The discourse this week will mainly be focused around the Los Angeles Clippers and how it all went wrong. Rightfully so, too. Never before have we seen a team with that much talent and hype fold in this manner. How can a starting five with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard not score a single point in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter? How did Doc Rivers manage to blow his third 3-1 playoff lead? These questions will dominate a good portion of basketball discussion for the next few months.
But man, how about those Nuggets? As you've surely heard by now, they're the first team in NBA history to come back from multiple 3-1 deficits in the same playoffs. First they did it against the Utah Jazz, then against Los Angeles. There were points, especially in the Clippers series, where it felt like it was over. But Nikola Jokic kept doing the Joker thing he does and Jamal Murray hit every timely shot needed. Now they have an appointment with the Los Angeles Lakers with a berth to the NBA Finals on the line.
The Nuggets really should not have done this. That isn't remarkable insight considering they went down 3-1. But this team is not made up of the parts that we've collectively decided make up a championship team. They don't have a wing stopper who will stifle opposing scorers with reckless abandon and contend for an NBA All-Defense spot regularly. They don't have any truly great two-way players. They don't have a traditional rim protector.
What they do have are two offensive juggernauts in Jokic and Murray. They have a collection of good players who play together. Gary Harris and Torey Craig were just good enough on both ends to win games. Paul Millsap directs the defense and makes the occasional timely shot. Michael Porter Jr. has proven to be their X-factor and a plus/minus god despite the fact that he looks like a lost puppy on defense more often than not. Above all, they're clearly more mentally tough than the Clippers team they just beat, who folded in the face of adversity time and time again.
The Nuggets just don't look the part, especially compared to the team they vanquished. Their offense is centered around Jokic, a lumbering giant with questionable defense more often than not. Mike Malone is not a decorated head coach by NBA standards. Murray is a flamethrower but he averaged less than 20 points per game during the regular season. After a decade of watching super teams roll their way to titles, the Nuggets just aren't what we expect from championship contenders.
And yet. Here we are. They're four wins away from the finals. They came back from double-digit deficits in three straight games with their backs against the wall against arguably the most talented team in the league. How they did it no longer matters, only that they did it. Now they'll have to do it again against the greatest player of this generation and the best all-around big man in the game. Time to see if they can defy the odds one last time before fighting for a championship.