5 Things We Learned: Clippers vs. Nuggets
After making history in the prior series coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets did it again against the Los Angeles Clippers, defeating them 104-89 to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Here are five things we learned from the series.
1). Michael Porter Jr: high skill/low IQ player
Even while he was still in high school, Michael Porter Jr. had already put the league on notice.
Yet in the 2018 draft, due to some injury concerns the 6’10” scoring threat fell into the arms of the Denver Nuggets with the 14th pick. Despite being sidelined due to his injuries, Porter Jr. has proved he was well worth the hype. A 3-point sniper mixed with athletic finisher, the University of Missouri product has already earned a spot in a playoff rotation.
As skilled as he is, Porter Jr. has a long way to go. His basketball IQ and defensive ability is lacking compared to his offensive talent.
2). Lou Williams is a bigger issue than Paul George
Giving yourself a nickname is weird in its own right. Crowning yourself “Playoff P” despite having little success in the playoffs is perhaps even more strange, yet Clippers forward Paul George managed to do both.
As entertaining as it may be to poke fun at George, he is not the biggest issue for the Clippers. If he is not getting it done offensively, he can make up for it on the defensive end.
Ever since his scandal where he left the bubble to travel to Atlanta, Lou Williams has had a negative impact while on the floor for Los Angeles. During the regular season, Williams was a source of instant offense off the bench. Now, he’s struggled to create for himself and is still the defensive liability he has been throughout his career.
But even with that said, that does not excuse George’s poor play throughout this series.
3). Nikola Jokic may be the greatest passing big man the league has ever seen
Vlade Divac changed the center position forever once he came to America, showing that a five can do the things a point guard does. Divac, Arvydas Sabonis and Andrew Bogut all make great claims for the best playmaker at the center position. That was until Nikola Jokic emerged onto the scene.
With a deep offensive bag to begin with, Jokic’s pinpoint passing and ability to read defenses makes him the biggest threat on the floor. He can hit shots from anywhere on the floor while simultaneously spotting the open man. Put him in a pick-and-roll where he can operate as both the screener and ball-handler, the result will most likely lead to a bucket.
Just ask the Clippers and Montrezl Harrell.
4). Clippers finally realize that talent alone does not equate to success
Last season’s Clippers team was the epitome of hard working - an eight seed that gave the juggernaut Golden State Warriors a challenge in the playoffs.
After adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, they looked to be title-or-bust. Trading for Marcus Morris Sr. at the trade deadline solidified that stance.
But even with two elite players and solid role players to contribute, the Clippers struggled to build chemistry and work as a team from the get-go. Opting for iso plays over ball movement was the ultimate downfall for what might be the most disappointing team to not win a title since the 73-9 Warriors.
5). Kawhi Leonard made the wrong choice leaving the Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard’s 2019 playoff run with the Raptors was one for the ages.
Scoring on high efficiencies, serving as the defensive stalwart that he is and hitting clutch shots (see game seven against the Philadelphia 76ers) helped bring a title up to the north. With the help of players like Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and others, Toronto looked to be title favorites if Leonard were to return.
Instead, he opted to go to his home of Los Angeles. He had nothing else to prove, bringing a championship to a team that had noted playoff woes in years past. But one can only imagine the success he and the Raptors would have shared had he stayed. Perhaps another Finals MVP and championship trophy to add to the collection.
Instead, the season was mired with a disappointing end that leaves the Clippers in a difficult position heading into the offseason.
Joe Eckstein is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at email@example.com.