Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets have not been looked at as serious contenders in the NBA. The slight was not because people thought they were a bad team. No, it was because everyone believed the Lakers and Clippers were much better. They were so good that there was no reason to waste time talking about anyone else.
It did not matter that the Nuggets were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season. Nor did it matter that they have two phenomenal talents in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. They were always viewed as a step behind the two teams everyone expected to lead the way.
Since they don’t stand a chance of making it to the Western Conference Finals, let alone the NBA Finals, why waste time on them?
After the Nuggets fell behind against the Utah Jazz in the first round, everyone counted them out. When they fell behind the Clippers 3-1, they did the same. So, after his team eliminated the Clippers in Game Seven of their series Tuesday night, Jamal Murray had a message for the haters:
Shaq, Charles Barkley, and just about anyone who had a microphone assumed the Clippers would win the series. No one thought it would go seven games; most assumed it was going end in five. So, it is not hard to see why Murray felt disrespected.
The disrespect is continuing even after dispatching the Clippers. Oddsmakers have made the Lakers heavy favorites to win the Western Conference Finals (-625; Nuggets odds are +450). Odds also favor the series ending in five games (Over/Under 5.5—under -121; over +100).
Now, the Lakers should be favored, but with how well the Nuggets are playing right now, you’d think the odds would be a little better.
As Rodney Dangerfield would say:
It is not unusual for a team as good as the Lakers, with all of their star power, to become complacent. When playing a team everyone thinks you’ll beat with ease, it is not uncommon for a team to bring less than their ‘A’ game.
So, the Lakers better not listen to all the hype and listen to Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic instead:
Yes, the Nuggets did not play well enough to start their first-round series and the conference semi-finals and fell behind 1-3 in both series. But they were resilient enough to bounce back against formidable odds twice to earn the right to advance.
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are among the best tandems in the NBA and happen to be playing their best basketball when they need to be. If the Lakers talented tandem, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, don’t set the tone for the rest of the team, don’t be shocked if the Nuggets upset another team from Los Angeles.