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Of all the hot takes Skip Bayless has fired off in his life, the ones offered in the last few days had to be the toughest for him to swallow. For months, Bayless had been backing the Los Angeles Clippers as the top team in the NBA, as the team that would take down the Lakers and star player LeBron James, the guy Bayless has been tearing down on television for years now.

Well, Bayless’s Clippers lost in devastating fashion to the Nuggets in the conference semifinals, coughing up a 3-1 series lead, which led Bayless to do something almost unthinkable.

He congratulated James. He handed him this year’s NBA trophy despite the need for the Lakers to pull off eight more wins down in the league’s central Florida bubble environment before they are NBA champs. He ate crow.

“Congrats, LeBron, you just avoided the only team that could’ve beaten you,” Bayless wrote. “YOU JUST WON YOUR 4TH CHAMPIONSHIP, MY MAN.”

Congrats, LeBron, you just avoided the only team that could've beaten you. YOU JUST WON YOUR 4TH CHAMPIONSHIP, MY MAN.

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) September 16, 2020

Nuggets Will Have a Say in Lakers’ Championship Chase

Of course, the Nuggets will have something to say about that. Denver has been the most remarkable team in the postseason this year, now twice falling behind in their series, 3-1, and coming back to win both times, something that has not happened in NBA history. They withstood a scoring onslaught from Utah’s Donovan Mitchell in the first round and needed two major second-half comebacks to win Games 5 and 6 against the loaded Clippers, who entered the playoffs as the favorite to win the championship.

It is only the second time in franchise history the Nuggets have reached the conference finals. By way of comparison, James now has reached the conference finals 11 times. But the Nuggets are taking all of that in stride, even as they face the top-seeded Lakers, a team that beat them in all three games they played with James healthy this season (the Nuggets won one with James injured).

“We’re not afraid of anybody,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on Tuesday night after Game 7. “And I think we’ve proven that time and time again.”

Malone did note just how few people gave them a chance to get past the Clippers, how predestined it seemed to have the Lakers and Clippers featured in an all-L.A. Western Conference showdown.

“So proud. All the guys, never got down, believed in each other. Believed in themselves,” Malone said, according to ESPN. “In light of all the noise outside this series that we had no chance. We have people guaranteeing it. We found a way to beat a really good team three times. I’ve run out of things to say.”

Is Bayless Setting up LeBron James?

And perhaps of all this is just a portion of a diabolical plot on Bayless’ part. Because the Nuggets are not seen as quite the threat to the Lakers that the Clippers would have been, and because the Top 2 seeds in the East—the Bucks and Raptors—have also been eliminated, Bayless has portrayed the Lakers’ path from here as a rolled-out red carpet.

He did that even before the Clippers were finished off. On Monday, before the Clippers-Nuggets Game 7, Bayless also tweeted that James had an easy path to a title, declaring it a “cakewalk” because the Clippers were not playing well.

CONGRATS, LEBRON: Looks like you just won your 4th championship. The Nuggets have now seized control of this series. Playing harder, making EVERY SHOT. So now, Bron, you get to beat the Nuggets and the Heat-Celts winner. CAKEWALK.

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) September 13, 2020

That denigrates anything the Lakers do from here, setting up future wins as just a confirmation of what they should have done all along. By Bayless’s logic, they are not going to win, necessarily, because they are a great team or James is a great player—they’re going to win because every other good team lost.

The Lakers already have been handed the trophy, so there is nowhere to go but down. If the Lakers should stumble, be sure to make note how quickly Bayless and others pounce on them.

READ NEXT: Fans Stunned by Look Inside LeBron James’ Bubble Hotel Room

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Lakers dominate Nuggets in NBA Western finals opener

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Second woman on Supreme Court had been nations leading litigator for womens rights Walmart is Adding More of This Popular Grocery Item to 2,000 Locations Lakers dominate Nuggets in NBA Western finals opener

Anthony Davis scored 37 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the Denver Nuggets 126-114 on Friday in game one of the NBA Western Conference finals.

© Mike Ehrmann Los Angeles forward Anthony Davis drives past Denver's Nikola Jokic in the Lakers' 126-114 victory over the Nuggets in game one of the NBA Western Conference finals

LeBron James added 15 points with 12 assists and six rebounds for the Lakers, who shot out of the gate after dropping their opener in each of the previous two playoff series in the NBA's coronavirus quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

After a close first quarter ended with the Nuggets up by two, the Lakers seized control in the second quarter, out-scoring Denver 34-21 to take a 70-59 lead into halftime.

Well aware that the Nuggets used some big second-half comebacks to oust the Los Angeles Clippers in the previous round, the Lakers made sure they left no opening.

Denver trimmed the deficit to nine points midway through the third quarter.

But their efforts were hampered with star Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap all in early foul trouble, and that was the closest they would get in the second half.

Jokic and Murray both scored 21 points to pace the Nuggets. Michael Porter added 14 off the bench.

"We haven't done anything special," Davis said. "We basically took care of home court. We have three more to go."

The best-of-seven series continues with game two on Sunday.

bb/qan

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