Nuggets Clinch NBA Playoff Berth with Win vs. Celtics; Snap 6-Year Drought

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 19, 2019

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets and Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets embrace following the game agains the Portland Trail Blazers on January 13, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets are heading to the NBA playoffs for the first time in six years following Monday's 114-105 win over the Boston Celtics.

The Nuggets have gradually been building toward this moment since bottoming out with a 30-52 record in 2014-15. Their win total has increased in each of the previous three seasons, and at 47-22, they have already surpassed last year's 46 wins.

Last season planted the seeds for what was to come in 2018-19. Denver missed out on the playoffs by one game thanks to a 112-106 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on the final day of the regular season.

Despite that devastating ending, the Nuggets' nucleus of Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray offered plenty of promise. That trio has continued its evolution, particularly with Jokic becoming one of the NBA's best big men.

The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote in January that Jokic's passing ability would have put him in a class with some of the NBA's best point guards:

"He touches, passes, and possesses the ball more often than almost every other player in the league, according to NBA.com/Stats tracking data. Jokic is averaging 7.7 assists per game this season, which is on track to be the most for any player taller than 6'10" in history besides Wilt Chamberlain. At 7 feet and 250 pounds, the Serbian is the league's largest lead guard."

One thing the Nuggets have lacked—even during this season's surge up the Western Conference standings—is a premier scorer. Jokic is shooting 50.7 percent overall, but he's not an effective shooter from three-point range (32.0 percent). Murray isn't an efficient scorer, averaging 18.2 points on 15.8 field-goal attempts per game.

Head coach Michael Malone has built one of the most balanced teams in the league. The Nuggets rank fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency (113.0), sixth in rebounding (46.6), 11th in three-point percentage (35.6) and 11th in defensive efficiency (108.0), per NBA.com.

Even though the Western Conference will continue to run through the Golden State Warriors until someone knocks them off, the Nuggets are building a roster capable of competing with the best teams in the league.

Denver's playoff berth this season is indicative of how much progress the franchise has made and how high its ceiling can be as the roster continues to jell.

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