The Western Conference Semifinals will finally begin tonight. After the Denver Nuggets beat the Utah Jazz in a seven-game series, they are now up against the LA Clippers. The Nuggets come in as the underdogs after being the lower seed but the Clippers have shown signs of slipping.
Except for Will Barton (knee) and Vlatko Cancar (foot), the Nuggets have their whole team fit for the Semifinals. After playing two games off the bench, they could introduce Gary Harris to the starting lineup. So they can start with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris as the guards, Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap as the forwards, and Nikola Jokic as the center.
Although Harris has been atrocious offensively, he has been effective on the defensive end. He has just come off an injury so the Nuggets will continue to be patient. Despite him struggling with offense throughout the season, he is still their best perimeter defender and they will need him to be at his best against Lou Williams and Paul George.
Can the LA Clippers start with a win?
The Clippers just have one injury concern. Point guard Patrick Beverley is still listed as questionable. He hasn’t played since Game 1 of the first round and will again be a game-time decision for the Clippers. In his absence, Landry Shamet will continue to start instead.
So the Clippers lineup will look like: Landry Shamet and Paul George as the guards, Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris as the forwards, and Ivica Zubac as the center.
In the first round, the Nuggets were propelled by Jamal Murray’s masterclass. Nikola Jokic chipped in too but the rest of the team looked out of form. Similarly, the Clippers were also overreliant on Kawhi Leonard’s form to bail them out of the series. Both teams need their role players to step up and offer support to their star players.
The Clippers come into the series as the favorites. George has finally hit form and that will be crucial for them. On the other hand, the Nuggets looked exhausted in Game 7 and that could carry over to tonight’s game. They have also been weak defensively and the Clippers will look to exploit that.
It could be a close encounter but the Clippers will be expected to start with a win.