Top 10 Individual Single-Game Performances in Nuggets Playoffs History
In recent years, the Nuggets have established themselves as a consistent NBA Western Conference powerhouse. Even in the years when Denver wasn’t as outstanding, players managed to shine in the playoffs. Ranking the 10 greatest individual performances in Nuggets playoff history.
Under the guidance of coach Mike Malone, the Denver Nuggets have become regulars in the NBA playoffs, getting there for five consecutive seasons. Spearheaded by their brightest stars, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the team has emerged as a formidable contender.
After going through the entire 2021-22 season without Murray, due to a torn ACL, Denver returned to full strength for the 2022-23 campaign.
The current Denver roster is widely regarded as one of the finest in the history of the Nuggets. With their sights set on capturing a first-ever championship, the team and coaching staff are more determined than ever.
Led by both Jokic and Murray, Denver’s shot at a championship is as good as it has ever been. The Nuggets’ playoff run in 2023 has taken them to their first NBA Finals after a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
When was the last time the Nuggets won a championship?
Regrettably, the Denver Nuggets have yet to taste the glory of an NBA championship, but they finally have a chance to do it with their berth in the 2023 NBA Finals. Nevertheless, heading into 2023, Denver’s impressive playoff record was better than that of the other five teams that had not yet reached the NBA Finals.
Nuggets Playoff History
The Denver Nuggets are on a five-year playoff streak, but it hasn’t always been such smooth sailing for the franchise. Denver missed the playoffs for five seasons in a row from 2013-14 to 2017-18. Also, during the 1990s and early 2000s the team endured the lengthiest playoff absence in Nuggets history. Over a period spanning eight years from 1995-96 to 2002-03, Denver unfortunately missed out on the playoffs each season.
Denver has made the Western Conference Finals five times, including the 2022-23 season. The Nuggets were defeated the first four times, including three losses to the Lakers in 1985, 2009 and most recently in the NBA bubble in 2020. Until this season, the Lakers had been a thorn in Denver’s side throughout the Nuggets’ playoff history, which is why clearing the Los Angeles hurdle with a four-game sweep in 2023 is such a major achievement for the franchise.
Ranking the Top 10 Greatest NBA Playoff Individual Performances in Nuggets history
- Carmelo Anthony -- 2010 First Round vs. Jazz, Game 1
The 2010 NBA playoffs set up an opening-round series between the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, and Carmelo Anthony set the tone for the series with his performance in Game 1.
Melo was hitting good looks all night, shooting 72 percent as he stormed to a 42-point performance against Utah. The game marked Carmelo’s best points total in a Nuggets playoff game and one of the best solo performances in recent memory.
- Alex English -- 1985 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Jazz, Game 4
Alex English delivered a series of exceptional NBA playoff performances that etched his name in Nuggets' postseason history. He also boasts some of the best individual postseason stats of anyone who ever played for the team.
The Nuggets small forward showcased his scoring ability in the postseason by surpassing the 40-point mark on four separate occasions. While some of those games resulted in unfortunate losses, there was one particular game in which victory was secured.
English's extraordinary showing of 40 points, seven rebounds, and four assists played a pivotal role in the Nuggets’ seizing a 3-1 lead over Utah. The win set them up to clinch the series in Game 5, as the Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals for only the second time in franchise history.
- Nikola Jokic -- 2023 Western Conference Finals vs. Lakers, Game 1
The Denver Nuggets truly struck gold with Nikola Jokic, who has made an incredible journey from a second-round draft pick to a two-time NBA MVP and a dominant force in the postseason.
During the current 2023 playoffs, Jokic once again asserted his presence in a series against the Los Angeles Lakers. He left a resounding impact by recording a remarkable Game 1 triple-double, amassing 34 points along with a staggering 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
Jokic's commanding performance caused chaos for the Lakers, who struggled to find an answer for him while Denver took its 1-0 series lead. The Nuggets center displayed his versatility by shooting 12-for-17 from the field and successfully converting all three of his shots from 3-point range.
Jokic’s performance marked the fourth time he has broken 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assist in the same game. As far as triple-doubles go, and according to a report from CNN, it is the most times any player has done that in NBA history.
- Jamal Murray -- 2020 First Round vs. Jazz, Game 5
The Denver Nuggets’ playoff run in the 2020 NBA bubble was crazy. They became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit and win back-to-back playoff series with a pair of 4-3 comeback wins. One could easily argue that Jamal Murray's exceptional performance was the catalyst for this remarkable accomplishment.
Facing the threat of elimination, the Nuggets found themselves trailing 3-1 in the opening round when Murray stepped up to the challenge. He put on an outstanding display -- tallying 42 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and recording four assists. His shooting night included four successful 3-pointers.
Murray's takeover of that crucial game played a pivotal role in shaping the Nuggets' playoff run that year. Without his stellar contribution, their subsequent journey through the playoffs might not have materialized. It was just one many outstanding performances Murray delivered during that postseason.
