I know, I eye-rolled at the title as well. How can the 3-Seed in the Western Conference be proving themselves? Haven’t they been doing that all year? Isn’t their Top-3 finish enough to show they belong?
Yes and no.
The Western Conference is STACKED. With LeBron and Anthony Davis on the Lakers, Kawhi and Paul George on the Clippers, and Harden reuniting with Westbrook on the Rockets, we haven’t even gotten to the Warriors who are getting stronger in the 2020 offseason. The West is a dogfight all year long, and even fringe playoff teams and those who came close are solid teams.
The Denver Nuggets fit in there somewhere, lost in the middle of everything.
Sure, the Nuggets finished in second place in the West last year, but did they look like the second-best team in the playoffs? Going seven games against a lesser-Spurs team and then going the distance again against Damian Lillard’s Blazers, the Nuggets were not as advertised themselves.
And this with a resurgent Lakers team, a beefed up Clippers squad and Warriors team who gave up early, the Nuggets found themselves as the bronze medalists heading into the playoffs.
Even in our own analysis ahead of the playoffs, we didn’t think the Nuggets would get this far.
“To be fair, Denver is being slept on HEAVILY as the 3-seed in a stacked Western Conference. They don’t have the big names of other top WC squads but they’ve been competitive all season long. A trip to the Western Conference finals is not out of the cards, but they likely get handled by PG and the Klaw in Round 2.”
Before the 2020 playoffs did you think Jamal Murray was a superstar? If asked to create a list of the Top-5 clutch shooting guards in the NBA, would you pick Murray?
I bet you would now.
The Nuggets are playing like a team that has been disrespected for far too long. These past weeks, Denver is playing like a team that has been looked over one too many times.
And now they’re playing like a team with nothing to lose. Do you think the Nuggets care what you think of them, or what I think of them? No, absolutely not. The Denver Nuggets are playing to prove a point: that they are a force to be reckoned with.
And now, as the Nuggets head into Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the momentum feels like it’s shifting. In a year that felt like it was LeBron and the Lakers to lose, they might do just that. The Lakers felt like Finals locks, and now they look mortal, courtesy of the Denver Nuggets.
Can they keep pushing the envelope, subverting expectations and bring the Lakers to the brink of elimination? They very well could, and if they do, they’ll be the ones who’ll be comfortable.
The Nuggets have lived on the edge of elimination for the last few weeks in the NBA Playoffs. So why be afraid of a few more quarters?
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