Sports: Los Angeles. One City. One Goal. Two Outcomes… Lakers poised for title run as clippers Implode

by Diego Santizo, Sports Editor

Los Angeles, a city in which high expectations are simply the norm. But when it comes to professional athletics, despite the Angelino fanbase being demanding of every team, they are no strangers to coming up short. 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets in Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 12, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Clippers curse is real. Fans surely had flashbacks from the 2015 Clippers coming into game seven of the Western Conference semi-finals, and they were in for a treat that will leave a sour taste in their mouth for weeks, maybe even months. 

The Nuggets came back from being down 3–1 for the second straight series to make the Western Conference finals for just the fourth time in their 53 year franchise history. This upcoming conference finals appearance marks the first since 2009 which ironically was also against the Lakers. They took game seven by a margin of 104-89, resulting in the Clippers losing once again in the second round. 

Denver was led by its dynamic duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Murray led all scorers with 40 points and went 6-of-13 in 3-point shooting, while Jokic finished the night with 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists. Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 20 points off the bench, with the Clipper’s superstar duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combining for just 24 points on 10-for-38 shooting.

The Clippers held a 12-point lead in the first half, but just as they did in Games 5 and 6, the Nuggets went to work in the second half to put the Clippers away. With Leonard, George and a deep supporting cast, the Clippers were considered the NBA title favorite for much of the season. They’ll now be forced to leave the bubble after three straight disappointing losses. Twitter showed no mercy whatsoever on the Clippers following their shocking defeat with players like Damian Lillard and Ja Morant taking part in the festivities. 

The Lakers on the other hand, have a 8-2 record in the playoffs and have been led by future Hall of Famer Lebron James. Despite fans missing out on the “Battle for Los Angeles” Western Conference Finals edition, the Nuggest won’t be a walk in the park for Lebron and crew as they currently hold a 6-0 record in elimination games during the 2020 playoffs.

On paper, the Lakers should be the heavy favorites to advance to the NBA Finals. However, as they have shown all playoffs long, it would not be smart to underestimate and count out the no. 3 seeded Nuggets. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic have been spectacular in the playoffs so far. Both have certainly shown that they are difficult to stop when they are at the top of their games.

Obviously, Denver will inevitably need their two stars Jokic and Murray to play at their best if they want to have a chance to pull off the monumental upset. But with a loaded team like the Lakers, led by two generational superstars, the Nuggets will definitely need everyone to play their A-game.

A matchup worth looking out for is going to be Davis vs. Jokic. Davis, as the NBA’s two preeminent bigs make their conference finals debut. Though Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is a central reason his team has overcome two back-to-back 3-1 deficits, Davis won the matchup during the regular season as the Lakers went 3-1 against the Nuggets, including two wins in Denver. 

James will head into Game 1 on Friday averaging 26.6 pts, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists in the playoffs and will be playing in his 11th conference finals.

The Lakers will be representing Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010, while the Clippers will be representing Los Angeles by following in the footsteps of the rest of us, watching the Lakers compete for a title from their couches outside the NBA “bubble.”

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