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Why the Denver Nuggets deserve to play in the Western Conference Finals

. . . or why the Clippers don’t deserve it.

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

For many Spurs fans this entire article can boil down to one word- Kawhi.

Any team Kawhi Leonard is on is a team that many will refuse to root for. But in the context of forgiveness and starting over, let’s take a look at the Denver Nuggets.

For one, they knocked out the Spurs last summer. It’s not the kind of thing that makes one root for a team, but it does mean Spurs fans got a good look at the Nuggets. They are a young, talented, well-coached, and good-spirited team. During their last game Saturday night Reggie Miller called Nikola Jokic the best offensive center in the game, and he just might be right.

The Nuggets came back from being down 3-1 to the Utah Jazz and officially became the Cinderella story despite already having the third seed in that match-up.

In Game 2 Saturday night Jamal Murray and Jokic combined for 44 points in the first half and had only two points each late in the game. For most teams, their top two players struggling in the second half would be detrimental, but the forces of Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr., and Monte Morris individually shined in the moments when they were called upon to step up. Mason Plumlee also offers relief to The Joker without opening the floodgates for opponents benches to shake things up.

Of course, Game 2 was a success after the terrible second half leading to their annihilation in Game 1. You can also chalk that up to additional rest for the Clippers.

Game 3 will be very telling.

The Clippers are stacked- a two-time Finals MVP and former Defensive Player of the Year, the 2013 NBA Most-Improved Player, a three-time NBA Sixth Man, the reigning NBA Sixth Man, and another DPOY coached by the 2000 Coach of the Year and the man who coached the 2008 Celtics to a championship.

But are accolades enough?

In the meantime, here are some reasons to against the Los Angeles Clippers in case the reasons to root for the Nuggets didn’t do it for you:

  • Kawhi is a traitor, can’t take that away. Sure, many of us quietly rooted for him last year. But there were bigger things at stake. These were tough times. Tearing up that Golden State dynasty came before wishing failure on the very likable Toronto Raptors. It was worth it to force Kevin Durant and his burner account to head to Brooklyn and watch the Warriors come in last place.
  • Paul George — Along with Kawhi Leonard, also forced a trade. This is becoming the new norm in the NBA, and while for you young whipper-snappers it may seem all right, it will never sit well with those of us who value the “for life” era superstars. For that, he gets no love.
  • Marcus Morris, Sr. — Spurs fans can despise him for bailing out on a verbal agreement, but that’s not his worst characteristic. Neither is taking the money from New York, a losing team, only to be traded to the Clippers who had a pretty clear path to the Western Conference Finals etched before the season even started. No, ladies and gentleman, Morris is a dirty player.

Isn’t this exactly what Spurs fans hated Zaza Pachulia for? That fool didn’t even make the trip to San Antonio after his version of that play. The idea that Kawhi would call Morris a teammate and not speak out against him (if he can speak at all) speaks volumes to his character. So another ding for Kawhi in that mess too.

*It should also be noted that Morris has stated in previous seasons that he is the best player to cover Kawhi Leonard. This is neither provable nor true. For one, when he said it he was in the Eastern Conference and Kawhi was in the west so it would have taken a trip to the Finals to even be tested. Second, now he’s on the same team, which really makes one think he just talks a good game.

  • Patrick Beverley — Sean Elliott said it best. If he is on your team, you love him, but if he’s your opponent, you hate him. Watching him get ejected at the end of Game 2 for basically being the same tool box he always is brings a tear to anyone’s eye. He is the epitome of taking his ball and going home when he doesn’t get the call he wants. Let’s hope that happens three more times and then he and his team can leave the bubble together, forever.

Game 3 takes place tonight at 8:00 p.m. on TNT.

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