The 2019-20 Clippers season is destined to go down as a failure. Despite Paul George infamously saying that this wasn’t a “championship or bust” season, the Clippers certainly expected to advance to at least the conference finals, which would have cleared a long-standing hurdle in franchise history. The Clippers definitely anticipated getting that far once they went up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets, a team that was already an underdog heading into the semifinal series.
We all know what happened then. The Nuggets won the last three games in increasingly improbable fashion, and the NBA community took great pleasure in celebrating the presumptive contender’s early demise.
But watching Denver over the past week or so brings new context to how the season ended. It was one thing for the Clippers to be upset by an upstart that had no business hanging with them for seven games. It’s quite another to lose to a quality Denver team that has outplayed the Lakers for long stretches of the conference finals.
The Nuggets are a strange team. Throughout the postseason, they haven’t come out fast and immediately set the tone on any series. Like their leader Nikola Jokic, they are patient, perhaps by necessity, and they take their time to get the lay of the land before imposing their will. It took them five games in the Utah series, four and a half games against the Clippers, and now they’re working though the kinks even quicker against the Lakers.
Make no mistake — the Clippers have to undergo some serious reevaluation of their standing in the league after exiting the playoffs sooner than expected. But in time, we might look back on this loss with more sympathy than before, not just because of the unusual circumstances of the pandemic, but also because Denver is really good. It just took some time for the Nuggets to figure that out.
More news for Thursday:
- Denver faces the Lakers in Game 4 today after a comprehensive victory in the previous outing. This game is essentially a win-win: either the Nuggets even the series, or they comfortably fall behind 3-1.
- The Heat are already up 3-1 in their series against the Celtics, riding the hot hand of rookie Tyler Herro to take down Boston in Game 4.
- Former Houston Rocket Vernon Maxwell had a wide-ranging interview with GQ that included a discussion of his excellent Twitter account and why Sam Cassell would make a great head coach.
- K.C. Johnson makes a compelling argument that hiring Billy Donovan is a real change in strategy for the Chicago Bulls.
- Zach Zarba spoke with The New York Times about refereeing in the bubble.
- The Los Angeles Chargers team doctor mistakenly punctured Tyrod Taylor’s lung while attempting to administer treatment. I’ll never be able to think of Justin Herbert’s first start the same way.
- Athletes around the country reacted to the grand jury decision on the death of Breonna Taylor.