What is it going to take for the Nuggets to win this series and overcome their third consecutive 3-1 deficit?
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): Gage alluded to it, but the Nuggets have to put together a full 48-minute performance if they are going to get back in this series. The Nuggets have yet to play a solid four quarters at any point during this postseason run and they desperately need one if they are going to get back into this series.
I would also like to see less complaining about the refs — from both teams that is — and more playing. Don’t get me wrong, the refs have been terrible in this series and they’ve heavily favored one team over the other, but the players can’t let that get in their heads. Just go out there, give it everything you’ve got, and the rest will sort itself out.
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): They have to play complete games. All postseason, we’ve seen Denver play better than their opponents for one or two quarters, but they need to do it for the full 48 minutes. Even in their win in Game 3, they started out in a hole before they took a lead they didn’t give up. The defense has improved dramatically in this series, but they need to play a full game on both ends to come back. This Los Angeles Lakers’ team is one of the league’s best, and Denver is trying to do something truly historic by coming back again.
What/who is to blame for the Nuggets struggles through the first four games of the Western Conference Finals?
Ewing: I don’t know if you can blame just one thing, but the Nuggets inability to matchup against LeBron James and Anthony Davis is a massive problem. I get they are two of the best players in the NBA, but the Nuggets don’t have anyone of their roster who comes close to even slowing them down. Jerami Grant has done fine in this series, but often times James and Davis are getting easy looks, which leads to easy points.
I’d also blame how the Nuggets perform when Jamal Murray is off the court. Michael Malone said it during his postgame presser the other night, when Murray comes off the court, things seem to go wrong. Denver has actually been able to survive the “non Jokic minutes” in this series, but they haven’t come close to surviving the minutes with Murray off the floor.
Bridgford: The referees? Ok but seriously. I’m going to blame this on the team’s roster construction. They’re a guard-heavy team that is matched up with two of the best physical mismatches at the forward position the NBA has to offer. If the offense isn’t playing nearly perfect, they don’t have any answer for LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the other end. Jerami Grant has played well, but LeBron and AD are still running up huge point totals. If they were playing a team with more guard play, this could be a dramatically different series.
The Nuggets will make this a series if ______ picks up his game.
Ewing: I’m going to say Nikola Jokic. I know that Jokic is the Nuggets best player, but he is going to be the difference maker in whether or not the Nuggets can make this a series. Even though he posted a somewhat solid stat line of 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in Game 4, it was not a dominating performance by any stretch from the Nuggets big man.
Denver was able to overcome their 3-1 deficit in the last series because of Jokic, which is what will have to happen once again in the Western Conference Finals. Murray and the supporting cast can only do so much, it’s time for Jokic to step up and take this series over.
Bridgford: I’m going with Gary Harris. Harris’ major contributions in the series against the LA Clippers were on the defensive end. In this series, they need him more on the offensive end. He’s not going to match up with LeBron or Davis, and the guards for this Lakers’ roster just don’t strike fear into you. His highest point total in this series in one game was seven. He isn’t going to put up 15 every night, but he has to be a legitimate scoring threat when he’s on the floor. Otherwise, they can just ignore him while focusing on everyone else which hinders the entire offense.
Who wins the series and in how many games?
Ewing: Everything is pointing in the Lakers direction, but why not take a chance on the cardiac kids from Denver?
Nuggets in 7.
Bridgford: I’m taking the Lakers in six. Denver is the more worn out team, and they just can’t slow down LeBron and Davis. They’re getting in holes that are too big to come back from, and the Jamal Murray & Nikola Jokic duo can only do so much. If they really wanted to come back in this series, they needed to win Game 4. While they’ve come back from two different 3-1 deficits in this playoffs, I think their luck runs out here.