Nuggets Clinch Final Berth
Jon Barry waved a towel and danced along the sideline. Coach Jeff Bzdelik pumped his fist and yelled “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Carmelo Anthony and Rodney White raised their arms at midcourt and hugged.
Nearly a decade of ineptitude is over. The Denver Nuggets are going to the playoffs.
Marcus Camby had 12 points, 21 rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots to help the Nuggets reach the playoffs for the first time since 1995 with a 97-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
“I think a lot of people looked at our schedule the last part of the season and thought we wouldn’t have a chance,” said forward Ryan Bowen, the Nuggets’ longest-tenured player at four years.
“We fought through it and got some big wins. And here we are.”
With stars including Michael Jordan, Tyra Banks and Lionel Richie in the stands, the Nuggets outhustled and outshot the Kings to secure the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The third-largest crowd in Nuggets’ history (19,746) stood and cheered for several minutes after the game.
Players hugged and hammed it up with fans. Bzdelik was lifted off the ground by a bear hug from the equipment manager.
No doubt this was a huge relief for a team that challenged the league’s futility mark in 1998 and won 17 games last season.
“This is a heck of a place to play and these people have been great all year,” Barry said. “A lot of people didn’t give us any chance and people believed, we believed in ourselves.”
Sacramento lost any chance of gaining the top seeding in the Western Conference.
The Kings can still win their third straight Pacific Division title if they beat Golden State on Wednesday or the Lakers lose one of their final two games.
The Kings made only one of 13 three-point attempts against the Nuggets and were outscored, 31-7, on the fastbreak.
“We had the most motivation we possibly could have,” King guard Anthony Peeler said.
“We could have clinched the Pacific tonight. Now we have to go home and do it on Wednesday. We’re disappointed by this.”
Said King Coach Rick Adelman: “We didn’t play solid enough for the full 48 minutes.... That’s not enough to win on the road, which has been a scenario of ours for the last month.”