Western Conference Finals: 1st seed Denver Nuggets vs. 3rd seed Oklahoma City Thunder
Talk about great five-on-five basketball. This series has the makings of an all-time matchup. The Denver Nuggets are attempting to repeat as Champions and the Thunder are looking to make a statement, claiming they got next. Make no mistake about it, this is going to be a very tough and interesting series. I believe this will be a consistent back-and-forth affair, ultimately ending in a cementing of status among the NBA's best.
The Nikola Jokic/Chet Holmgren matchup is interesting, but at this point in their respective careers, Jokic can handle Holmgren relatively easily. There aren't many areas in which the Thunder have a clear advantage over the Nuggets. The Nuggets are just about as versatile as the Thunder, maybe even more so.
Jamal Murray shows up in the playoffs. KCP shows up in the playoffs. Aaron Gordon played like an All-Star during last year's finals run in the playoffs. The Nuggets are ready. We don't know much about this Thunder team when it comes to the playoffs. SGA is an elite talent. Chet Holmgren is a difference-maker. Jalen Williams and Josh Giddey are great pieces. Who's to say what core group of players works better than the other?
This Western Conference Finals matchup comes down to who can get the job done. Can the Oklahoma City Thunder show up prepared, night-in-night-out? Are the Thunder able to regroup and recuperate when things start to go awry? Can the Nuggets overcome being down in the series at any point? These are the questions you should ask yourself when evaluating a matchup like this.
I'm backing the Nuggets here. And I'm doing this for one reason in particular, with that reason being Nikola Jokic. Jokic single-handedly had one of, if not the best playoff run, in NBA history last year. When push comes to shove, this guy is going to make sure the Nuggets are in contention. I'm just not sure that the Thunder have anyone who is capable of this yet. It's one thing to be the darlings of the NBA. It's another to capitalize on that moment and cement yourself as one of the best. Just ask the Boston Celtics who have been so close for so long.
Complete teams like the Nuggets win far more seven-game series than they lose. Consistency and being able to adjust to adversity are key for matchups like this, which is why the confetti will rain navy and gold in the Ball Arena in Denver, game seven.
Prediction: Denver Nuggets win 4-3