It wouldn’t be a matchup between the Clippers and Denver Nuggets with no comfy, double-digit lead slowly evaporating right into a back-and-forth battle within the ultimate quarter.
Not like their collapse to the Nuggets within the second spherical of final season’s playoffs, it was the Clippers who staged the rally this time.
Down as many as 18 factors within the third quarter at Staples Heart, the Clippers methodically labored their method into solely a one-point deficit halfway by means of the fourth quarter behind an 11-0 run over three minutes.
Los Angeles scored solely 9 factors over the ultimate six minutes and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray offered two daggers, sinking a three-pointer for an eight-point lead with two minutes to play, and a jumper with one minute left to go up 10, on the best way to a 101-94 win that was Denver’s fourth in a row.
It wasn’t how the Clippers completed that irked coach Tyronn Lue, although. The group had executed like he wished, simply missed photographs. His ire was raised that the second-half battle had been lacking throughout the first.
“I didn’t like how we began the sport,” Lue mentioned. “I believed defensively we had our guards down, they obtained every little thing in transition, they obtained open threes, they obtained layups, they obtained cuts, issues that we talked about.”
The Clippers assisted on 17 of their 35 discipline objectives, whereas Denver racked up 28 on their 39.
“In case you maintain this group to 101 factors, it is best to undoubtedly win the sport,” Lue mentioned.
Murray scored 23 factors and Nikola Jokic, a favourite to win Most worthy participant, had 14 factors, seven rebounds and 7 assists. Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 24.
The Clippers, who misplaced their second straight, may have clinched the season tiebreaker with the Nuggets with the victory. As a substitute, that shall be determined when these groups meet for a 3rd and ultimate time Could 1.
5 takeaways from the showdown of Western Convention contenders:
Zubac’s good minutes
Ivica Zubac’s eight factors and 4 rebounds, after two early fouls, didn’t mirror the affect he exerted defensively at occasions. Within the fourth quarter, he recorded a block, an offensive rebound, a basket after which capably guarded the tiny Nuggets guard Facu Campazzo too.
“I believed Zu performed nice,” Lue mentioned. “He known as our coverages out, he did a great job on [Jokic] attempting to be bodily. I believed he even did a great job switching up on Murray a pair occasions. Zu’s been enjoying nicely. … What he’s introduced us in that beginning lineup has been nice.”
Ought to the Clippers ultimately signal free-agent heart DeMarcus Cousins, because the group has thought-about, any deal received’t be attainable for a number of extra days as a result of Cousins must clear the NBA’s testing protocols. Within the interim, and with beginning heart Serge Ibaka nonetheless sidelined by a again damage, which means fewer massive our bodies accessible to crash the glass.
Giving up three offensive boards and 7 second-chance factors within the third quarter undercut an in any other case stalwart defensive effort in permitting Denver solely 19 factors, however total it wasn’t offensive rebounds that did within the Clippers. They gave up solely seven.
Similar man, new group
The Clippers had success defending Aaron Gordon in January, holding him to four-of-13 capturing — and that plan was basically nugatory whereas getting ready to see him Thursday. A commerce from Orlando to Denver modified Gordon’s offensive position from the second possibility, at worst, with the Magic to usually the third possibility, at finest, with Denver. That’s meant fewer isolations and three-pointers and extra cuts across the basket — one thing that damage the Clippers all evening.
Gordon made 5 of seven photographs within the paint and slipped towards the rim each time a defender turned his again. That manufacturing was essential for Denver (30-18), as a result of Gordon made solely one in every of his six photographs outdoors the paint on his strategy to 14 factors.
The Clippers (32-18) obtained a dose of excellent information earlier than tipoff when ahead Marcus Morris and Paul George have been cleared to play. Morris wasn’t a lot of a risk, with eight factors and likewise a technical foul late within the first half.
George began slowly offensively earlier than ending with 17 factors.
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Instances.