Podcast: Summit Daily sports editor previews Nuggets-Blazers Game 7 with Summit County fan Daniel Beitscher
It was the day Mount Mutombo met the Tenmile Range.
Way back in the early ’90s, when Summit County local Daniel Beitscher was still a kid, NBA star Dikembe Mutombo made the trek from 5,280 feet above sea level up to near tree line. At Breckenridge Ski Resort, the then-Denver Nuggets star and future NBA Hall of Famer Mutombo mingled with the NBA franchise’s High Country fans.
The young Beitscher was one of many a Summit County Nuggets fans who got the chance to meet one of the most famous players in franchise history. Beitscher recalled Mutombo handing out medals to kids, like him, who were competing in a casual ski race on Breckenridge’s slopes.
“He was just so nice,” Beitscher said, “so welcoming. And he was just gigantic. A gigantic man.”
Did Mutombo strap into gigantic skis?
“No,” Beitscher said with a laugh. “Not by any means. He didn’t have any ski clothes on. He was not on any skis at all. He was there to sign autographs and hand out high-fives.”
It was a decade and a half ago, in the spring of 1994, when Mutombo fell to the NBA Playoff hardwood and hoisted a basketball high in the air in one of the most iconic images in Denver Nuggets franchise history. Mutombo did so in celebrating the eighth-seeded Nuggets first-round Western Conference Playoffs victory against the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics. At the time, it was the first instance in NBA history of the lowest seed in the NBA Playoffs upsetting the top seed. And, for Beitscher, like so many young fans, it helped to fuel the fire of his fanhood for the Nuggets.
Five years later, in the spring of 1999, I can remember as a New Yorker watching the eighth-seeded New York Knicks’ upset the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. There, eyes glued to the tube television in the den with my dad, it seemed like an eternity while Allan Houston’s floater in the lane bounced off the front of the rim, then the backboard, before dropping through the net to send the underdog Knicks onward in the playoffs, and the favored Alonzo Mourning-led Heat home. It was the first time in Eastern Conference Playoffs history — and the second time in NBA history following the 1994 Nuggets-Sonics series — of an eight seed upsetting a one seed
In the next round of those 1999 Eastern Conference Playoffs, my beloved Latrell Sprewell-led Knicks took on another Georgetown alumni center, Knicks legend Patrick Ewing matching up with another Hoya after disposing of Mourning. Who was that third Hoya center, then playing for the Atlanta Hawks? You guessed it, Dikembe Mutombo. The underdog Knicks went on to sweep Mutombo’s Hawks en route to an NBA Finals defeat against the first of many San Antonio Spurs championship teams.
That Mount Mutombo-centric connection between the 1994 eight-seeded Nuggets and the 1999 eight-seeded Knicks was a jumping off point for my podcast conversation with the Summit County local Beitscher. We chatted on Saturday to preview Sunday’s Game 7 (1:30 p.m. MST, ABC) of the Western Conference Semifinals between this year’s iteration of the Nuggets and the Portland Trailblazers. In our podcast conversation, the Summit County local Nuggets superfan Beitscher and I go in-depth on the details surrounding the do-or-die Game 7 for the Nuggets.
Among the topics of conversation, Beitscher describes how it’s Denver’s defense that, he feels, will dictate Sunday’s outcome.
“We need Torrey Craig posting up really good defensive numbers,” Beitscher said, “(and) Gary Harris to stay on the court and have good defensive numbers, so we can utilize him for the 3s (on the offensive end). And, also, Jamal Murray can have a little bit more (on-ball defensive) pressure. I know he’s been on (Portland Trailblazers star Damian) Lillard, and Lillard is an amazing athlete, and it’s been hard to stop him. But if we can contain him, like we have through Games 1 through 3, then I think we have a really good chance.”
Beitscher also went into detail about what concerns him about Blazers bench stars Rodney Hood and Zach Collins heading into Game 7.
“Hood has just made daggers against us,” Beitscher said. “In the fourth overtime (of the Blazers’ win in Game 3), we were up and he just came back and propelled them to that win, which was huge. And Zach Collins, he is just — has so much energy. He’s just all over the court and he’s still good enough to make 3s. It’s hurting us to defend that far out.”
And the Summit County local also touched on why he’s confident the best of Nuggets young star Jamal Murray will resurface in Game 7.
“Game 6 wasn’t his strongest outing,” Beitscher said, “but I think Murray has a great mindset. He has been in a bunch of tough games before, throughout his collegiate career, and we saw back in the first series against San Antonio that he loves big shots. He can go down to the wire and he loves that big shot. He loves taking the last shot of the half, last shot of the game, and he’s really confident in it. And I’m confident in him to make those kind of shots.”
So, before Nuggets-Blazers tips Sunday afternoon, be sure to go to this article at SummitDaily.com to check out our 20-minute podcast preview of one of the most important games in Denver Nuggets franchise history.
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