While the Denver Nuggets have never won a title in their 44 years in the NBA, the franchise is no stranger to making history.
After becoming just the 12th team in league history to overcome a 3-1 postseason deficit in the opening round against the Utah Jazz, this Nuggets team looks to become the first to overcome the deficit twice in one postseason.
Thanks to gritty comeback wins in Games 5 and 6, Denver is now one win away from the Western Conference Finals as it has forced a Game 7 against the LA Clippers.
MORE: Nuggets rally to take Game 6
Of course, the team's penchant for responding when its back is against the wall has been a hot topic of conversation, which Jamal Murray addressed after Game 5, saying: "I think that's the answer right there, we play best when our backs are against the wall. It's as simple as that."
After the team rallied from 19 down to win Game 6, All-Star centre Nikola Jokic responded with a quip when asked about the team's ability to play well when its back is against the wall, telling ESPN's Malika Andrews "I don't know. That's a good question … we don't want to be in that spot but it seems like we are good in that spot."
Whether it's as simple as Murray stated or as mysterious as Jokic put it, this Denver team clearly has no quit.
History suggests that it might be something in the franchise's DNA.
Let's take it back to the 1994 NBA Playoffs, when a young, hungry Nuggets team was on the verge of making NBA history not once, but twice. Sound familiar?
Led by a starting lineup of 27-year-old centre in Dikembe Mutombo, a prolific 24-year-old guard in Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a pair of 23-year-olds in LaPhonso Ellis and Bryant Stith and 29-year-old veteran Reggie Williams, Denver finished with a 42-40 record, comfortably clinching the West's No. 8 seed to set up a date with the 63-19 Seattle SuperSonics.
Denver's reserves packed a punch, too, with the late Bison Dele, Robert Pack and standout rookie Rodney Rogers.
The 1993-94 season was the NBA's first without Michael Jordan and quite frankly for the Sonics, it was championship or bust. History was working against the Nuggets, too, as at the time, a No. 8 seed had never defeated a No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs.
As expected, Seattle cruised to wins in Games 1 and 2, putting Denver's back against the wall as the best-of-five series shifted to Colorado.
With the altitude on its side, Denver cruised to a 17-point win in Game 3 followed by a nine-point win in Game 4 to force a decisive Game 5 back in Seattle.
It took an extra period but the Nuggets became the first-ever eighth seed to defeat a top seed with a 98-94 win over the Sonics, resulting in the iconic image of Dikembe Mutombo laying on the ground in exultation.
But the story doesn't end there.
In the second round, Denver met the Utah Jazz, who earned the West's fifth seed with a regular-season record of 53-29. With the Jazz featuring a duo of future Hall of Famers in John Stockton and Karl Malone, it felt like the Nuggets didn't stand a chance.
The Jazz jumped to a 3-0 series lead, winning by margins of nine points, 10 points and two points in Games 1 through 3, respectively. After being unable to get over the hump, Denver faced a historically insurmountable series deficit.
Still, the Nuggets didn't quit.
After earning a one-point win in Game 4, Denver earned an eight-point win in Game 5 to force a Game 6, where they earned a three-point win to force a decisive Game 7.
In the history of the NBA, the Nuggets are one of just three teams to even force a Game 7 after facing a 3-0 series deficit, doing so one series after becoming the first-ever No. 8 seed to pull off a first-round upset, no less.
Denver would suffer a 10-point loss in Game 7 but it still managed to make history in the process.
|First Round (Best of five)||No. 1 Seattle Supersonics (63-19)||0-2||Won series, 3-2|
|Second Round (Best of seven)||No. 5 Utah Jazz (53-29)||0-3||Lost series, 3-4|
26 years later, the Nuggets franchise is in a position to build upon the historic groundwork led by a team of young up and comers. As young as this year's team is, it' full of players that have been there before, as the team is preparing for its fourth Game 7 in two years.
After overcoming 3-1 to defeat Utah, Denver looks to come back from 3-1 to eliminate an LA team that features a duo of potential Hall of Famers and has the goal of a title or bust.
The parallels are hard to ignore. Can the Nuggets pull it off? After all, this franchise does have a history of making history.
Denver and LA meet in Game 7 with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. ET.
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