The NBA is always concerned about building a “Big 3” for huge playoff runs. Well, the Denver Nuggets happened to fall into a “Big 3” without even trying against the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s one reason why the Nuggets are one win away from advancing into the Western Conference Finals. More importantly, their “Big 3” seems to have morphed into greatness, organically.
Coming into the 2019 NBA playoffs, the Nuggets had very little postseason experience on their roster. Remember, they lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 82 of the regular season to miss the playoffs last season. Therefore, the Nuggets were a trendy pick to lose in the first-round against the San Antonio Spurs. Frankly, losing Game 1 to the Spurs set the stage to prove the critics right. However, the Nuggets earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference for a reason. Despite relying on a young nucleus, the Nuggets appear to be ready.
Their game begins with the play of Nikola Jokic. The all-star center is having a breakout postseason. Yes, he started slowly with a triple-double in his first outing with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. However, Jokic averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists in the first-round. He is averaging 26.4 points, 14.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists against the Trail Blazers. In other words, he is playing like an MVP. Despite some great performances from teammates, Jokic is leading the Nuggets in points, rebounds and assists. He’s tied for first with 1.4 steals per game. Jokic is second on the team in field goal shooting behind Paul Millsap.
The veteran forward joined the Nuggets after long stints with the Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks in 2017. He only averaged 12.6 points per game during this season. However, the matchup in round 2 has presented favorably for Millsap in the paint. For example, Millsap scored double figures in 5 of 7 games vs. the Spurs. He produced nicely with 11.9 points per game. Unfortunately for the Blazers, Millsap has been downright dominant, scoring 19 points per game in the Western Conference semifinals. He is shooting 54.5 percent from the field and the combination of lengthy forwards are having a world of trouble against Millsap in the paint. He is also grabbing 9.6 rebounds per game in the series.
So far, the biggest shot maker for the Nuggets has been Jamal Murray. Remember, he was struggling mightily early in the playoffs. Whether it was missing easy shots or committing bad turnovers, Murray failed to show up through most of the first three postseason games. Yet, he exploded in the fourth quarter of Game 2 in the Spurs. He also found a way to bounce back from a 6-point performance in Game 3. Since then, good luck to any foes trying to guard Murray on the perimeter. He hit a clutch floater to eliminate the Spurs. He also knocked down all 21 free throw attempts in the Portland series, including 12 of 12 to seal the Game 4 win. Murray is averaging 24.8 points. 5.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds in the second round.
As a result, the Nuggets are getting 69 points per game from their trio against the Trail Blazers. If they get that type of performance in Game 6, the Nuggets can earn back to back road victories to eliminate the the Trail Blazers. If not, they still have a home Game 7 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Clearly, it’s not a done deal yet. However, the Nuggets have shown you how a Big 3 can emerge out of nowhere. It doesn’t matter about your name when you bring your game.