- Alex English -- 1985 Western Conference Finals vs. Lakers, Game 2
The Denver Nuggets had just dropped Game 1 at The Forum in California to a star-studded Lakers team featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy. Many people immediately wrote off the Nuggets, but Alex English had a point to prove.
Unconcerned with the challenging road environment and the formidable Hall of Famers lined up against him, English approached Game 2 with unwavering determination. Displaying a sublime performance, he notched an impressive 40 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists, enabling the Nuggets to pull off a big road win in the Western Conference Finals.
Regrettably, the Nuggets were unable to replicate their Game 2 success over the rest of the series. Nonetheless, English's remarkable performance stands as one of his greatest displays of all time and is a big part of his Nuggets legacy.
- David Thompson -- 1978 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Bucks, Game 7
The 1976-77 Denver Nuggets made the playoffs in the team’s inaugural NBA season before crashing out in their first series against Portland.
Looking to do better in 1978, the Nuggets took a 3-1 lead in their first-round series vs. Milwaukee before the Bucks roared back to even the series at 3-3. Future Nuggets star Alex English was still playing for the Bucks at that time, so it was David Thompson who made himself the hero of Game 7.
The Nuggets shooting guard scored 37 points, and Denver won that all-important seventh game, claiming the series with a 116-110 victory. Thompson played a crucial role throughout the series, as Denver achieved a significant milestone by getting its first playoff series victory in just its second year in the league.
- Nikola Jokic -- 2023 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Suns, Game 4
Nikola Jokic recently broke Jamal Murray’s previous Nuggets playoff record for points scored in one game. The big man scored 53 points in 39 minutes while also collecting 11 assists and four rebounds in Game 4 vs. Phoenix.
Had the Nuggets managed to win Game 4, Jokic’s performance would rank higher on this list. Unfortunately, despite Jokic’s heroics, Denver was unable to take down the Suns, who tied the series at 2-2.
The final score aside, Jokic hit 20 of 30 field-goal attempts and two 3-pointers, destroying the Suns defense every time he touched the basketball.
- Nikola Jokic -- 2020 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Clippers Game 7
Here are some of the best Nuggets playoff stats you’ll find on this list, thanks to a complete do-it-all performance from Nikola Jokic on a night when it mattered the most.
Denver had come back from 3-1 down to defeat the Utah Jazz in the playoffs’ opening round, but the Nuggets again fell behind 3-1 against the Clippers in the semifinals. They pulled it back to 3-3, and Jokic and Murray took over in Game 7 with inspiring performances.
Jokic claimed another Nuggets franchise record with his 22-rebound night -- the most by any Nuggets player in a postseason game. He added 16 points and 13 rebounds for a stunning triple-double in helping Denver complete its second 3-1 series comeback in as many playoff rounds.
- Jamal Murray -- 2020 First Round vs. Jazz, Game 6
The NBA bubble version of Jamal Murray was outrageous. Consistently, game after game, the Nuggets point guard made his presence felt -- delivering one of the most remarkable stretches of postseason excellence in recent memory.
Murray had four games with at least 40 points during the 2020 playoff run and three in the Utah series alone. He had just scored 42 in Game 5 to keep Denver's playoff hopes alive, and then in Game 6 he outdid himself by dropping 50.
Jamal Murray was a man possessed during Game 6 -- shooting 9-for-12 from 3-point range and 17-for-24 overall. His stunning effort against the Jazz helped tie the series at 3-3, and Denver would eventually prevail to join an exclusive club of NBA teams that have overcome a 3-1 playoff series deficit.
- Jamal Murray -- 2020 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Clippers, Game 7
While Jamal Murray's consecutive 40-plus scoring performances in the face of elimination were undeniably remarkable, nothing quite compares to the brilliance he exhibited alongside Nikola Jokic in Game 7 of the 2020 Western Conference semifinals.
Considering the circumstances the 2020 Nuggets faced in that playoff year, their achievement appears even more astounding. No team had ever accomplished back-to-back 3-1 comebacks until Denver defied the odds, overturning their series against Utah and then rallying to tie the series against the Clippers and force a second consecutive Game 7.
Once again, Murray proved to be virtually unstoppable, sinking six 3-pointers en route to a total of 40 points and helping the Nuggets secure another heart-stopping victory.
With the added bonus of Jokic's dominant Game 7 triple-double, the Nuggets’ dynamic duo propelled Denver into the Western Conference Finals. Their exhilarating playoff run ranks among the most thrilling in NBA history with an abundance of unforgettable drama.
Parameters for ranking
In ranking these exceptional performances from Denver Nuggets history, we considered not only the brilliance displayed by the players but also the significance of the games and their outcomes. For instance, Jamal Murray's 40-point performance in a pivotal Game 7 carries more weight in our evaluation than his 42 points in the opening round.
The 2020 NBA playoff matchups presented a captivating array of series, and among them, the Nuggets' remarkable run stands out as one of the franchise's most memorable, coming in the face of adversity. In compiling this list, we accounted for the significance of the 2020 NBA playoff matchups, as well as the narratives and storylines surrounding each performance.
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