Dec 19, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks guard Justin Anderson (1) during the first half at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets are beginning to channel negativity into determination for success.
It was a rocky start for the Mile High ball club, but injuries and inexperience aside, the Denver Nuggets are now emerging as a potential playoff team this season.
As they edge closer to the Sacramento Kings’ eighth seed playoff spot, the Nuggets are gaining momentum and confidence heading into the half-way point of the season after a slow start.
And with fixtures becoming increasingly more important, the Nuggets are starting to click at the right time.
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But before this convincing stretch arrived, it had been a difficult start for this young squad:
Dec 10, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) and Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) talk about coverage issues during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. The Nuggets won 121-113. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
With injuries to Will Barton, Gary Harris and Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets dropped an abundance of winnable games, most devastatingly during their last road trip which started in Utah and ended in Texas.
The Nuggets came up short to the Jazz, Nets, Mavericks and Wizards in lackluster fashion. And with these difficult losses came the inevitable disappointment; fans voiced their opinions and showed a sincere lack of confidence in this young team.
If there was one thing clearly absent for the Nuggets this season, then it would be luck.
Michael Malone’s team has been involved in six games that were within a one possessions’ reach, plus a couple of games controversially officiated by league referees in favor of the opposition.
If fate was to run its course again, we could be discussing the Nuggets being in a position as high as sixth place.
But as fate would have it, it did not go that way and the Nuggets dropped a large proportion of their closely contested games.
And with the disappointing defeats piling up, it would have been easy for the Colorado side to slump into the undesirable bottom side of the conference and raise the white flag.
Dec 19, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) reacts after scoring during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets 117-107. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Instead, the Nuggets puffed out their chests, laced up their shoes, and took to the court to bounce back and make a statement.
And with the return of the influential, hands-on defense specialist in Gary Harris, and the in-form, phenom ‘point-center’ that is Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets have seemingly silenced the critics for now and put themselves back into contention to compete this year.
With a tough loss handed to the Nuggets by the Los Angeles Clippers prior to Christmas, it was clear that whilst this team is starting to show fight, they still have a long way to go to be a dominant force in the West once again.
Losing to one of the strongest teams in the league is no shame, however, and shortly after, Denver would soon show their capabilities.
With their reserve and resilience quickly put to the test, the Nuggets ended up traveling to Los Angeles to dismantle the Clippers.
Against a side albeit, tired and depleted, the Nuggets were victorious in a terrific win on Monday night.
With another strong performance from Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets powered to a positive road win after an excruciatingly tough loss to the Hawks days before.
Dec 15, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone holds the ball during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 132-120. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Things are looking up, and whilst the Nuggets need to focus on beating the teams that are closer to their level, the defeat of the Clippers stands as both a confidence booster and reiteration of just how good this team can be.
Malone has tinkered and tweaked and finally found a lineup that seems to be ticking.
Optimism is almost at full level and fans are starting to believe again as we head into the new year.
The Nuggets continue to develop and grow, learning from difficult losses along the way. With the incredible and inspiring form of Nikola Jokic, experience of Danilo Gallinari, and a fully-healthy roster, the Pepsi Center may be about to witness glory again.
It might not be this year, but the Nuggets have put themselves