It shouldn’t have been 3-1. They had no business winning this series. Somehow, someway, the Denver Nuggets pulled it off. Their second straight series win off going down 3-1. Oh, by the way, that has NEVER been done before.
12 teams in NBA history have come back from being down 3-1. But no one has come back from it in two consecutive series.
We know how this is gonna go on all of the morning shows. The focus isn’t gonna be on the young, resilient team that came back in this series against the odds-on favorite to win the championship. It’s gonna be focused on how the Goliath of the Los Angeles Clippers choked. How Kawhi Leonard didn’t play up to standards of a top-three player in the world. Frankly, the real crime was the salmon polos the Clippers coaching staff wore for this game. That alone deserved the loss. Nonetheless, let’s actually look at how it happened.
Game 1 was a dominant game for the Clippers. They won by 23. It looked exactly like what you would expect based purely on on-paper talent. But this is a Nuggets article. Scrap that game.
The rest of the series was closely contested, even if the score didn’t indicate as much. Game 2 saw a much more prepared Nuggets team. Their stars were ready to go, as Nikola Jokic scored 26 points with 18 rebounds. Jamal Murray pitched in 27 of his own. The two led the way to their first crack on the series board in a 110-101 win.
Down, Not Out
The series began to look bleak for the underdogs after two straight tough losses in easily winnable games. Bad defensive breakdowns, missed open shots, basically, everything that you cannot do if you want to beat a behemoth like the Clippers, they did. If we’re really being honest, they looked cooked. Games 5 and 6 looked the same for most of the game.
When you talk about a resilient team, you’d likely find this Nuggets team as the dictionary picture. Not only did they win those two games, but they came back in those games. In true Nuggets, and well, Denver sports fashion, our teams don’t just blow teams out. They decide to make it as scary and stressful as possible. They opt to make their fans lose all hope and get depressed before doing something extraordinary. This time, two huge comebacks. Game 5, the team was down by as many as 16 points midway through the third quarter. They fought all the way back to win 111-105.
In Game 6, the team decided that a 16 point deficit was too easy; let’s try 19 points. What looked like an easy blowout for the Clippers to seal it turned into what looks like a blowout win for the Nuggets. They outscored the Clippers by a whopping 29 in the second half. They won the game 111-98.
Then, Game 7. The one for all the marbles. This time, no big comebacks, just your good old fashioned game of runs. The Clippers did hold a 12 point lead at one point in the first half, but that was short-lived. After that, it was pretty much back and forth. The Nuggets would get close and tie, then the Clippers would go on a mini-run. Then, with 8:55 left in the third quarter, the Nuggets took the lead and never looked back. All of the things that went wrong in Game 1 went right in Game 7. They made open and contested shots. They made critical stops, and Los Angeles couldn’t hit the side of a barn.
It was with 2:10 remaining that Nuggets fans could breathe. When the nightmares of close and stressful games dissipated. When the fear of the Nuggets losing big leads and ultimately the game (which has happened far too often) was no longer. They finally did what all Denver sports fans dream of: just blow a team out and keep the lead. With 2:10 left, they reached their biggest lead of the night at 20. Eventually, when the dust cleared, we had a winner. The Nuggets took down that other team from LA 104-89. The only thing that didn’t go right was not putting Bol Bol in the game when all the subs entered the game at the end.
The Joker, the Big Honey as he’s affectionately called, AKA series MVP, gave everyone that big old Serbian flex in the game that mattered most. He had a monster game. He finished the night with 16 points, 13 assists, and an astounding 22 rebounds. That last number is particularly impressive given his lack of vertical. To make his game even more impressive, his triple-double came in three quarters—the only player ever to record a triple-double in three-quarters of a Game 7.
You can’t forget about Kitchener, Ontario’s own Blue Arrow.
He went off for another 40 piece. 20 points came in the second quarter alone. That’s good for the most points in a Game 7 quarter. Murray has been known for his incredible explosions known as the “Murray Flurry” in Denver. But also his inconsistency. Truth be told, none of that matters when his best comes when it matters most.
As with any series, notably a seven-game series, there are so many players who deserve credit; for the Nuggets, that’s every player. Michael Porter Jr. hitting the dagger in Game 5. The Paul Millsap quarter in Game 5 as well. Jerami Grant and Gary Harris‘ defense. None of this could have been done without their contributions. They will need every bit of those contributions and some to beat the Los Angeles Lakers.
Up next is the vaunted Lakers. Another unbelievably difficult series for the Nuggets. This team isn’t satisfied with a conference finals appearance. They want the championship. You best believe they’re going to give all the Lakers can handle, whether you want to admit it or not.
Be sure to check out all the odds from Jazz Sportsbook for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
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