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Woody Paige: Rare showdown among top 3 critical games in Denver Nuggets history

April 10, 2018 Updated: April 11, 2018 at 7:29 am
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The Wall was built in 1931.

Wall Drug Store, which became a popular touring stop by providing "free ice water,'' is northeast of Badlands National Park in South Dakota and just about halfway, the long way, between Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

I called the Wall Tuesday afternoon to find out which team - the Nuggets or the Timberwolves - employees and customers are pulling for in The Big Game Wednesday night.

"Let me ask around,'' the woman who answered the phone said. "Check back.''

I called again a half-hour later.

Make it unanimous.

"There's an old couple in here drinking milkshakes who said they are fans of the Denver team. Nobody else knows anything.''

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune featured a poll Tuesday asking which team would prevail for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. I assumed the responses would be unanimous for the Timberwolves. However, 57 percent of 633 had picked the Nuggets.

Colorado and Minnesota would not be considered natural or bitter rivals. The Wild did upset the Avalanche in the 2003 playoffs 4-3, and the T-Wolves waxed the Nuggets 4-1 in the first round the following season. The Rockies are 7-8 all-time against the Twins, and the Broncos and the Vikings are tied in their series 7-7. Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings, but Case Keenum came from the Vikings to the Broncos.

Minnesota United is sixth, the Rapids eighth in the Western Conference in Major League Soccer standings early this season.

Colorado Springs and Denver have it over Minneapolis and St. Paul, according to U.S. News & World Report. The publication ranked Colorado Springs No. 2 overall (behind Austin, Texas) in best cities in which to live, and Denver was third. The Twins Cities finished ninth.

M-St.P is colder, but has the Mall of America and hosted the Super Bowl twice. Colorado has, uh, weed and won the Super Bowl three times.

But none of those characteristics will matter Wednesday night when the Timberwolves and the Nuggets are involved in the Clash of the Titans. Well, maybe not Titans.

For only the sixth time in NBA history, and the first in 21 years, two teams will meet in the last regular-season game to determine a remaining playoff position.

Oddly enough, the Nuggets participated two of the previous times. They defeated the Kansas City Kings in 1983 and the Sacramento Kings in 1994-95. The second is memorable because the Nuggets became the first eighth seed in history to knock off a No. 1 seed - the Seattle SuperSonics in a five-game series. They then lost to the Jazz in seven.

The Nuggets are attempting to join the Avalanche in the playoffs for the only postseason since 2009-10. The Avs have done their part.

The Timberwolves won the previous game in Minneapolis in overtime. The teams split at The Can, with the Nuggets winning Thursday to save their season.

At the end of last month I wrote that the Nuggets would have to win every game in order to reach the postseason. They have so far - six in a row against playoff challengers.

The Nuggets actually could end up higher than eighth, depending on how other teams finish - with identical records and tiebreakers in play. Anything to avoid playing the Rockets, who the Nuggets have lost to three times. The Nuggets certainly fared better against the injured Warriors (who they've defeated twice) and the Trail Blazers (who they beat Monday).

Nikola Jokic is triple-double trouble and caldron bubble. The SuperSerb is getting help from all corners and guards, especially with Gary Harris back in the Portland game. Yet, Jimmy Butler has returned for the Timberwolves, and their large hyphenated, double-double man, Karl-Anthony Towns, recently went for 56 points.

This is one of the three most critical regular-season games in the Nuggets' ABA and NBA half-century history.

What do Lumberjacks yell when a giant tree is about to fall?

The Nuggets intend to shout: "Timberrrrrrr ... Wolves.''

Perhaps there will be dancing Wednesday night at Wall Drug Store.

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