If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
Well… that was something wasn’t it? The Nuggets have now gone through two series where they were down 3-1. They were written off twice. Only 12 teams have ever come back from that deficit, and this beaten up Denver roster wasn’t going to become the 13th. They did it against the Utah Jazz to become the 13th team, but there was no way they were getting past the LA Clippers to become the 14th. Well, every single member of the national media has egg on their face because Denver refused to quit.
The Clippers were destined for greatness. They were a lock to make the finals and win Kawhi Leonard’s third title with his third team. Instead, they got so worn down that they couldn’t play more than three minutes at a time. Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic played at least 37 minutes in every game outside of the team’s blowout loss in Game 1. The question now becomes: can they do it again?
Denver lost the season series 2-1 when they got beat in overtime in the middle of February, but they shallacked the Lakers 128-104 in late December. The Lakers have dropped just two games thus far in the playoffs, and they dispatched the Houston Rockets with relative ease in the second round. Denver has a lot more miles on them in this run, but they will also have played more recently when these two teams meet. Can Denver knock off another team they’ll be heavy underdogs against? (Lakers are -715 to win the series compared to +500 odds on Denver.) If they can, it’ll be by doing these things perfectly or close to it.
Jokic Needs To Be Aggressive
This one probably doesn’t need to be stated, but I’m stating it anyway. When Jokic is aggressive, this team hits a different level on offense. Whether he’s putting up points for himself or finding cutters to the basket, which needs to happen more often, defenses just don’t have an answer for Jokic when he takes it to that level. On this play, there just isn’t anything the Clippers can do. You have to double Jokic because he’s too good to be left alone on an island. When you do that, that puts the rest of your defense into a bind, and someone is going to be open. When someone slips open, Jokic is getting the pass to them for a good look at a bucket.
On this play, does Jokic do anything particularly transcendent? No. He cuts hard to the basket which forces the defense to react. As usual, he finds the open shooter, and the ball is swung around. He stays under the basket, and he puts himself in position to make a play on the rebound. The Lakers have the rebounding advantage in numbers, but they don’t have someone that can physically bang with Jokic. I think he could have a big series on the backboard in this game, and he can rack up some second-chance points in a hurry.
Jamal Murray Cannot Shy Away From The Light
Jamal Murray has no right making this shot. Now that we got that out of the way. How stupidly amazing was it to watch this ball drop? That was the dagger of daggers. It pushed the lead to 18, and any hope the Clippers had was gone. Murray has been doing this since the playoffs started, and he can’t stop now. The Lakers have their duo in Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Jokic is going to bring his best, and Murray needs to do the same. He needs to maintain his scoring levels while remaining efficient. He might not shoot nearly 50 percent from 3-point range, but he also cannot bottom out.
14 seconds on the shot clock against the guy that’s been chirping all series, and is the team’s second-best defensive player? That’s no problem for Murray. When the spotlight has been on him, he has been the guy. He gives Denver a bailout player when Jokic can’t get the ball. It forces defenses to guard someone other than Jokic when the clock is winding down. Murray has answered the call emphatically since the playoffs started, and he can’t hang up now.
Gary Harris Needs To Bring It Again
Garris is back. I have my doubts about him getting back to the guy that averaged 17 points per game with a nearly 50/40/80 shooting split. However, I do have confidence that he can contribute 10 to 15 points per night while bringing elite defensive play. With the other offensive weapons this team has, they don’t need him to give them 15 to 20 on an average night. I have full confidence with sticking him on the majority of players that play point guard through small forward positions. He made Lou Williams look like a shell of himself in the Clippers series. They need that to continue.
On the offensive end, his focus needs to be on opportunistic success rather than trying to do too much. This team has the guys around him that will find him when he flashes. Gary gets into trouble on that end when he’s trying to do a little bit of everything. Slash to the basket and work for open 3-point shots. That’s all they need out of him. Do that while bringing it on defense, and he’ll be a key piece to their victories over and over.
Everyone Else… Contribute
I think we know what we’re going to get from Murray and Jokic. Harris is important, but it’s the rest of the roster that’s going to make a difference here. This Lakers’ roster is extremely top heavy, and Denver can win the depth and bench battles thanks to guys like Michael Porter Jr. and Monte Morris. For Porter, it’s highly unlikely we see the bubble version of him for the remainder of the playoffs. However, when he’s on the floor, he has to give the team this type of play. He needs to find space on the perimeter and knock down shots. Plus, his rebounding will be huge when he’s out there against a Lakers’ group that does that particularly well.
The other big name I’m watching is Jerami Grant. I’m expecting him to start, and he’ll likely be tasked with guarding one of James or Davis. This will be the toughest challenge he’s had thus far, and, while it’s important for him to maintain his offensive production, his defensive work will be under the harshest of microscopes. He’ll need to be able to stay with them while rotating on attacking guards to stifle their shots at the rim.
This series is going to come down to the stars. If the two sides are equal on that front, Denver can win this with their bench. They’re deeper in that area, and they have a more talented group when they’re clicking. Denver can’t afford to go cold on one end of the floor as they’ve done at times in these playoffs. Stay close, and wait to make your move. When the Lakers slip up, that’s when they need to strike.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.