Building the Ultimate Highlight Reel from Denver Nuggets Regular Season

Nick JuskewyczContributor IIIMay 9, 2014

Building the Ultimate Highlight Reel from Denver Nuggets Regular Season

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    Bart Young/Getty Images

    The Denver Nuggets' season was far from extraordinary, but there were several spectacular moments along the way.

    These were achieved both individually and team-wise. Some had to do with fantastic effort, some involved tremendous athleticism and some just had all the right components leading to an awesome night for Nuggets fans.

    How were these rankings decided? Five factors were involved:

    1. Significant win
    2. Coming through in the clutch
    3. Electrifying play
    4. Uniqueness or unexpected production
    5. What it means for the future

    So while the playoffs have been vastly entertaining for NBA fans, let's give the Denver faithful their spotlight and let them enjoy the best highlights from the Nuggets' 2013-14 campaign.

    There are several plays or games worth considering, so if you feel that some are missing, list them in the comments section below.

Honorable Mention: JaVale McGee Goes for a Piggyback Ride in Preseason Game

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    I couldn't resist putting this one in. This was a hilarious scene live, but it was even funnier when it made Shaqtin' a Fool.

    The Nuggets were in the middle of their fourth preseason game at the Oklahoma City Thunder and JaVale McGee was having a modest game to this point.

    But somehow, McGee always finds a way to do something we've never seen before. On OKC's fast break, he simply decides to jump on Steven Adams' back and take him to the ground.

    This foul was ruled was a, "personal block." Adams missed the two bonus free throws, probably still confused about what had just happened. 

    Sure, McGee sometimes gets superstar treatment when it comes to appearances on Shaqtin' a Fool, but this was clearly one of the best Shaqtin' plays of the entire NBA season.

    Unfortunately for the 7-footer, he was sidelined for the year after suffering a fracture to his left tibia and only played in the first five regular-season games.

10. Nate Robinson Shows off Athleticism in Domination of Los Angeles Lakers

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    Usually when Nate Robinson goes off, he catches fire from distance or just goes on a massive scoring terror.

    This time, the 5'9" guard demonstrated his absurd vertical. He dunked on the Los Angeles Lakers in the Staples Center three times toward the end of the game—one alley-oop and two putback slams. 

    Granted the Lakers had a down year too, but it's always fun when you take care of business against a frequent NBA juggernaut. The Nuggets swept the regular-season series, the 137-115 victory was by the widest margin and the 137 points tied a season high for points in a game.

    Head coach Brian Shaw must have enjoyed this with it coming against his former team.

9. Shaw Defeats His Other Former Team

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    The Nuggets didn't just beat one of Shaw's previous teams. They also knocked off the Indiana Pacers, the franchise Shaw was most recently an assistant for before coming to Denver.

    This 109-96 win got the Nuggets back to .500, and they were in control for most of this game. They were able to do this despite shooting 56.8 percent from the free-throw line, but their balanced scoring attack was the difference.

    The Nuggets snapped a three-game skid, and this got the momentum back for what was one of the better months of the season. It showed that they are a playoff-caliber team when they are at least somewhat healthy.

8a. Ty Lawson Breaks Corey Brewer's Ankles

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    The game was nearly over and out of reach, but that didn't stop Ty Lawson from using his ball-handling skills on former teammate Corey Brewer.

    With the Nuggets trailing 121-109 with just under two minutes remaining, Lawson got Brewer in isolation, dribbled a few times at different paces and crossed him over. This sent Brewer slipping to the ground trying to keep up.

    Not that these two have a huge rivalry, but it's fun to get the best of an old teammate.

    Lawson slightly lost his balance on the play but made the proper bounce pass to Kenneth Faried, who drew the foul against Brewer after he got back up. 

8b. Lawson Breaks Jodie Meeks' Ankles

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    Just four days later, Lawson went back for more against the Lakers. This one, however, was a more finished product.

