NUGGETS

Despite all of the injuries, the oddsmakers still believe in Nuggets

Dec 21, 2021, 6:39 AM
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 08: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets reacts against the New...
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

“We got ’em right where we want ’em.”

The quote will go down as one of the most famous in Denver sports history.

The setting was the 1986 AFC Championship Game between the Broncos and the Browns, at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The date was Jan. 11, 1987.

The Broncos were down 20-13 with 5:32 to go in the fourth quarter. They had the ball at their own two-yard line. As the story goes, John Elway brought the team to the huddle and just before he called the play, right guard Keith Bishop uttered the famous words. And we know the outcome. The Broncos marched 98 yards for a touchdown and then won the game 23-20 in overtime. Famous quote. Famous game.

Different time, different team and different setting. But the Denver Nuggets certainly could utter the same line.

“We got ’em right where we want ’em.”

The Nuggets entered the previous two seasons with high hopes, even championship aspirations. They had the ingredients to win it all. It would take a lot of things to come together just right, but both years it was a young team with lots of talent.

This season was different. The Nuggets, beginning the season without Jamal Murray, weren’t seen as a possible championship contender. Folks figured they would be better when Murray came back but, in the interim, he was too much to overcome. When they lost Michael Porter, Jr., it only added to the uncertainty. One would think that with two key players out, two extremely talented players, the 2021-22 Nuggets team would be written off. Left for dead.

But a funny thing has happened. At least in Las Vegas. Oddsmakers still have faith in this team.

A look at various Las Vegas oddsmakers show the Nuggets are projected to win anywhere from 46 to 49 games. That’s eye-catching. A team without two of the best players in the entire NBA is still projected to win nearly 50 games. If they win 49, which one book has them doing, it would be in the top 10 of best seasons ever for the Nuggets.

This says two things.

One, it tells us of the incredible value of Nikola Jokic. The experts believe that as long as he is hanging around, the Nuggets remain a team to take seriously. As long as the Joker is on the court, the Nuggets have the last laugh. I’m guessing that if Murray and/or Porter were healthy and playing and Jokic was out, we wouldn’t see the same Las Vegas optimism.

It also tells us that the experts still believe in the Nuggets. They almost all predict the Nuggets will make the playoffs, anywhere from a sixth seed to an eighth. Where some fans, and perhaps some other NBA teams, have written off the Nuggets, the insiders have not.

And I have a feeling the Nuggets kinda like it that way. Just the way they still compete, on most nights anyway, without their two stars, should tell us they are not writing themselves off.

This Nuggets team mantra could be, “We got em right where we want em.”

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Despite all of the injuries, the oddsmakers still believe in Nuggets