OKLAHOMA CITY – The Nuggets 82nd game is not just the last game, but one that could put the team back in a space that could give a little bit more of a jumpstart to the offseason.
The 40-win club.
“I thought we’d have a chance to win 40 games, and I thought we’d have a chance to be a playoff team,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, the playoffs did not work out this year, but if we’re able to get a win here tonight against a division opponent that we have yet to beat, that will give us 40 wins on the year. I think that’s pretty remarkable when you consider the youth of our team and all of the injuries and different lineups that we’ve had. So, definitely a lot of positives.”
The Nuggets enter Wednesday night’s game against the Thunder, the final game of the regular season, with a chance to win their 40th game of the season. Symbolic? Sure. But energizing as well to a Nuggets team that is looking to take another big step next season.
Win No. 40 would cement a seven-game improvement for a team that many across the nation thought might stay stagnant at 33 wins at best. But that hasn’t happened. Already six games better than a season ago, the Nuggets wer alos in a playoff race down to the last two games of the season.
To get it, the Nuggets will again lean on their youth. Malik Beasley is coming off of a 16-point performance in a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. Jamal Murray (10 points, 10 assists), and Juancho Hernangomez also played big roles in the win. They’ll be counted on again in Oklahoma City, where the Nuggets will have several players out again.
The Thunder is celebrating Russell Westbrook’s historic triple double-laden season, complete with the man who used to own the record for triple doubles in a single season, Oscar Robertson, in attendance. It is the second straight night the Nuggets will be in the house for a abnormally festive night. Last night, the Nuggets watched the Mavericks celebrate the career of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo.
But getting the win is the thing.
“It would be great to end on a win,” Malone said. “Especially against a division opponent that has caused us a lot of misery and pain this year.”