Even if you asked the most confident, fanatic Denver Nuggets fan, deep down inside, no one would say they expected the Nuggets to make the Western Conference Finals. However, now that they are there, there is only one way you can explain it: Mile High Magic.
Jokic provides the sleight of hand with his passing and moonshot jumpers. Murray is our resident Harry Potter. The Chosen One. The Boy Who Lived. So, how did the Nuggets get here? Where do the Nuggets go from here? Let us discuss it!
How They Got Here
Dating back to last season, every Nuggets playoff series went seven games. Except for the 2019 Portland series, Denver has won all those series. Now, that’s Mile High Magic! Furthermore, the Nuggets have now overcome two straight series deficits of 3-1. For those keeping count at home, that makes for six consecutive wins when facing elimination. So, where does Denver get this Mile High Magic? The Nuggets get it from a Blue Arrow and a Joker.
In game seven against the Clippers, Jamal “The Blue Arrow” Murray almost outscored Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. George and Leonard combined for 48 points. Murray scored 40 points. In the 2019-2020 NBA playoffs, the Blue Arrow as been on an absolute terror.
Jamal is averaging 24.9 points per game on a 50-40-90. That’s 50% total from the field, 49.1% from three-point land, and 91.3% from the free-throw line. In the series against the Jazz, Murray averaged 31.6 PPG, which included two games of 50+ points and a 42 point game. Still, Nikola Jokic will not be outdone.
As outstanding as the Blue Arrow has been, the Joker is still better. What makes Jokic so unique is that his Mile High Magic includes one of the most complete offensive arsenals you can find. In this year’s playoffs, Nikola is shooting 51.5% from the field and 44% from three. That’s good for 25.4 PPG. On top of that, Jokic averages 10.8 rebounds per game and six assists per game. The Joker is neither fast nor athletically intimidating. Yet, there are times when he seems downright unstoppable. The Joker’s stats speak from themselves.
How They Move Forward
As a reward for their accomplishments, the Nuggets face the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. It will be the most formidable task for Denver thus far. After struggling in the seeding games, LA won its two previous series 4-1. Now, Denver must figure out how to contain the King, LeBron James, and his court. Yes, it will be extremely challenging, but it is not impossible.
Firstly, the defensive discipline of the Nuggets must be close to perfect. Everyone knows LeBron James is arguably the best passer in the history of the NBA. The secondary ball handler of the Lakers is no slouch, either. Rajon Rondo is like Razor Ramon; he will cut you up. Both are good enough to find the smallest crack in a team’s defense and exploit it. A lot will depend on Gary Harris, Jr. and Torrey Craig to steady the Denver defense.
Secondly, the Nuggets must take advantage of the time LeBron James is not on the floor. If the Lakers have a lead when LeBron sits, Denver has to decrease it. If Denver has the lead when James sits, they have to expand it. As good as Anthony Davis can be, he is still not LeBron James. If the Nuggets allow players outside of James and Davis to eat, then they will starve.
Lastly, Michael Porter Jr. must be consistent. Indeed, in the Clippers series, MPJ commented about how he wants the ball more down the stretch. In a game that followed, Michael proved he could be trustworthy. That trust, however, is not always deserved. At times, Porter Jr. has some Mile High Magic of his own, and he disappears. To beat the Lakers, MPJ must act as the Nuggets’ Patronus. He must shield Jokic and Murray against playing too many minutes.
The Mile High Magic showed by the Nuggets this postseason has been exceptional. To win six straight elimination games is just unheard of. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. LeBron and the Lakers hit their stride against the Rockets. While Denver is a better team than the Rockets, LA is just too much. The Lakers win the series 4-2.
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