Coming into the season, the Clippers were slipping under the radar after not making many improvements on paper in the offseason. Now, Los Angeles has thrived behind the development of DeAndre Jordan’s offensive game and the stellar play from their bench, particularly Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes.
Behind those two things and the steadily impressive contributions of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers are coming into their Christmas Day game riding a 13-game winning streak, the longest in the franchise’s history.
Conversely, the Nuggets received a great deal of hype this preseason as a possible dark-horse contender for the NBA Championship. They have since faltered from that.
With a lot of young athletic talents like Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Kenneth Faried, Denver was hoping to be able to make the leap to being an upper-echelon team.
Instead, they’ve struggled to shoot the ball from outside of the paint and have had arguably one of the toughest schedules in the league thus far. The Nuggets have hovered around .500 for the entirety of this season as a result.
This all leads us to Christmas Night when these two teams face off in Los Angeles.
A win would mean different things for each of these teams. A loss would also have vastly different repercussions for the two squads.
If the Nuggets were to win, it would be a good shift in the momentum of their season. Not only would they notch a win over one of the best teams in the NBA, but it would also give them a launching point as their schedule begins to lighten up.
In that scenario where the Nuggets win, the Clippers would obviously lose. Though a loss for Los Angeles would end their record-setting winning streak, it wouldn’t derail this team by any means. They have already established that they are becoming a force in this league and a loss to a quality opponent isn’t going to change that.
However, if the Clippers were to continue on their winning streak against the Nuggets, especially if it were to be in a decisive manner, they would have to be mentioned in the conversation as a contender to make it to the NBA Finals. Not only will it improve their record to a terrific 22-6, but it would also show how dangerous the Clippers can be when they are rolling, something that’s important come playoff-time.
The Nuggets losing this game could have more dire consequences than if the Clippers lost. A loss here would bring the Nuggets record to 15-14. More importantly though, a loss could potentially alter the mentality of this young team. For a team that entered the season with lofty expectations, if they keep hovering around .500 for too long, they might become convinced that being a low-level playoff team is there ceiling. That’s not what they want.
Even though it’s only one game played in primetime on a holiday, the outcome of this Nuggets-Clippers matchup could affect the remaining 50 or so games in their seasons. It’s by no means a definite make-or-break game, but there’s a chance that it could be. And that should make the fast-paced game even more exciting. Buckle up.