The Los Angeles Clippers were in complete control of the Western Conference Semifinals. They had a 3-1 lead in the series and have blown two opportunities to close things out. Now for the second playoff series in a row, the Denver Nuggets have the opportunity to fight off three consecutive elimination games.
Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Clippers
Tuesday, September 15, 2020 – 09:00 PM EDT at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
Nuggets Just Won't Quit
You have to give it to the Denver Nuggets. After eliminating the Utah Jazz, they looked physically done, which is understandable. You could certainly see it in Game 1, where they were really never in it from start to finish. In Game 2, they showed us that they would not just roll over and let the Clippers go to the conference finals without a fight.
After Games 3 and 4, it really didn't seem like there was much Denver could do. The Clippers seemed to have the Nuggets' offense totally figured out with Jamal Murray, in particular, struggling to score. Nikola Jokic for his part had looked good, but it simply wasn’t enough. The Nuggets had a good defensive effort in Game 5, holding the Clippers to 105 points on their way to a six-point win. The defense has not been something the Nuggets have done well at all in the Orlando bubble, but the threat of elimination is a funny thing.
In Game 6, Denver had an even better defensive showing, holding the Clippers to 98 points on their way to what turned out to be a comfortable victory, although that is not indicative of how that game went. None of that matters anymore, the Nuggets are one game away from making the Western Conference Finals. On the SBR odds page, this game opened up at -6.5 for the Clippers at most of the top online sports betting sites. It seems like the public still believes that the conference finals are destined to be a battle of Los Angeles, as that number has been bet up to Clippers -7.5 now.
Clippers Loss Would Be Epic Failure
When the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard, it was a signal of their intention to go after an NBA championship. When they mortgaged their immediate future to acquire Paul George because that's what Kawhi wanted, they let us know that it was championship or bust as of Day 1. To lose in the Conference Semifinals after being up 3-1 in the series would be a disaster of epic proportions.
If the Clippers were to lose in the conference finals to the Lakers, that would also be a failure, but it would be more acceptable. The Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis after all. With all due respect to Nikola Jokic, who is probably the best center in the NBA, Jokic and Murray are nowhere near James and Davis' level. Realistically, they are not supposed to be anywhere near Paul George and Kawhi Leonard's level either.
In fairness to George and Leonard, this series isn't headed to a Game 7 because of them. While neither has been spectacular, they haven't been bad. If anything it's their supporting cast that has let them down in certain spots. In order to win this Game 7, it looks like one of the two will have to be special, or they will spend this offseason being criticized in a way they've never experienced before as players.
I think the Clippers win this game, but the Nuggets can keep it close. The scenario I see is a back and forth game, where the Clippers start to pull away late. Due to the very nature of the game, Denver isn't going to give up at any point. I think they'll backdoor cover the spread late when the outcome has already been decided, but they still haven't given up. The truth is, the spread has been this high in the last two games, and the Clippers have lost outright.
At this point, Denver is playing with house money. A team that feels like it has nothing to lose can be very dangerous. If Denver jumps out to an early lead, the nerves will be at an all-time high. For all of the talent the Clippers have, only Kawhi Leonard and Doc Rivers have championship experience, and Doc Rivers isn't going to be on the court. The Clippers have put themselves in this spot, and I think the Nuggets are good for a cover here on the top sportsbooks.