ and KCP and everyone else – by any and all means necessary. You’re almost home free, but don’t leave anything to chance. Win this thing at home, for them, now.

Because with just one more win, the Home of the Nuggets will be free.

At last.