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Phil Jackson’s Theory Boosts Nuggets’ Shot at Redemption


Behind 32 points from Jamal Murray and a fourth-consecutive triple-double from reigning Finals MVP and the uncrowned Face of the NBA Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets took care of business on Wednesday night versus the Sacramento Kings, improving their record to 40-19 on the season. With this win, the Nuggets not only kept pace with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference standings, they’ve also joined a prestigious, Phil Jackson-inspired club that has a pretty great track record of identifying which teams have a higher-than-normal chance of winning an NBA Title.

“You must win 40 games before you lose 20 to be seen as an elite team,” Phil Jackson said in 2008, per Shane Young of Forbes.

It turns out this wasn’t just a throwaway statement from the Zen Master. There’s plenty of statistical evidence that backs up his assertion. Going back to 1980, a whopping 91 percent of teams who have won an NBA Title have been members of the 40 Before 20 Club. 

This year, Boston, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Denver are the only four teams that have joined the 40 Before 20 Club, which spells bad news for the other 26 teams in the league. Apologies to the Bucks, Cavaliers, Clippers, Knicks, and all of the other title hopefuls who just missed the cut. There’s a still a chance for ya to win an NBA Title, it’s just slim.

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9 percent, to be specific.

Digging a little deeper, the 40 Before 20 Club isn’t just a good indicator of who is going to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy at season’s end… it’s often a predictor of who will be competing for the opportunity to do so in June. In total, since 1980, there’s a 78 percent chance that any team competing in the NBA Finals will have been a member of the 40 Before 20 Club.

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Sonny Giuliano has been covering the NFL, College Football, NBA and College Basketball for well over a decade, but he’s never claimed to be an expert … just a sports fan who cares WAY too much.

Follow Sonny on Twitter (or X, whatever Elon’s calling it) @SonnyCG for his sports and pop culture takes


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