Nuggets 104 Clippers 89

6-0 in elimination games.

Jim Rome
September 16, 2020 - 10:00 am
Nikola Jokic

USA Today

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Normally, the first thing I’d be talking about today would be Game 1 of the Miami-Boston series. Because that was an incredible game. James Buckets Esquire coming up with one ridiculous bucket after another. And then that block from Bam Adebayo to seal it.

That is legitimately one of the greatest blocks you’ll ever see. Ever. And I’m still not sure how his hand didn’t snap off at the wrist on that. That game was so great that it could carry an entire show.

But not today. On any other day, it could carry the entire show. But on this day, it’s not even good enough to open the show. Because as wild as Game 1 of Heat-Celtics was, Game 7 of Nuggets-Clippers was that to the tenth power.

And it would be so tempting and so easy to start by clowning the Clippers. It is really tempting to start the show by hammering the Clippers the way the Nuggets hammered the Clippers last night. And the way twitter finished them off by the time they made it back to the locker room. 

I don’t know who’s more fired up after last night, Nuggets fans or Laker fans, because Laker Nation is throwing up the car flags and planning a parade after seeing that. And believe me there is plenty to talk about when it comes to the Clippers Collapse. And we will. But not before putting the respect on the Nuggets that they so richly deserve; and still are not getting. 

So before you do anything, make damn sure, you give the Nuggets, every last one of them, some bleeping credit, I mean for real!! 

They earned this. Every bit of it. From Tim Connelly and GM Calvin Booth to Michael Malone and his coaching staff, including Wes Unseld Jr who got some love on the show earlier this week and on TV last night, to every single player. They earned this. Just like they earned this rager in a makeshift locker room in Florida last night.

I hate to say I told you so, actually I don’t. In fact, I can’t wait to say, I told you so. Because I did tell you. These Nuggets aren’t just a nice story. They aren’t just happy to be there. And they’re not a young team coming on: in fact, that just gave a giant middle finger to the rest of the world about them being a team of the future: they’re a team for right now: They were the number 2 seed in the West last year, the number 3 seed this year. But for someone reason no one seems to remember. Or believe it. Or respect.  Because almost everyone continued to sleep on these guys:

Or As Malone said in the buildup to the game: “I almost feel like we’re The Bad News Bears and I’m Coach Buttermaker. We’re a team that nobody really looks at and takes us seriously. And our guys, I think, have taken that personally.

Hell yes! He threw it back to Coach Buttermaker!!! 

And unlike the New York Jets, and their gm who were crying about not getting respect, then went out and got curbstomped in week one, the Nuggets had every right to say it; and to take it personally; because unlike the Jets, they’re not a talentless disaster; and they went out and backed it all up

And unlike the Clippers, they’re tough as hell and clutch as hell. And it’s not just that their biggest stars showed up when they needed it most, and the Clippers biggest stars no-showed when they needed it most: and they did. Kawhi was nowhere last night. And Pandemic P is a real thing: and I’ll get to all that later. But I could point one nugget after another and point out what each did and how they pulled this off. 

Like Paul Millsap standing up to the Clippers in Game 5 and letting everyone know that Denver wasn’t going to get punked. Like Gary Harris battling his ass off on defense. Like Jerami Grant coming through time and time again.

I’m going to state some facts and even if you already know them, you’re going to hear them again; as I mentioned yesterday, they showed up in Florida with 8 healthy players. Eight. Not even enough to go five on five. So I don’t want to hear about how much adversity the Clippers had in the bubble; Denver showed up to the bubble with eight guys. 8! 

Down 3-1 vs. Utah. Down 3-1 vs. The Clippers. 6-0 in elimination games.

Down 16 in Game 5, they came back to win. Down 19 in Game 6, they came back to win. And down 12 last night, they came back to win. And not just win, they smashed the Clippers. They led by 20 at one point in the fourth quarter. They didn’t just win that game, they humiliated LA. That’s the type of beatdown that sticks to you forever; and I don’t care who you are. 

And the reasons for that are actually pretty simple. Nikola Jokic was the best player in the series. That is just a fact. The Clippers, for all the talk about their alleged, legendary, defense could not stop him. This dude truly is the definition of a unicorn. A straight stud.

On Twitter, David Roth glossed him the “Marshmallow King” and it is a perfect description. He’s not exactly ripped...  Not exactly shredded, but he was shredding the Clippers defense. 16 points, 13 assists and 22 rebounds. 22 freaking rebounds!

The Marshmallow King is a freak. There’s never been a player like him before. A 7-footer who can run the point, kill you on the glass, punish you in the paint, and carve you from deep. And he makes it look so easy. But trust me, you can’t do what he does, and the Clippers sure as hell couldn’t stop what he does.

LA, for all its talent, both on the roster and in the coaching staff, could not figure out a way to stop him. He just kept carving them up.  They had no answer.   They had no adjustment.  They just got bludgeoned by a marshmello.  Cause of death?  Blunt trauma.  They found the murder weapon.  It was a marshmello.

And if Jokic was the best player in the series, Jamal Murray was a close second. While Kawhi and PG were disappearing on the big stage, Murray was ripping it. Murray 40 points on 26 shots. Kawhi and PG had 24 points combined on 38 bricks.

While they were disappearing, Murray was walking into threes like this. 

And making shots like this.

He’s doing that in a Game 7. Absolutely fearless. The level of trust and confidence that he has in himself and that his team and coaches have in him is off the charts. Dude has 40 plus in three elimination games this postseason: the first ever to do that. In league history. 

And he was busting his ass on defense. Every single member of the Nuggets was. That win wasn’t just about their offense, it was about their defense. And the fact that they locked up the Clippers at that end. They were so far in the Clippers heads, that Clipper players like Paul George were bricking wide open shots off the side of the backboard.

It’s so cliché to talk about things like “wanting it more” but Denver just wanted it more.  They want it more than anyone wants anything; and watching the Clippers, I wonder if they wanted it all. 

To put it another way, a way that my guy Tim Connelly might appreciate, the Nuggets showed up there last night like Softball Guy with the 500 dollar Easton bat, they were timing up the pitches, and they were mashing

In other words, Denver goes hard like softball guy going hard into second base to break up a double play.

Nevermind the shortstop on the other team is some dude in his mid 40s who just wanted to be outside and enjoy a beer or 2. Now, he's in the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder. Sorry man. Softball guy is all about playing the game the right way. Just like the Nuggets.

The Nuggets not only have that $500 bat, but they're geared up from head to toe... Stirrups, black wristbands, eye black, metal spikes. And the backwards sunglasses at night.

Don’t get me wrong – the Clippers have a really nice roster. There is a ton of talent on that roster, but that was a series between a roster and a team. And the team beat the hell out of the roster. Honestly, I couldn’t be more impressed with the Nuggets and less impressed with the Clippers. And I’m not what I’m pressed with; the Nuggets brilliance or the Clippers catastrophic implosion. I’ll go with the Nuggets brilliance, just be sure to give the Clippers credit for that meltdown: losing is one thing, but losing like that in three straight elimination games is straight historic: even for them.