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Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Clippers

Line: Los Angeles -8.5

Pick: Clippers -8.5

Last game showed us all the Clippers have figured out the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray may be a championship duo someday but in game four the Clippers reduced them to one that had Michael Porter Jr calling them out in the post game press conference.

After a championship type defensive quarter in the fourth of game three, the Clippers continued that type of effort into game four. If they play that hard and that soundly on that end, it’s hard to see anyone beating them four times out of seven.

That future competition gets to why I think the Clippers win big tonight. Throughout this season, focus and attention to detail have been a major concern for this team. Sometimes they look like the inevitable champion while others they look susceptible in the first round of the playoffs.

When they lock in though, oh boy do they look special.

With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading the way, this team looks built for 2020 basketball with its two dynamic wings. Couple that with a depth group of Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverly, Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris and this is quite the roster.

To get them to play at the greatest level though, they feel like a carrot team. Like how for some horses, you have to dangle some piece of motivation in front of, this team to get the best out of it in a given game requires that metaphorical carrot.

An easy thing to do that, is the recent dominance of the Lakers over the Rockets. That series looks destined to end in five games and with the Clippers having an opportunity to end theirs in five, I expect them to come out blazing for this one.

The Lakers have flexed their muscles the last two games and you know the Clippers were watching. All season long, the battle of LA has felt like a who’s you know what is bigger contest and right now the Lakers are winning.

I don’t expect that to continue.

Look for Kawhi, George and others to establish a defensive pedigree for their impending western conference finals date as they show just how ready they are. The Nuggets are fun but tonight they feel like a small speed bump for this Clippers team moving on to something much bigger.

Boston Celtics vs Toronto Raptors

Line: Boston -2.5

Pick: Raptors +2.5

On some level, didn’t we all know a game seven between these teams was inevitable? We’ve all waited far too long for this series to happen for it not to live up to the hype.

Both fanbases detest each other, both teams can’t stand each other as evidenced by the end of game six, simply it’s the beautiful NBA rivalry only this league is capable of producing. Sure there’s long standing rivalries in other sports but the NBA just has an incredible way of creating two villains and two heroes in the same series depending on what side you’re on.

If you’re a Celtic fan, Kyle Lowry and Nick Nurse are the absolute bane of your very existence. If you’re a Raptor fan though, there’s a good chance you’d take a swing at Marcus Smart or Daniel Theis if you saw them walking down the street.

It’s the age-old story in the NBA, the veteran champion not quite ready to give it up versus the more talented young team that doesn’t know all the tricks yet. A battle of talent versus wits.

During the seeding round I said to a friend, ‘I don’t know how far this Raptors team is going to go but I know they’re going to beat at least one team that’s more talented than them off shear intelligence’.

We have reached that moment.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown look a little young, Kemba Walker is in his first real NBA playoff series and the Celtics have literally maximized their bench in this series and yet still are here. The Raptors meanwhile feel like they have a couple game seven wild cards that could flip the game completely in their favour.

Firstly, game seven Serge Ibaka, I don’t even need to explain why that’s a factor. Second, you would have to think at some point Pascal Siakam remembers how to shoot so that’s an issue for Boston. As is the fact Marc Gasol finally started playing well in the second half of game six so unlocking him could be the kind of guy to change it all.

Even if all of those fail, we saw last game the explosive potential of Norman Powell who is liable to drop 30 once he finds his game like he did in game six.

Sure on the surface Boston has more upper-level talent but anyone who has watched enough game sevens in this league can attest to the fact that they aren’t really about individual talent. It’s more about that one random wildcard that can will you through the impending rock fight of a game you’re about to slog through.

Game sevens are never beautiful works of basketball art. They’re always a test of who is less willing to die and tonight that has to favour the Raptors.

Give me the Raptors in a tight, close, extremely physical contest that more closely embodies a game of rugby than one of professional basketball.

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