The Denver Nuggets almost had their playoff hopes dashed thanks in part to a debatable officiating decision in their Monday-night matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers. Fortunately for Nuggets fans with a munchies-level hankering for the playoffs, the ref crew’s overturning of an out-of-bounds call in the final minute won’t deprive them and NBA fans of the most thrilling and momentous game of the regular season.
With 53 seconds remaining and Denver protecting a three-point lead, Portland big man Jusuf Nurkic poked the ball away from former teammate Nikola Jokic.
Initially ruled out off Nurkic, a replay overturned the call.
(Click here for a higher-resolution video.)
While Nuggets fans made their lividity known, I’m actually gonna *gasp* side with the refs on this one. Ignore Jokic’s second effort to corral the rock — it whiffs. But immediately after Nurkic’s poke, it appears the ball rolls of Jokic’s outstretched fingertips — though I’m admittedly not quite sure what qualifies as “clear and convincing evidence,” the standard laid out by the NBA.
Anyway, it didn’t matter, as another Herculean triple-double effort from Jokic was enough to keep Denver’s season alive for at least one more game.
“I told them at halftime, I was honest, I said, ‘Fellas, if we lose, we’re out.’ I knew some of these other teams had won games,” head coach Mike Malone said after the 88-82 victory, referring to the NBA playoff landscape. “And I felt we played like our lives were on the line. It wasn’t pretty, but I thought our defense was phenomenal.”
On Wednesday, the Nuggets will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves — winner gets the Western Conference’s eighth seed, and loser gets an early start on their offseason vacation.