NBA Playoffs – playoffs – working day 30
The best team of the regular season of the Western Conference of the NBA has also become the first classified for the final of the West in the playoffs. Nikola Jokić’s Denver Nuggets have shown their reliability and solidity in a somewhat poisonous semifinal against the Phoenix Suns, who with the reinforcement of Kevin Durant had become a very powerful team. The Nuggets have imposed their law and await a rival with a desire for revenge and to make history. And, if possible, a historic revenge.
The Nuggets will face the winner of the tie between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors, current NBA champions. At the moment, the Lakers have a 2-3 lead in the series and this Friday they have the opportunity to decide at home.
Denver’s have never won a Western Conference final and, therefore, have never played in an NBA final. Led by Serbian center Nikola Jokić, a scoring, rebounding and assisting machine, they closed the regular season with a record of 53 wins and 29 losses. And they have comfortably solved the two qualifiers. They start as favorites in the final and if they win it, they will have made history.
Whatever the rival, the Nuggets arrive wanting revenge. Last year they were eliminated 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs by the Warriors, so if the San Francisco were the rivals they will want to settle accounts. But with whom those of Denver really have outstanding debts is with the Lakers, the historically dominant team in the Western Conference. They are the ones who have crossed the path of the Nuggets again and again at key moments. They have lost the last three conference finals they have played with them: in 2020, in 2009 and in 1985. (They only played another one, against the missing Seattle Supersonics, compared to those they lost in 1978). A confrontation with the Lakers, therefore, would give them that opportunity to achieve a historic revenge.
The Denver team won the sixth game of the tie against the Suns on Thursday with indisputable authority (100-125). In the first half, the game was already resolved. The Nuggets have gone into halftime with a 30-point advantage, a spectacular 51-81. Actually, with the 26-44 score in the first quarter, everything already seemed on track.
In just half a game, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had scored 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field; Nikola Jokić went into the break with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists in 19 minutes, with a series of 10 baskets on 12 shots. And Jamal Murray added another 18 points, on 5 of 8 shooting. Full game figures in half a game. While the Nuggets had a 61.7% success rate, the Suns only managed 40%, with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker blurred. But also, the Nuggets dominated the rebounds 24-13.
The 30-point difference was insurmountable, no matter how hard the Suns fought. They have barely closed the gap and have never had a real chance of playing the game. Those of Phoenix have imposed themselves 25-22 in the third quarter and have cut the difference a little more in the last one, but the die was cast.
The second half has served for Jokić to achieve another triple double (10 or more points, assists and rebounds). He has added 32 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. He is already the center who has achieved a triple double the most times in the history of the playoff, ahead of none other than Wilt Chamberlain, whom he beat in the previous game. He is also one of the very few to have scored three in a single tie. And in the overall rankings of all the games of his NBA career, he’s one behind fourth, LeBron James … but with 800 fewer games played.
Jokić was selected 41st overall in the 2014 draft by the Denver Nuggets. The teams chose 11 non-Americans before him. Many of those who preceded him are retired, have been floundering in the NBA or have taken refuge in minor European leagues such as the Turkish or German.
The Serbian, however, has been chosen twice as the best player in the regular season in 2021 and 2022, has played five times in the all-star game and has set the occasional record despite the fact that his game is not acrobatic or spectacular. He now has the challenge of making history by leading the Nuggets to their first NBA Finals.
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