The Los Angeles Clippers have advanced to the Conference Semi-Finals for the eighth time in franchise history. In the previous seven attempts, this was as far as they got. This is not the Clippers franchise of old however. This team is led by a respected and NBA Finals winning coach. They have a Governor who is the richest in the Association who is as much cheerleader as he is franchise leader. This team has a Finals MVP, the player who finished third in MVP voting last season and not one, but two Sixth Man of the Year candidates.
These Clippers are a very good team
Their opponent, the Denver Nuggets, are led by Nikola Jokic who recently summed up the team he is facing in the second round as a group of, “…really, really, really, really talented players.” Yup, that’s as good an overview as any I’ve seen of the Clippers.
Very generally speaking, in order to beat the Clippers you need one of two things to happen. Either the Clippers do not play well, or your team has multiple players that dominate. Not the most scientific scouting report, I know, but still true nevertheless. Which is what makes the Nuggets chances against this team so slim. As mentioned earlier, they are led by Nikola Jokic. Jokic had 30 points and 14 rebounds in Game 7 against the Utah Jazz in order to get here. But, surprisingly, he hasn’t been the talk of the Bubble for the Nuggets.
That honor goes to Jamal Murray.
Since the NBA season resumed in the Florida Bubble Murray, who averaged 18.5 points during the regular season, is averaging 24.2 points. More impressive however is the run of three games he had against the Jazz where he scored 50, 42 and 50 points! Those Jordan-esque numbers certainly caught the attention of every NBA fan. In Jokic and Murray the Nuggets have two very good players, but again, in order the beat the Clippers on a day they play well is to have multiple players dominate. Murray has proven he can do that and do it multiple games in a row. But, when we look at Murray’s games against the Clippers we start to see a trend.
I forgot to mention in my detailed Clippers breakdown above that on top of having those great players on the offensive end, they are also very good defensively. In the three games Murray has played this season against the Clippers he averaged 16.6 points and shot only .32% from three and .38% overall.
Can Murray go off for 50 against the Clippers? Yes, he can. Is it likely he can do that multiple times, say the four needed to beat this team? No, it is not likely. The Nuggets are going to have to hope for four off nights from the Clippers or four extraordinarily great games by Jokic and Murray to move on the Western Conference Finals. In Jokic and Murray the Nuggets have two very good players. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, it is going to take two extraordinary players doing extraordinary things multiple times in order to beat the Los Angeles Clippers.
That will not happen for these Denver Nuggets.
This is the part where the writer would normally proclaim his or her pick and the number of games needed for their winner to advance. But, I’m going to do it just a bit different. Years ago I used to write a somewhat regular column I called “The Clippers Crystal Ball”. In that column I would not only pick the winner, but the score. Surprisingly, I never got it exactly right, but I was generally pretty close. So, since I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, here is an updated, albeit short, Clippers Crystal Ball game prediction for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals between the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
Thursday, September 3rd at 6:00 PM PT
Clippers take Game 1 in a 124 – 107 victory. The Nuggets keep the game close in the first half, but the Clippers pull away and never look back after halftime. It wasn’t a dominate performance which is the scary realization for the Nuggets; these Clippers have another gear.
If I get literally anything about this right, please know that I will be very vocal on Twitter! 🙂