The LA Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets 120-97 in game one.
For the first time in seventeen days, the LA Clippers finally got their full rotation back with the addition of Patrick Beverley back into the lineup, and they convincingly stomped out a tired Denver Nuggets team in a 23-point victory. It was the perfect storm of events for a Clippers team wanting to send a strong message in their continuous journey to make it past the 2nd Round for the first time.
Three easy keys to this game were the performances of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Marcus Morris Sr. The three of them combined for 66 of the total 120 points that the team scored, but Kawhi came out on top with a stat line of 29 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds. Morris Sr. was unstoppable from beyond the arc, and he made 4 out of 5 attempts for an 80.0% on his three pointers.
George struggled to start, but eventually, he found his shots and ended up shooting 46.2% in the field goals department. The best part of all three of their performances, however, was their combined total of 6 steals in order to help keep multiple comfortable leads.
The reliable duo of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams also made a big difference off the bench last night. Harrell finished with 15 points off of a 45.5 FG%, and Williams contributed with 10 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds. During the minutes that either Leonard or George needed breaks, the two kept the offense and defense moving well.
Harrell came out as the biggest surprise, and he finished the night with better stats than his counterpart in Ivica Zubac in 5 less minutes on the floor. Still, the third player of the original dynamic trio in Patrick Beverley deserves some credit for his big early three pointers as well, despite being a starter.
The biggest problem that the Clippers had to face was Nikola Jokić, but they kept him to only 15 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds. Even coming off a scorching series, Jamal Murray was also held back with only 12 points, 3 assists, and 1 rebound. The Nuggets kept the game close through the first quarter and a half, but come the end of the second quarter, the game was held the rest of the way by the Clippers. The turnovers from both teams were relatively equal at 14 and 15, but the shooting from LA is a solid reminder as to how this game was won.
As a team, LA shot 57.1% in field goals, 41.7% in three pointers, and 82.4% in free throws. In those categories, Denver went 42.2%, 25.0%, and 66.7%.
The biggest difference between this Game 1 and the previous one was simply that the Clippers didn’t have to come out against a historic offense, and they got to control the game at their pace without miracle three pointers burying them. Jokic and Murray will definitely warm up now that both of the teams will have equal rest before Game 2, but if they can be held, the Clippers are looking towards a very bright future.
Only five of Denver’s players scored more than 10 points, and none of them scored more than 20, so the combined great defense from LA along with some cold shooting from the Nuggets proved to make this game an easy affair for the Clippers.
In closing, the LA Clippers handled their business in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals with a 120-97 win that attempted to send a strong image of the future to Denver. The Clippers look to have found their stride, and thanks to starting players like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley, and Marcus Morris, most of the game was dominated by LA’s offense.
Bench players like Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams kept the game in check during the break minutes for the starters, and that was the key difference between last round’s losses and this first victory in Round 2. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at 6:00 PM PDT, and hopefully, we get to watch more of the same as last night.