The Denver Nuggets are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in their 47-year history after beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
They did so by sweeping LeBron James and the Lakers Monday after series wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Phoenix Suns in the first two rounds.
And yet it was not the Nuggets who were the talk of the league the morning after the sweep, annoying NBA Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley.
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“I was so mad this morning I actually turned the TV off,” Barkley said Tuesday during coverage of the Eastern Conference finals. “Because the Denver Nuggets, who have been the best basketball team in the world all season, sweep [and] get the Finals for the first time.”
After the Game 4 loss, James floated the possibility of retirement before the 2023-24 season.
“We’ll see what happens going forward,” James said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about.”
Barkley said the conversation on Tuesday should have centered around the Nuggets, two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and his supporting cast instead of James’ NBA future.
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“I was so mad watching TV this morning,” Barkley added. “Listen, we all love LeBron. He didn’t say he was retiring yet. When he does that, we’ll do all that stuff. But it should have been all about the Denver Nuggets and Joker [Jokic], Jamal Murray, Michael Porter and those guys.”
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone made headlines for his comments after Denver’s Game 2 win, blasting the “national narrative” around the series.
“You win Game 1 of the playoffs and all everybody talked about was the Lakers,” Malone told reporters after the Game 2 win. “Let’s be honest, that was a national narrative, ‘Hey, the Lakers are fine. They’re down 1-0, but they figured something out.'”
“No one talked about Nikola just having a historic performance. He’s got 13 triple-doubles now, third all-time. What he’s doing is just incredible, but the narrative wasn’t about the Nuggets. The narrative wasn’t about Nikola. The narrative was about the Lakers and their adjustments. So, you put that in your pipe, you smoke it and you come back. We’re gonna go up 2-0.”
The Nuggets await the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics.