DENVER — Juancho shimmy for us?
Shake that thing, Pepsi Center. The Nuggets battered the Blazers 124-98 in Game 5 here late Tuesday night and signaled last call with the second-most fitting scene possible: Juancho Hernangomez, the Spanish Smile, splashed a 3-pointer and turned around to shimmy for the starters who had taken his spot on the bench.
Only the Spaniard dancing the flamenco would trump it. What a run for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and the Colorado diehards who’ve dreamt of simultaneous postseasons like this.
One month ago this all started with folks here just glad to be invited back to the dance. The Avs clinched a playoff spot in Game 81. The Nuggets hadn't been in six years. Now the Avs and Nuggets are both one win from moving on to the conference finals in the NHL and NBA.
What is this, Boston?
The Avs play Game 7 at San Jose Wednesday. Puck drop’s at 7 p.m. God’s Country Standard Time. The Nuggets play Game 6 at Portland on Thursday. Tipoff’s at 8:30 p.m. GCST.
Both are elimination games, and if the Avs and Nuggets win they get to keep dancing. Might happen, might not, but in a postseason that’s seen Cale Makar score a goal in his seventh NHL shift and my friends go broke from buying playoff tickets, don’t rule out the possibility.
Colorado’s never seen anything like this. Never before had the Avs and Nuggets moved past the first round of their respective postseasons in the same year. From April 11 through May 7, the Avs and Nuggets had a playoff game on 22 of 27 days. That includes 15 straight nights with a playoff game for one or the other. Pepsi Center’s hosted 11 playoff games, one more than it hosted in the previous six NBA and NHL seasons combined. That’s a lot of beer and pretzels, and Jamal Murray helped himself to one while Philipp Grubauer twisted himself into one.
One afternoon at lunch across the street at Brooklyn’s, a member of the Pepsi Center conversion crew — the bunch that swaps out the ice for a basketball court and suddenly got very busy — sat down for a sandwich. We talked.
Him: What day is it?
Me: Tuesday. No, Wednesday.
Him: Who won last night?
Me: What day is it?
Oh, yeah. Back to Game 5. For the Nuggets.
The Nuggets whacked the Blazers to take a 3-2 series lead. The series turned toward Denver when Portland began raising a stink about the officiating, on Enes Kanter’s Twitter and on the court, a sure sign that one team knows it needs more than five guys to beat the other team.
Portland knows it needs help against Nikola Jokic. This series he’s averaged 26.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists — video game numbers for a 24-year-old who's dominated this postseason like he's the only one allowed to hold the controller. Late Tuesday night, a couple Blazers were telling me there’s no way Joker is really only 250 pounds, his listed weight. And they’re right. There’s no way. He’s so big.
Von Miller said a couple weeks ago that he’s 245, and when Von left his courtside seat at Game 5 with the Nuggets up 22 points, he looked like two-thirds of Jokic. I say Joker’s pushing 280, the Blazers think that’s low, and yet still he moves around the court like that.
“We know that we are more than capable of getting it done in the next game,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said after he rested for most of the fourth quarter, and a decent chunk of the series.
The Blazers said all the right things after the blowout. Thursday at Moda Center will be Denver's toughest date yet, if you don't count the day my friends checked their bank accounts.
“We don’t feel like we’ve played our best basketball game yet,” coach Terry Stotts said.
But I’m not sure the Blazers have a say in the matter.
The Avs and Nuggets are road ’dogs on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
So this seems like a good time to power rank the loudest Pepsi Centers — non-Monster Jam division — I’ve heard. The top three all came in the past month: One, MacKinnon/Makar in Game 3 of the Flames series; Two, Nuggets Game 7 of the Spurs series; Three, Jamal Murray’s fourth quarter vs. the Spurs in Game 2.
The ballots are still open. The dance party's still going.