The outside noise was loud enough that it pierced the Orlando “bubble.”
Whether the Nuggets admitted or not – and sometimes they did – they saw the narrative of their second round series against the Clippers being carved. After the Game 1 pounding, the Nuggets would be lucky to avoid a sweep. Trailing 3-1 after Game 4, might as well fast-forward to the all-L.A. conference finals. Extend the series to six games? Not gonna happen.
After the Nuggets made NBA history Tuesday night, stunning the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7 and becoming the first team in history to advance after facing two separate 3-1 deficits, they made it clear how close they were listening.
“You got Shaq, you got Charles (Barkley), I think Zach Lowe his name, I don’t even know,” Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray began, after hanging 40 points in the 104-89 win. “Stephen A. (Smith), all y’all better start giving this team some (darn) respect. Because we put in the work. We got a resilient team. We shouldn’t have been down 3-1 but to come back from 3-1 against the Clippers is a big achievement so it’s fun just to change that narrative.”
A day before Game 7, Nuggets coach Michael Malone cited ESPN’s experts, and mentioned how 19 of them predicted the Clippers would win. Not one said the series would advance to a Game 7.
“Nobody wants us here,” Nikola Jokic said in his postgame interview. “Nobody thinks we can do something. We prove ourselves and proved everybody we can do something. Next is Lakers another tough opponent for us. We just have to be out there and having fun.”
Jokic, himself the 41st pick in the 2014 draft, is the face of a team that’s fought for everything it’s earned, including its newfound respect.
“We don’t have a first pick,” he said. “We don’t have many kind of superstars. Everybody is working to get where they’re at. When we won the game I felt just relief. We did it.”
The Nuggets have a giant chip on their shoulder, and they’ve used it to make NBA history. No fans inside the bubble means players have to find motivation elsewhere. And if it’s in the perceived slights of pundits and prognosticators, they don’t need to apologize.
“It’s just fun to silence everybody,” Murray said. “We love it. That’s what makes it so special.”
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