The Denver Nuggets stunned the LA Clippers in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, storming back from a 3-1 deficit to knock out a team many considered to be the favourite to win the title.
Does that mean the Nuggets are the better team?
Entering the Christmas Day matchup between the two teams, our NBA.com Staff weighs in.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It's close, but I have to give the Clippers the edge, so my answer is false.
For me, this comes down to the Clippers having the best player among the two teams in Kawhi Leonard and banking on Paul George being much better than he was last season. Could George be on the decline? Sure. But I have a hard time believing someone who is only a season removed from being a finalist for MVP and DPOY has fallen off the point where he's not one of the 20-best players in the league.
What George did in LA's season opener is a promising sign.
PG fuels LAC with 33! 🔥- NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2020
Paul George drops 26 in the 2nd half to lift the @LAClippers! #KiaTipOff20
Christmas Day 12/25: Clippers/Nuggets at 10:30pm/et on ESPN pic.twitter.com/iPzlNLINX8
Throw Serge Ibaka, who I think is a more natural fit on this team than Montrezl Harrell was, and Tyronn Lue, who I trust to make the adjustments Doc Rivers didn't in the playoffs, into the mix, and I have more faith in the Clippers.
Plus, as much as I love the Nuggets, I need to see Jamal Murray replicate some of what he did in the bubble. I'm also concerned about their defence following the loss of Jerami Grant. If Murray can replicate his bubble success and the Nuggets figure out an answer to their Grant problem, maybe my answer will change.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): The answer is false.
Denver was the better team by a hair back in September but things have changed since then. This may come off as contradictory to my saying that the Clippers entered this season just as good as they were last year but hear me out.
These teams were already pretty evenly matched last year and while the Nuggets get Will Barton back into the fold, the true answer to this question hinges on who will have the bigger impact between Paul George and Michael Porter Jr.
As Scott said above, I was pretty encouraged by what PG-13 showed for himself during opening night and truly believe he'll sustain a similar level of play throughout the season. Remember: last year, George's struggles could be attributed to offseason shoulder surgeries and the hiatus that clearly impacted his approach to the game.
With Porter being such a young player, I feel he needs one more year under his belt to develop into the consistent force he has the potential to be in this league. When that time comes, my mind may change, but until then, I'm rolling with the veteran squad in Los Angeles.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): The answer is true.
The Clippers might look better on paper but games aren't decided on paper. There's no debating the fact that they also have the better top two between both teams, and, yes, adding Serge Ibaka in free agency is huge. But until I see these Clippers have some sort of consistent chemistry through adversity, I'm picking the Nuggets.
On the other hand, Denver is nearly bringing back the same team that came back from a 3-1 deficit in consecutive playoff series in the bubble. This team is still built around the same core of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic that have steadily progressed from just missing the playoffs in 2018 to Conference Semifinals in 2019 and then to the Conference Finals in 2020.
The Nuggets are still deep and multi-faceted, wherein they can play fast but with a big man that a majority of the other teams can't guard. So between these two teams, who would I pick to win a seven-game series at the end of the year based on their opening-night roster? I'm betting on the Nuggets.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Yeah, I guess I'm leaving poor Yash on an island here and saying false as well.
We all know the Clippers self-destructed in the bubble. I'm also still skeptical about their chances at winning a championship as they're currently constructed, but I do believe, on paper at least, they're still a better team than the Nuggets. Now, it's a long season and things can change, but right now I have to roll with the combo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George being able to figure things out if these two teams were to play again in the postseason.
I do, however, believe that the Nuggets could end up with the better regular-season record and possibly homecourt advantage in the playoff if these two teams do meet again. But in a seven-game series, I'd be picking the Clippers.
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