New Nuggets are scary

Great game in LA, with some inferior but tough Clippers and some Nuggets thrown since Gordon's arrival and looking like ring contenders.


It was, and the final score makes it clear (94-101) a tough game, with a playoff aroma, with everyone's desire to win (of the real ones). They are two teams, Clippers and Nuggets, who have fresh their duel in the bubble, when the Rockies raised a seemingly impossible 3-1 based on heroic comebacks every 48 hours. But there is more: they are two teams that are going for the ring, that are in a hysterical war of positions in the West, the one that goes beyond the Jazz and Suns, the first in the lead: now the Clippers 32-18, 30- 18 Lakers and Nuggets, 29-18 Trail Blazers. Then, far behind, the Mavericks and Spurs. So between the third and the sixth (the last one to escape play in) there is a game and a half, with the Lakers crushed by the absences of LeBron and Anthony Davis and the Nuggets becoming a crusher that aims very, very high.

It is, above all, the transfer by Aaron Gordon, of course. The daring, the going for it that other times in Denver have resisted. An ordeal that puts Michael Malone's team among the true contenders for the ring. In that lot, obviously, there are also the Clippers, who recovered Paul George (with a minute restriction) but are still without Patrick Beverley or Serge Ibaka. The private duel, in case there are finally ties, remains 1-1 in the absence of a third confrontation, in a month (May 3) .

The Clippers came in an excellent moment, brilliant against the Sixers and Bucks, and they have beaten them against the Magic, in an incomprehensible ending, and against some Nuggets that were far superior ... but those who pressed well at the end. In fact, and after making the rubber for almost the entire game (12-25, 38-53, 55-71, 72-84 ...) those of Tyronn Lue left four minutes of the last quarter without scoring their rival and took the game , with a partial of 13-3, until 83-84. There, with six minutes to play, Kawhi (bad end of the game) missed a shot that seemed inside and that frustrated culmination of the comeback was followed by five points from the Nuggets (83-89) and the appearance, surgical as so many times by Jamal Murray, who the Clippers had controlled by trading defenders on him in the second half. The point guard scored two checkmate-scented baskets and finished with 23 points.

For the Clippers, the feeling of inferiority remains but also the ability to compete and rebuild, without Ibaka and with Paul George still rusty (17 + 8 + 5). Some excellent minutes from Terance Mann (18 points, 6 rebounds) pushed in the attempt to come back by a team that during the entire central stretch of the game lived off Kawhi Leonard (24 + 12 + 4, tired in the last attacks) to prevent some Nuggets that seemed with a couple more gears would escape definitively.

Because therein lies the point, if you don't take these Nuggets seriously (seriously) you can be in for a good surprise in the spring. It is 3-0 since the arrival of Aaron Gordon. And the new quintet (Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr, Nikola Jokic) has a net rating in those games (64 minutes together) of +37.9. The defense is much more lively, without a bulldog like Gary Harris on the outside but with more wingspan, the ability to change and adjust and arms everywhere. Barton takes advantage of his physique, Porter Jr tries more than before and Gordon contributes what the departure of Jerami Grant left to owe ... and surely more. He has been seen against rivals such as Ben Simmons and a Kawhi who made him sweat well.

Gordon seemed like an ideal player for these Nuggets and he is showing that he is with an instant, natural fit. The missing piece in the puzzle. Muscle and versatility in defense and intelligence and mobility in attack, where he seems happy in a system that exploits his virtues and that is the antithesis of the attacks suffered and static that happened before his eyes in Orlando Magic. An electrical hookup right now connects a team where everyone has scored in double figures in two of those last three wins, and where each attack appears to end with an easy basket under the basket or a released triple. Gordon, tremendous, finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Barton had 19 points, Porter 20 and Jokic, demanded by the Clippers physique, 14 with 7 rebounds and 7 assists (and no free throws, an issue that can be talked about in the playoffs). An absolute elite unit to which Monte Morris will join, about to return, from a bench where Paul Millsap and Facundo Campazzo do what they can, who finished with 3 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists and suffered in defense but he fought and contributed as always, for all the corners where he can do it.

Malone says that the team has “rejuvenated” and that there is a “new excitement” that has been felt in the locker room since the arrival of an Aaron Gordon who, for his part, sends a clear message: “We can go as far as we want, the the only limit is the sky ”. And watching these Nuggets play, it is difficult to distract him from reason. Beware of them.

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