The Denver Nuggets punched their first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history with a 4-0 sweep of the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers. Denver did so in it’s 47th year as a member of the NBA, and after winning 44 playoff series as a franchise over that timeframe, they secured their first ever sweep in a series.
Led by head coach Mike Malone and his star tandem of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, plus a great supporting cast the Nuggets are the early prohibitive favorites to win the NBA title no matter who they face from the Eastern Conference. Denver’s success starts and ends with center Nikola Jokic, a two-time league MVP and Western Conference Finals MVP, who has changed the game with how centers play.
That style of play has very hard for opposing coaches to game plan for, and even more difficult for players to defend in-game. Not many players in the history of the game have been able to do what Jokic can do, let alone seven-footers.
Former NBA All-Star Says Nuggets Title Would Change Game Again
Following the Nuggets Game 3 win in Los Angeles, former NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas took to Twitter to say things “will change,” if Jokic leads the city of Denver to it’s first NBA championship.
“If Denver wins the Finals the game will change again. Gotta get you a big man to have a chance. Copy cat league.”
Thomas thinks teams will need an inside presence to slowdown Jokic, but that’s easier said than done. Not many centers can grab a rebound, lead the break and make the rugby decision for his teammates. When you think about it not many point guards, do it better than “The Joker,” but he’s also capable of beating you up in the post, scoring at will and, he’s also one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA.
His size and skull have made it difficult for teams to slow the Nuggets offense all season, but especially in the playoffs where they’ve enjoyed the offense through the entire playoffs thus far. And that’s a byproduct of a rare player like Jokic who’s big, skilled and cerebral.
While there are other big men around the NBA who are great, like reigning MVP Joel Embiid, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and others no one does what Jokic does from a scoring, assisting and offensive efficiency standpoint, it’s a thing of beauty, even if he can’t jump two inches off the floor.
Thomas’ makes valid points but that doesn’t necessarily mean other teams won’t be able to win championships. He’s merely stating that if you face the Nuggets you’d have a much better shot with a solid big man to at least bother Jokic some.
Despite Being No.1 Seed Nuggets Flew Under-The-Radar
Somehow the Nuggets were overlooked coming into the playoffs despite being the No.1 seed in the Western Conference from December to now. That doesn’t seem to bother them as they often used it as motivation.
Following their Game 2 win over the Lakers, Jokic told reporters this in his postgame presser.
“It’s nothing new for us. To get honest, I like it. We don’t care. Whatever. Even in the bubble, when we beat Utah, they blew the lead. When we beat the Clippers, it was they blew the lead. Nobody talked about how he won those games. It’s normal for us. I don’t pay attention to all that.”
Jokic may not pay much attention to it, but he let his play dictate how he felt about it by averaging 29.9 points,13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game through 15 playoff games. Making him the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double through that many games.
His partner in crime, the aforementioned Murray, became the first player in league history to shoot 50-40-90 in a best-of-seven series sweep, with shooting splits of 52.7/40.5/95.0 which is efficiency lure in the NBA.
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