The Denver Nuggets know the history. Everyone knows the history. Not one NBA team has come back from being down 3-0 in a seven-game series, and that’s where the Nuggets find themselves heading into Game 4 against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
Denver was blown out in the first two games but lost a close Game 3 at home on Thursday night. It would take a feat no one else has done in the NBA for the Nuggets to avoid losing in the first round, but they nearly made history before.
In 1994, they were down 3-0 to Utah in the second round, rallied to force a Game 7 before losing 91-81, and they did make history two years ago.
In 2020, in the bubble in Orlando, Denver became the first NBA team to rally from 3-1 down in a series twice in the same postseason. But the Nuggets had Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to help Nikola Jokic accomplish that.
Jokic, the reigning MVP and a finalist for a second trophy this season, has done what he can to help Denver get a win. He is second in the series in points (27.1), rebounds (13.8) and assists (7.9), but it hasn’t been enough.
The Nuggets aren’t approaching this deficit as if they need to win four straight; instead the mindset is winning Sunday and worrying about Game 5 after that.
“I asked our team, come Sunday, we have a decision to make,” coach Michael Malone said. “Are we going to roll over or are we going to fight like hell and send this back to Golden State?”
Malone won’t have Murray and Porter to help Sunday. Their status has been a question before every game dating back to the last couple of weeks of the regular season and every time the response is neither is ready.
Denver could use both against a rolling Warriors’ lineup. Steph Curry has been coming off the bench after missing the final month of the regular season with a left foot injury and has quickly found his rhythm. He is averaging 25.5 points and 6.3 assists in the three wins, but he has plenty of help.
Jordan Poole is averaging 28.7 points and Klay Thompson 22.0 points in the series and Draymond Green has been taking on Jokic on the low post throughout much of this series.
Thompson has played well after missing more than two years with a torn ACL and torn Achilles. He understands what Murray is going through as well as anyone, and he doesn’t see a need for the Denver guard to push it if he doesn’t feel ready.
“It’s just, I feel for him, man,” Thompson said. “Fans are kind of unrealistic. They don’t realize how much it takes to build back your muscle to be able to compete at this level. This is the best basketball in the world. You don’t want to put your whole future at risk just because of win right now. He’s only, what, 25? What are we doing here?”
–Field Level Media