    In transition, Lawson dribbled out of the double-team and had Jodie Meeks one-on-one. After the slight hesitation move, Lawson's crossover sent Meeks falling, he then hit Timofey Mozgov on the roll and he blew right by Pau Gasol for the easy layup.

    Denver went on to win 134-126. Lawson finished with 30 points and tied a season-high 17 assists. 

    These two ankle-breaking plays happened the first week after Lawson returned from his rib injury. It's safe to say he got the necessary rest and reminded people that he can use more than just his speed to be effective.

7. Dikembe Mutombo Fools Rocky After 1993-94 Team Is Honored

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    Remember which team became the first franchise to win a playoff series as a No. 8 seed? Of course you do, the 1993-94 Nuggets when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics.

    The team was honored at halftime during Denver's contest with the Los Angeles Clippers on St. Patrick's Day. Some NBA teams wore green uniforms to support the holiday, but the Nuggets put on the throwback jerseys from the 90s.

    It was a great moment for Nuggets fans to enjoy and remember one of the great upsets in NBA history, especially with their team nearly eliminated from the 2013-14 postseason at this point.

    What made it even better was that Dikembe Mutombo gave fans a glimpse of his famous finger wag. Mutombo held the ball in the air for Rocky, the Nuggets mascot, to jump off a trampoline, grab it and throw it down to put on a show for the fans.

    Instead, Mutombo took matters into his own hands and pulled the ball away as soon as Rocky took flight. Rocky went flying through the air, crashed onto the mat and Mutombo perfectly timed the finger wag for the camera and the Nuggets mascot. It was a great laugh.

    Oh, and to put the icing on the cake, the Nuggets knocked off the Clippers for the second time 110-100.

6. Randy Foye Blocks Carmelo Anthony at the Buzzer for the Win

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    Randy Foye is mostly known for his three-point shooting, but he made a handful of incredible defensive plays throughout the year. Most notably was his game-winning rejection against former Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony.

    The Nuggets were on a four-game winning streak heading into their showdown with the New York Knicks the day after Thanksgiving. It was a night that was expected to have offensive explosion, but it turned out it was more about defense.

    With the Nuggets leading 97-95, Anthony brought the ball up for the final shot and quickly posted up against Foye. This is mostly a mismatch, with Foye giving up four inches to one of the best scorers in the game, especially since the Nuggets didn't double-team him.

    But Foye was up to the challenge and rejected Melo for the Denver win. It was just a regular-season game and it had been nearly three years since the blockbuster trade, but it's a sweet feeling when it comes against your former superstar and knowing you have the Knicks' 2014 first-round pick.

    The Nuggets went on to produce a seven-game winning streak, their longest of the season.

5. Nuggets Knock off the Miami Heat in South Beach

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    The Nuggets could have easily packed it in by the middle of March. The injuries had done enough damage already, they lost their first two games of their road trip and were down 10 at the end of the first quarter to the Miami Heat.

    But this is when the team effort finally started coming together, when adversity was at one of its strongest points. Along with Faried's 24 points and 10 rebounds, two unlikely heroes emerged—Evan Fournier and Darrell Arthur.

    Both bench players were somewhat desperate for a great game, but it was their offensive contributions in the second quarter that jump-started this team. Fournier put up 14 points while Arthur recorded 18.

    Everyone's energy picked up, and Arthur, who spent much of his time defending LeBron James, forced four steals. Denver held on for the 111-107 victory.

4. Robinson Goes off on the Golden State Warriors

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    Even though Robinson wasn't part of Denver's first-round loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2013 playoffs, this was a little redemption for Nuggets fans.

    Denver lost that series 4-2, failed to win a game at Oracle Arena and had already dropped its first meeting to Golden State at the Pepsi Center in 2013-14. Plus, the Nuggets had a few high-quality wins, but none had come away from home to this point. 

    This is when Robinson did his thing. Not only did he drop 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, he was particularly driving Stephen Curry and former Nuggets guard Andre Iguodala crazy by constantly moving with and without the basketball.

