Good morning, folks. Surely the Clippers won’t lose three in a row, right? ….Right??? Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Murray and Nuggets stay alive, force another Game 7
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Denver Nuggets are on the cusp of overcoming a 3-1 series deficit after initially looking completely overwhelmed. After successfully mounting a 3-1 series comeback in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz, Jamal Murray and the Nuggets have the Los Angeles Clippers right where they want them. Denver once trailed 3-1 in this series against LAC, but eventually found the same strength and energy that helped propel them through the opening round. Just two games later, thanks to a 111-98 Game 6 victory for Denver, we have another tied series and another Game 7 for the Nuggets. Here’s how we got there.
In classic Nuggets fashion, they fell into a deep hole early in Game 6. As they did in Game 5, Denver was forced to overcome a sizable Clippers lead before ultimately stealing the win down the stretch. By the time the second half of Game 6 rolled around, the Nuggets were trailing by as many as 19 points with only 22 minutes left before transforming into the team that many think they can be. The Nuggets offense finally came alive to the tune of–and brace yourselves for this number–a 62-27 run that extended over the final 20 minutes. L.A. was outscored by 29 after halftime, the worse such deficit of the season for them. The Nuggets rattled off a devastating 30-8 run throughout the third quarter. Denver has trailed by as many as 16 points in four of the six games in this series thus far, but Sunday night was the second time they were able to crawl all the way back.
“I’m running out of adjectives, superlatives, whatever you want to call it, to speak on our team because that is a tough, resilient group,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said following the game. “I love our team, I love our toughness.”
The Clippers as a franchise are now 0-7 all-time in potential series-closing games where they could clinch a spot in the Conference Finals. The curse is very, real, folks. ESPECIALLY if they somehow find a way to fumble away Game 7, too.
Nikola Jokic was the savior for Denver, adding 34 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists while his co-star Jamal Murray went for 21 points (on 9-13 shooting, I should add), five rebounds, five assists, and just one turnover. Jokic has been unbelievably efficient against the Clippers and continued that streak on Sunday. L.A. doesn’t have anyone who can comfortably guard him in the post (but then again, who can when he’s hitting Dirk-esque shots such as this one? He made at least four shots just like that in Game 6; it’s unguardable) and the Clippers premier wing defenders are too small to maintain him. Jokic’s efforts have, in turn, been opening up a few more opportunities for Murray, although he’s still not been as aggressive as I would like him to be. In the second half, Murray was in all-out attack mode when getting to the rim, but that was the exact opposite of the case in the first half. If he can stay on the hunt for a full 48 minutes, the Nuggets might not find themselves in 15-point craters in the first place. But I digress; Murray did what needed to be done in order for his team to win and force another Game 7. Denver is looking to become the first team ever to overcome two 3-1 series deficits in the same postseason. The Nuggets are also 5-0 these playoffs when faced with elimination. The momentum is entirely in their favor.
Clippers fans should absolutely be concerned right now, too. Not only have they blown two massive leads during the most important segment of its season, but the other team in L.A. (the Lakers) managed to strike down any comeback efforts in their series against the pesky Houston Rockets. Even if the Clips can sneak past Denver, the red flags going up against the Lakers will be waving high. A team hoping to win the NBA Finals usually doesn’t give up a 17-0 run in the third quarter of a potential elimination game. The Clippers can’t seem to help themselves from hitting a rut right now.
The much-anticipated Game 7 will take place on Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. It’s gonna be a goodie.
Other notes from the Bubble
- Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has announced that he will not return to Houston next season and that he will instead become a free agent. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, D’Antoni will be a hot commodity around the league, with the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers expected to show some serious interest in the offensive-minded basketball genius.
- Former Big Baller Brand frontman Lonzo Ball has elected to sign with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, joining the likes of LeBron James and Eric Bledsoe.
TONIGHT IN THE BUBBLE
No games tonight! Enjoy the brief day off and watch some football to tide you over.