It's hard to believe that revenge will not be on the LA Clippers' minds when they take on the Denver Nuggets on Christmas Day. A lot has changed since the Western Conference Semifinals between these two teams but Kawhi Leonard and co. would like to set the record straight.
Paul George became the favorite target for internet trolls after that series but he's started the 2020-21 campaign by torching the LA Lakers and would want to build on that. The tie also carries a bit of extra significance for JaMychal Green. He jumped ship during the preseason and will be hoping to make his Denver Nuggets debut after sitting out in their season opener.
LA Clippers vs Denver Nuggets: Key matchups to look out for
Serge Ibaka has been the LA Clippers' best acquisition this season. He'll be adding extra layers to an offense spearheaded by Leonard and George. The Denver Nuggets also have their core of talented youngsters to rely on.
The game will have several exciting matchups and without further ado, let's look at the three that stand out the most.
#1 Kawhi Leonard vs Michael Porter Jr.
Through the preseason games and the season opener, Kawhi Leonard has consistently forced the issue for the LA Clippers in the early stages. His defense hasn't shown the same bite of late but The Klaw is clearly the main man for Tyronn Lue.
On the other hand, there's Michael Porter Jr. who took an enormous leap in the bubble and showcased why the Denver Nuggets were correct to invest in him despite his back problems. He managed 24 points and five rebounds in the Nuggets' opener while showing a marked improvement on defense.
It's questionable whether Porter Jr. can handle Leonard by himself for the entire game, but this will be a fierce back-and-forth matchup on both ends of the court.
#2 Paul George vs Gary Harris
After a slow start and a Shaqtin-a-fool moment in the first half of the LA Clippers' season opener, Paul George really caught fire and burned the Lake Show to ashes. However, it'll be interesting to see if he can replicate the same shooting form against an opponent where he visibly struggled last time around.
Guarding George will be the Denver Nuggets' Gary Harris, who himself has flattered to deceive over the last two seasons. Harris seemed destined for great things after averaging 17.5 points per game in the 2017-18 season. However, his scoring has only dipped from here.
Luckily for Harris, he's become a solid defender in the meantime and that's the skill he'll be needing the most to keep Paul George and the LA Clippers at bay.
#3 Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac vs Nikola Jokic
If there was ever a doubt that the Denver Nuggets offense is channeled through Nikola Jokic, the 2020-21 season opener cleared that. He managed 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 14 assists against Sacramento on opening night.
Jokic really didn't find it too difficult dealing with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell in the playoffs but this time the LA Clippers have a new weapon up their sleeve. Serge Ibaka is much more physical while defending the basket and his floor spacing will create problems for the Denver Nuggets.
Zubac meanwhile is the more aggressive of the two LA Clippers center when it comes to rebounding. The minutes will be split between him and Ibaka as far as guarding Jokic is concerned.
Published 25 Dec 2020, 16:13 IST