    With McGee out and Wilson Chandler starting for the sidelined Danilo Gallinari, Robinson's energy off the bench was crucial. He put the team on his back for a majority of the fourth quarter and got Denver in position to earn its first significant road win.

    But we can't forget J.J. Hickson's 13 points and 24 rebounds. We also have to include Evan Fournier's half-court shot at the end of the third quarter.

3. Foye Stuns the Clippers as Time Expires

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    This was the most exhilarating play of the Nuggets' season. 

    With the Nuggets down two and 6.2 seconds remaining, Denver had time to get a reasonable shot off. However, after the ball moved to Hickson and Chandler cut to the basket after Lawson set the screen, Hickson didn't see Chandler in time.

    The play was broken and Hickson gave it to his long-distance shooter to make something happen. 

    Make something happen? How about launching it from roughly 30 feet over Blake Griffin and burying the triple as the horn sounds to give the Nuggets the 116-115 triumph.

    This was hardly the ideal shot with 6.2 seconds left and only down two points. A fadeaway three from well beyond the arc is typically never a good look no matter the circumstance.

    But shooters are going to make a shot here and there that make your eyes light up. That's exactly what Foye did for Denver fans.

2. The Manimal Comes Through in the Final Seconds

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    Before the season started, would you have given Faried any chance to take the final shot? Even before the game when you knew Lawson, Robinson and Chandler were out, would you inbound the ball straight to Faried and let him make the final play on his own?

    So many times we see teams get the ball to their best scorer or shooter from behind the arc, and they let him try to make the play. More often than not, it ends up being a contested shot away from the rim that bricks off the iron.

    Not in this case. Shaw had Foye inbound it to Faried on the high block, who faked the handoff and took Draymond Green one-on-one inside. "The Manimal" made the short floater with under one second remaining.

    The Nuggets and Warriors split the regular-season series. However, the road team won each contest. 

    But exactly how great of a moment was this for Denver?

    This game would have clinched a playoff spot for the Warriors, but they had to wait until they faced the Lakers the following night to do so.

    Furthermore, this was the first time the Nuggets had been back on TNT for a game since they were embarrassed at home by the Brooklyn Nets in a 112-89 loss—the night where Denver put up a mere eight first-quarter points.

    Lastly, according to VegasInsider, the Nuggets were 12.5-point underdogs and it was the second-biggest spread they were as a dog all season. They were on the second of a back-to-back, on the road and shorthanded—very few people gave the Nuggets a chance.

    Yet they prevailed and were learning how to grind it out through the tough times. This shot also announced to the NBA world that Faried's late-season emergence wasn't just on the stat sheet, but in the clutch too.

1. Mozgov Puts the Finishing Touches on a Tremendous Season

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    But why were the Nuggets in a position to win this game in the first place? The whole team deserves credit, especially Jan Vesely with the mayhem he caused on defense.

    Although in the end, this night belonged to Mozgov.

    Before the season, many people thought Mozzy would spend a good chunk of his year on the bench. Sure, he would get his chances, but would he actually be in the primary rotation?

    When the injuries piled on, Mozgov didn't just fill in—he thrived. This game was the best example of it.

    Mozgov dominated the Warriors inside, getting the best of Andrew Bogut all night. Mozgov tied a career-high 23 points and pulled down a career-high 29 boards. He was 10-of-15 from the field, blocked three shots and only turned it over twice.

    This was huge on multiple levels.

    It was the defining game to fully ensure that Denver has a starting center for next season, and it doesn't need to rely on McGee's development immediately. Mozgov played a career-high 43 minutes and had only played more than 32 one other time in his career, which was in his rookie season.

    It was a sign that Shaw's coaching was really starting to take effect along with the kind of intensity he's trying to bring to his team. If his guys are going to fight that hard with the postseason out of reach, imagine a healthy squad with playoff aspirations playing with that kind of force.