The Denver Nuggets are in trouble. But that’s nothing new, is it? Throughout this 2020 NBA postseason, they’ve faced seemingly insurmountable deficits but have somehow found a way to keep advancing. They were down 3-1 against both the Utah Jazz and the LA Clippers and still found a way to reach the Western Conference Finals, which is admirable. But this latest deficit feels different. Now down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Lakers after Sunday night’s last-second loss, the Nuggets are being given essentially no chance to make their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals and a lot of people think Mason Plumlee is to blame. The seven-year veteran is being roasted for his defense (or lack thereof) of Anthony Davis’ buzzer-beater but he might not be the one to blame.
A breakdown of Anthony Davis’ game-winning shot
So let’s break this thing down. Down 103-102 with 2.1 seconds remaining, the Lakers were set to inbound the ball from their own baseline. Given the Lakers’ size and the fear of a lob to the basket, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone inserted Mason Plumlee, who’d played all of nine minutes, into the game to guard Anthony Davis. With Rajon Rondo inbounding the ball, Davis began the play on the right side of the foul line with LeBron James, guarded by Jerami Grant, on the left side.
As Davis curled to the three-point line on the left side, Plumlee didn’t follow, instead opting to join Grant (after pointing at him to switch) in guarding LeBron, who never moved during the play. Rondo hit a wide-open Davis with a perfect bounce pass as Nikola Jokic ran out to contest the shot, which was obviously too late as AD had a clear look at the basket and hit nothing but net as time expired to give the Lakers a 105-103 victory and a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Mason Plumlee is getting torched on social media
Once the game ended, it didn’t take long for social media to explode on Mason Plumlee. Most thought that he should have stayed on Anthony Davis as he moved toward the three-point line, which he obviously didn’t, and he got torched on Twitter.
Trust us, there are a million more like this out there right now. But is Mason Plumlee truly to blame here?
Is Mason Plumlee to blame for Anthony Davis getting such an open look?
So let’s break this thing down a little bit more. If you look at the video above, you can hear Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant discussing a switch if LeBron James set a screen on Plumlee. It seems that the defensive game plan would be for Grant to roll out to Davis while Plumlee would hang back to protect the rim if LeBron slashed. And that’s the plan that Plumlee followed. But the problem is that there was no actual screen. Plumlee followed Davis for about a step before running right to James while pointing at AD, essentially telling Grant to step out. It seemed as if it was a man-to-man scheme that turned into a zone as soon as Davis decided to curl. So is all of this on Mason Plumlee? Not everyone thinks so.
And there are plenty more of these as well. There aren’t as many as the ones bashing Mason Plumlee but they are out there. The fact is that there are a lot of factors that played into the Anthony Davis shot. But the fact also remains that it’s over and done with now. Whether it was Mason Plumlee’s fault or Jerami Grant’s fault or Michael Malone’s fault or simple miscommunication, it really doesn’t matter anymore. Anthony Davis hit a big-time shot and the Denver Nuggets now have to climb out of a 2-0 hole. It’s certainly a daunting task and the Nuggets might not have enough left in the tank to come back from this one.
But if they do lose the Western Conference Finals, it won’t be because of Mason Plumlee. Again, the guy played all of nine minutes in Game 2. Sure, he might have given up the final three points of the game but he didn’t give up all 102 that came before them. He didn’t miss all 39 shots that Denver did on Sunday night. He only missed one. So while it might be easy for some to put this loss on him, the Nuggets aren’t in an 0-2 hole because of Mason Plumlee.
Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets takes place on Wednesday night.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference