The Denver Nuggets had a chance to make franchise history by qualifying for the NBA's Western Conference finals for the first time in a decade. Instead, the young squad pissed it all away, losing 100-96 at home on May 12 to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Afterward, Nuggets fans and foes on Twitter called it what it was. A choke job.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know the Nuggets weren't even supposed to be in this position. The squad narrowly missed the playoffs the past two seasons, so no one was expecting 54 wins and a second-place seed. And when Denver's lineup, the youngest in the playoffs, struggled against its much more experienced first-round opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, another early playoffs exit like the one circa 2013 seemed likely.
Eventually, though, the Nugs bested the Spurs, and since Nikola Jokic and company played the Trail Blazers well during the regular campaign (they won the season series 3-1), there was plenty of reason for optimism — especially after Denver took game five in a blowout. All the Nuggets had to do was win one of the next two games in order to earn a trip to California and a finals tilt against the Golden State Warriors; that team's biggest star, Kevin Durant, had just suffered an injury that opened the door to an upset at least a crack or two.
The Nuggets wasted a wonderful opportunity in game six, but the mood remained upbeat in advance of the May 12 contest. After all, Denver had the best home record in the league. And when the Nugs built up a seventeen-point lead, all seemed to be going to plan.
Until it didn't.
Yes, Jokic scored 29 points and recorded thirteen rebounds, but his shooting percentage was low, and his compatriots came up small when he needed them the most. Jamal Murray's seventeen points seemed like fewer, and Paul Milsap's ten, on three-of-thirteen shooting from the field, was inexcusable. Meanwhile, C.J. McCollum made up for another lackluster performance by star Damian Lillard with a 37-point masterpiece/dagger.
The Nuggets brass no doubt hoped fans would react with equanimity by noting that the team had overachieved. But their sky-high expectations led them in a different direction. Count down our picks for the twenty most memorable tweets about the loss to see what we mean.
then the nuggets choke— Dani (@nay4dayz) May 13, 2019
Nuggets are a better match up to beat the warriors it sucks to see them choke, warriors in 4 or 5 vs blazers— Serb (@exiledserb) May 13, 2019
Second seed, home court advantage, one of the best home records in the league and you blow a 17 point lead...at HOME...and LOSE the series!!! WOW!!! This has to go down as one of the top five choke jobs by a Denver sports team. pic.twitter.com/6yk9ccGSqM— Jason Mowry (@jmowry11) May 13, 2019
HAHAHAHAHAHAH MYASOO NUGGETS IT'S CHOKE TIME— McCollum (@glensuelto) May 13, 2019
Maybe if Murray wasnt a Choke Star imagine if the rumor of LeBron to Denver actually happens— (@sibin_ristic) May 13, 2019
@espn C. Barkley said Rockets loss was choke job. Think it was G.S. responding to challenge of missing K.D. Now Nuggets.That was choke job. Jokic great passer but too many times passing out when at rim for lay-up. Nuggets inexperience failed them— Frank (Pec) (@Frank10983053) May 13, 2019
“They’re a young team” cool. Not an excuse to be up 2 games, end up at home in game 7 up 17 halfway, only to throw it all away with one of the worst 4th quarters of basketball I’ve ever seen out of any #nuggets team. Call it what it was- a choke job.— Caleb Dennis (@CalebDennis18) May 13, 2019
28 years in Colorado, the #Nuggets have been a running joke. They’ve always been disappointing and known as choke artists. To date, the #avalanche have won 2 cups, the #Broncos 3 Lombardi’s, the #rockies have been to the WS, then there’s the sad sorry nuggets doing what they do— Caleb Dennis (@CalebDennis18) May 13, 2019
What an absolute EMBARRASSING CHOKE JOB by the @nuggets smfh THAT IS INEXCUSABLE— Brent Epperson (@hockeybeauty64) May 13, 2019
Imagine thinking the Nuggets weren't gonna choke away game 7 pic.twitter.com/4ZETJufUDw— Kevin Drew (@UndergroundPixl) May 13, 2019
We’ve seen this movie before - Western Conference First Round two years ago. Dame and CJ BOTH had 40 plus in Game 1, Nurkic wasn’t playing then either, and they still got swept anyway. That was an all time Choke Job by The Nuggets and as a result the Luckiest Team In Sports......— Mugi (@AintYouMugi) May 13, 2019
Spent all day telling friends the Nuggets choke tonight. Bet on them anyway. Moron. Take the team with the best star/stars.— spencetagradio (@spencetagradio) May 12, 2019
Stupid Nuggets you bury them in game 6 you deserve to lose. Bunch of choke artist players— Roy Cronsell (@outfield1988) May 12, 2019
Yikes that Denver (Chicken) Nuggets choke— Zacarías (26-16) (@zacariasv20) May 12, 2019
Avs were an 8 seed that made it to the playoffs, “last minute”. Had a great run in the playoffs. Lost to a Sharks team on the road. Nuggets were a 2nd seed and should be in the WCF. Nugs had an epic choke job! No participation trophies here. No excuse. Nuggets F’d up period!— Jason Mowry (@jmowry11) May 12, 2019
I've been with the Nuggets since the old ABA days and the only thing you can call today is a total choke. Anybody who says otherwise is delusional.— CaliMark (@marks1356) May 12, 2019
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@nuggets choke city. Being a nuggets fan for 38 years, born and raised here. Im not even surprised anymore. My heart has been broken too many times. Will always be the lovable losers.— Pozzy Fonzy (@PozzyFonzy) May 12, 2019
I’m trying to imagine a world where nuggets don’t choke in the playoffs.— Jordan (@QuotaPlays) May 12, 2019