The #3 Denver Nuggets won a hard-fought, first-round battle to defeat the #6 Utah Jazz in seven games, and now the Nugs get rewarded by playing the #2 LA Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Denver’s Jamal Murray comes into the semifinals sizzling hot against Kawhi Leonard and a Clippers’ squad that’s become the consensus favorite to win the championship. DraftKings updated its NBA futures and the Clippers are +230 odds to win the title, slightly ahead of the Lakers at +275.
With only eight teams remaining inside the NBA bubble, the Nuggets are the long shot on the board at 40/1 to win the title.
#3 Denver Nuggets at #2 LA Clippers
Tip-Off: 6:00pm PT
Point Spread: LAC -9
Total: 222.5 o/u
Money Line: DEN +350 / LAC -425
The Clippers are 9-point favorites in Game 1. The Clippers are overwhelming favorites in the semifinals at -1250 to win the series, according to DraftKings. Denver is +700 to pull off the upset in this series.
Denver went 1-2 against the Clippers this season, including one game in the bubble in Orlando. The Clips were -4 in that regular-season game, and won 124-111.
Smoking Murray, Porter’s Chip on His … Back
Murray had a three-game stretch when he couldn’t miss, pouring in 142 points with a pair of 50-point games. He’s averaging 31.6 points per game and knocking down 53.4% of his 3-point shots.
Murray slowed down significantly in the second half of Game 7 against the Jazz when he injured his thigh. He shrugged off the injury and said he’s ready to roll for the Clippers’ series.
“They have terrific defenders with Kawhi, Paul George, Patrick Beverley,” said Denver head coach Michael Malone. “The last time they played us, they got into us. Very physical team, so we’ll have our hands full with that matchup.”
Murray and Jokic will need assistance from a third scorer if they expect to compete with the Clippers. Michael Porter, Jr. averaged 12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his first stint in the postseason, but the rookie has been inconsistent.
Porter has a history with the Clippers. One of their team doctors gave him a bad health report after he had back surgery at Missouri. His draft stock tanked and he slipped to #14 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft.
“Their doctor was the one that wrote the report on me,” explained Porter about his beef with the Clippers. “Doc wrote some stuff like he thought I would never play basketball again.”
Porter has a little extra incentive to stick it to the Clips.
“It’s going to be fun to play against them, for sure,” said Porter.
Kawhi the Closer, Beverly Back?
There’s a reason why the Clips are favorites to win the title, and it’s Kawhi Leonard. He activated postseason mode averaging 32.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. Plenty of All-Stars can light it up in the regular season, but it takes a special kind of superstar to take over a playoff game in the fourth quarter.
“You can tell he was the one guy that shoots to close out a series,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “He was calm. He got us in place.”
Kawhi put the Toronto Raptors on his back last season and led them to the 2019 championship. There’s no reason he can’t replicate the feat with the Clippers. Well, that’s so long as Paul George flushed his postseason slump down the toilet. George finally snapped out of his funk with a 35-point performance in Game 5.
“You can see it in his eyes and his demeanor,” said Rivers. “The mojo is back.”
The Clippers didn’t look like a legit championship squad until several games into the Dallas series. The Mavs put up a good fight thanks to Luka Doncic, but the Clippers were still finding their groove.
“These last few games we figured out how to be a successful basketball team and do the things that we need to do on the basketball floor,” said Clippers sixth-man Lou Williams. “We got back to the basics of knowing what we need to do to win, and we bottled that up.”
The Clippers played the first round without their best defender, Patrick Beverly, who missed time with a calf injury. Beverly, one of the top defenders in the league and the Clippers’ stopper, will be a game-time decision.