Nuggets Shock the Clippers in 7-Game Series

Jacob Gregor, Contributor

With the NBA season postponed due to Coronavirus, no one knew if the NBA would even get to continue their season. Flash forward a few months, and sports viewers are given the treat of NBA playoff basketball in the fall. The Los Angeles Clippers were set to face a Denver Nuggets, and the Clippers thought it would be a series that would only last five or six games, not the hardest challenge they’ve faced this season. The Clippers with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Pat Beverley thought they had the edge over Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap.

The series started with a 23-point blowout Clippers win. Kawhi finished that game with 29 points. With the Clippers taking game one, the Nuggets’ chance of advancing to the next series was dwindling. With a face of urgency, Jamal Murray had a great game with 27 points, six assists, and three rebounds, leading Denver to win the game 110-101. With the series tied at one win a piece, the Nuggets proved themselves worthy of a good series. Game 3 came down to the wire, but the Clippers were the better team in this game, winning 113-107. Paul George and Nikola Jokic led the game in points with 32 each. The Clippers found themselves in a comfortable position, up 2-1 in the series.

Game four was a must-win game for the Denver Nuggets. Down 2-1 in the series, everyone knows a 3-1 comeback in the NBA Playoffs is almost impossible. Earlier in the playoffs, Denver overcame a 3-1 series deficit over the Utah Jazz. No NBA had overcome two 3-1 series deficits in a row. Game four was the lowest-scoring game of the series, with the Clippers winning 96-85. The Denver Nuggets buried themselves in a hole that no NBA team has came up from; however, the greatest thing about sports is that, at any time, it can be any team’s game.

With game five being a do or die, one could bet the Nuggets came out firing. After the third quarter, this series looked to be finished. The Clippers were up 80-73 after the third quarter. The Nuggets exploded in the fourth quarter, putting up 38 points in the fourth to secure a 111-105 win in game five. The Nuggets were seeing a dim light at the end of the tunnel after this game. Even with Kawhi Leonard dropping 36 points in game five, the Clippers still fell short. With the series being 3-2 in favor of the Clippers after 5 games, it suddenly became any team’s series.

A 3-1 series lead can be either a curse or a blessing, depending on what side you are looking at. With a huge game five win for the Nuggets, the Nuggets were playing with visibly more enthusiasm than before. Things were starting to look on the bright side for them. Game six proved to be a shocker for the Clippers. Any sports fan knows that during big games, especially in playoffs, you want your team’s best players to play as much as they possibly can. With this being said, that is exactly what both coaches of each team did. They played their best players as much as they could. At this point, it was up to the players on each team to show up and give their team that desired win. The Denver Nuggets showed up in game six, winning 111-98. Nikola Jokic once again had a stellar performance with 34 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Nikola Jokic carried his team in game six, giving the Nuggets a chance to overcome yet another 3-1 series deficit.

After six games, the Nuggets and the Clippers were tied at three wins each. The loser would be sent home and eliminated from the playoffs. Coming into this game, this was the Clippers’ game to win. After going up 3-1, to now being tied 3-3, the Clippers were now panicking. They needed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to show up and put this away to face the Lakers in the next series.

The Nuggets had the opposite mindset. After two huge comeback wins, one could say the Nuggets were fired up for the final game of the series. At halftime of game seven, it was a 56-54 Clippers lead. It was still anyone’s game. The third quarter turned out to be one of the best performances of Nikola Jokic’s career. After the third quarter, Nikola Jokic became the first player ever to have a triple double in the third quarter with 15 or more rebounds. With Jokic playing the game of his life, the Clippers were no match for the Nuggets in the second half. The Nuggets had simply outworked the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for zero points in the fourth quarter. Just like that, the Nuggets had overcome another 3-1 series deficit, beating the Clippers 104-89 in game seven. The Denver Nuggets advanced to the next round to play the Los Angeles Lakers.

This series proved to be possibly the greatest series of the 2020 NBA Bubble Playoff. The lesson to take here is anything can happen in basketball, even when you find yourself down 3-1 in the series for the second time.