The entirety of the 2019-20 NBA season felt like a buildup towards LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers facing Kawhi Leonard and the L.A. Clippers in the Western Conference Finals.
With the Lakers eliminating the Houston Rockets in five games and the Clippers holding a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the second round, the anticipated matchup looked like a virtual guarantee.
However, the Nuggets shocked the NBA world, winning three consecutive games despite trailing by double digits in each of them. They would go on to beat the Clippers, prompting a number of jokes at L.A.’s expense.
James and the Lakers would then handle the Nuggets in five games and proceed to win their 17th NBA championship.
Nearly three months after this historic collapse, James was still in shock, and explained exactly why via Uninterrupted’s “Road Trippin’:”
“I couldn’t believe it. To this day, I still can’t believe it. Obviously, the better team won. That’s what happened. But still, because all the s***-talking that they were doing all year — and exclude Paul and exclude Kawhi. Even exclude Trezz. Obviously, we know who the s***-talkers was.
“And put themselves in a position to get what they been talking s*** about all year, and I just couldn’t fathom the part or come to the realization that that they did not seek that opportunity when it was right there. Just seeing the team that they had, they were built for that, I believe. They was coached for that, I believe.
“Obviously, they’ve got our championship head coach on their bench in T. Lue. I just did not see them losing just like everybody else in the basketball sports world did not see them losing that series besides one of my favorite coaches, Mike Malone and his group.”
While James did not say anything about it in the moment, it’s unsurprising to hear that he felt the same as the rest of the basketball world. The Clippers had a 3-1 series lead and a 17-point advantage in the third quarter of Game 5. At that moment, it felt as though the series was over.
The Nuggets — by beating the Clippers and doing the exact same thing to the Utah Jazz in the first round — proved they were for real. The Lakers spent all year demanding respect, and both they and the Nuggets earned it in 2020.
Frank Vogel not surprised Nuggets defeated Clippers
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is far too diplomatic to admit anything regarding the Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets. Instead, he said that he wasn’t surprised at all, given that the two teams were evenly matched all season.
“I felt all along it was two elite teams playing against each other, so even though Denver got down 3-1, I didn’t feel like they were out of it. When they came back, I wasn’t surprised,” Vogel said.
“Not to say anything about the Clippers, but I just know how good Denver was. I knew it was going to be really, really hard to put that team away. I would not have been surprised if the Clippers did, because they were every bit as good. Just two great teams slugging it out.”
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