Reggie Miller did not mince words about the Los Angeles Clippers collapse.
After taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, the Clippers had three chances to beat the Denver Nuggets and advance to a date in the Western Conference Finals against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. But they wasted double-digit leads in games 5, 6 and 7, cementing one of the biggest breakdowns in franchise history.
“That curse is real,” Miller said. “The Clippers’ entire marketing plan was to destroy the Los Angeles Lakers and their history. ‘There’s a new sheriff in town, we’re taking over LA!’ Their focus was LeBron, AD and the Lakers and they were a game away from doing that. It was a total collapse.
“Now we hear that there were chemical problems? Come on. Why did we not know anything about chemistry problems before? Do not be cryptic, Paul George. I want names. If they̵
Together with Brian Anderson on play-by-play, Miller and Chris Webber will deliver analyzes for the Western Conference Finals on TNT. The two basketball icons spoke to various media on a Wednesday press call to view the Lakers-Nuggets series.
“I love that Denver makes people believe,” Webber said. “I love how deep they are, and hopefully Coach [Michael] Malone gets the credit he deserves. If you talk to players who have played for him, they will tell you how much they have enjoyed playing for him. They are a wonderful story. ”
Miller, a Hall of Famer who was deadly behind the three-point line, touched on how the Nuggets-Lakers series will offer a different style of play than the Eastern Conference Finals. In Game 1, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat combined 76 touchdowns, but Miller noted that there will be a very different pace in the West.
“The Lakers made 19 tries in the final game against Houston, but they’re not a good three-point shooting team,” Miller said. “Denver is heavily dependent on it, so the Lakers can’t allow a big gap. If you’re the Lakers, you can ‘t let Denver make 15 when you’re only hitting five. They should be within striking distance, but they do not shoot as many as Miami and Boston. These two teams are based on that three-point line. ”
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have starred in the Nuggets during their historic playoffs and have won back-to-back series after running three games against one. They will definitely pose problems for the Lakers, a team that lacks depth behind James and Davis. But an obvious question for Denver is finding a way to stop an unstoppable force in James.
“No one can control LeBron,” Webber said. “But Denver plays defense in many different ways. I like Denver just like I like the chances of others after what they have shown. ”
The bubble has served as the big equalizer in this year’s NBA playoffs, and it has allowed players to stand out – or be exposed – on a neutral surface. Webber believes this series will define Howard’s time with the Lakers.
“Dwight Howard is the only person who can check on Jokic,” Webber said. “I think AD can, but does AD want to play center? And I’m not saying Howard wants to stop Jokic, but he can move his feet sideways and he’s tall. His ability to get in the passing lanes and hold his hands up in Jokic’s face, it becomes very important. ”
Stars win championships in the NBA, but in the shadow behind breathtaking MVP performances lies the solid foundation of players embracing their role. For the Nuggets to have a legitimate shot at eliminating the Lakers, Paul Millsap must play a massive role on both sides of the floor. On defense, Millsap has the potential to help curb James and Davis as well as deliver its quiet effective, internal arsenal in the event of an attack.
“If game 5 and game 7 [from the Clippers series] version of Paul Millsap shows up, then all bets are off, ”Miller said. “If he plays anywhere near that consistently in this series, then the Nuggets are a different team with a different option.”
Miller explained that the difference in the series will ultimately be defined by adjustments, an area where nuggets have thrived in the first two rounds.
“The Lakers’ best team is when Davis is at five,” Miller said. “Frank Vogel will have to play Davis against Jokic. He will have to put pressure on Jokic at the offensive end and he may get Jokic in bad trouble. It will be interesting to see how they mix and match, and the battle for coaching matchup. ”
“It is not certain that the Lakers will win. I know everyone’s disappointed, and I do, too, that they are not going to see the Battle of LA but not sleep on the Denver Nuggets. ”
You can follow Justin Barrasso on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.