In the first quarter of the second game in the Western Conference Semi Finals the Nuggets put up 44 points against the Clippers. They looked amazing in that quarter and the 19 point lead they had after the first proved to be enough. The Clippers won each of the next three quarters, but ran of time, losing by nine points.
The start of this game didn’t see the Nuggets deliver the same kind of punch to the mouth they did in game one, but they still looked very good. If the first quarter of Game 2 was the Nuggets at a 10, the first quarter of tonight’s game was the Nuggets at a nine. The problem for the Nuggets was that the Clippers led after the first quarter 33-32.
The middle part of this game belonged to the Nuggets, specifically Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. Their lead grew to 12 points and while the Clippers stayed close it seemed all they were allowed to do was smell the lead, not actually take it. Then, the fourth quarter happened.
In his in-game interview, Coach Doc Rivers jokingly said, “The team that decides to play defense first is going to win.“. Two things, one, maybe he wasn’t kidding and two, do those in-game interviews bother anyone? I mean, they don’t really bother me but I see no value in them. There’s really no point to them. I would be very happy without them.
In the final quarter, the Clippers decided to play defense. Patrick Beverley was stripping the ball and reminding everyone he was a first team all Defensive team honoree. Kawhi Leonard was channeling Dennis Rodman, pulling down rebounds aggressively in traffic! In fact, Leonard was a key in the final quarter, but not in the way Clippers fans have come to expect. Kawhi Leonard is this teams closer, the guy who hits the big shots, who takes and makes the dagger shot.
In this game, Kawhi was rebounding, assisting and blocking shots with his middle freaking finger!
I’m not sure these Denver Nuggets can play any better, yet, they lost tonight. The Clippers are still waiting for Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to find their pre-bubble connection. In short, the team from LA can get better! Of course, Nuggets fans may call out that Jamal Murray, who was electric in the series against the Jazz, didn’t play well. But, when you look at his average against the Clippers, he played right about at his average, points-wise.
You can read details here, but before this series Murray averaged 16.6 points and shot only 32% from three and 38% overall against the Clippers. Tonight, he had 14 points while shooting 29% from three and 29% overall. Murray was amazing against the Jazz, but against the Clippers historically, tonight was about what you should expect from him.
Do the Nuggets have another gear? Can they continue to play this well? My best guess is no and maybe. But, even if they do continue to play like they did tonight, the chances of the Clippers advancing to their franchise first Western Conference Finals is looking pretty good.