The LA Clippers look to bounce back in game three after losing in game two.
Losing 110-101 to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, it felt as if nothing went the LA Clippers’ way in Game 2. Kawhi Leonard showed he was human, after all, going 4-17 in Game 2 and not scoring a single point in the second half.
Give credit where credit is due. The Denver Nuggets have been the aggressors so far in the first quarter of both games.
The Clippers killed themselves in Game 2 by their lack of execution offensively, stagnant ball-movement, and careless turnovers that should not happen.
With Game 2 in the rear-view mirror let’s look at the keys to tonight’s Game 3 against the Nuggets and how the Clippers can win this game from the jump.
1. Match Denver’s intensity immediately
In Game 1, Denver played with the momentum stemming from their Game 7 win against the Utah Jazz. Though leads evaporate quickly, the Nuggets held a 6 point lead for much of the first quarter before the Clippers started moving the ball. The Clippers and Nuggets would be tied 31 all after the first quarter.
In Game 2, Denver held a double-digit and shot over 70% from the field. The Clippers looked deflated after Denver’s fast start as the Nuggets scored 44 points and lead the Clippers, 44-25 after the 1st Quarter.
Game 3 can be the game where the Clippers set the tone early on. When the Clippers play with intensity, they are a tough bunch to beat.
Gary Harris has started out the first two games by scoring the first points of the game, which lead to early Denver runs.
Even if the Clippers were to score the first points tonight, something so little could give an early boost and confidence to LA that helps them control the 1st Quarter.
The Clippers have won 6 out of 8 quarters in the first two games. The only quarters they haven’t won yet is the 1st Quarter. I believe that will change tonight.
2. Limit the Role Players
In Game 1, the Clippers did a great job limiting guys such as Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, and Michael Porter Jr. Yes, Denver did come off a grueling 7-game series but the closeouts by the Clippers were fantastic on those 3 players.
They combined to shoot (7-20) from the field, only 35% which helped the Clippers break the game wide-open by as much as 29 points.
In Game 2, those same players went for a combined (14-29) from the field, a 48% percent clip from those three, especially in the second-half was one of the deciding factors in the game.
Game 3, the Clippers need to make adjustments of taking out Denver’s role-players as they will play a major role in deciding how long this series will last.
We all know Jokic and Murray will get theirs but once the other guys start hitting, we can be in for a long night.
3. Play smart, fundamental basketball
The pure lack of IQ that the Clippers played within the first half killed their momentum and rhythm for the whole game. Having 12 turnovers in the first half is flat out unacceptable.
Most of the turnovers came when Denver doubled Kawhi Leonard as he struggled to read the defense with Jerami Grant and Gary Harris on him and Paul George all night.
Both players each finished with 4 turnovers apiece. The Clippers were getting great looks offensively all game long but sometimes it’s just not your night shooting.
Coach Doc Rivers said it best when he said, “Our offense comes from our defense”. The Clippers need to rotate better, switch better, and box-out in order for them to get easy buckets in transition.
Rivers also mentioned in a pregame speech to the team, “This series will be fun for you guys if you move the ball”. In Game 1, we saw that the ball was moving from left to right, giving guys such as Marcus Morris Sr. the opportunity to get wide-open looks.
In Game 2, the ball was not moving at all, especially in the 4th Quarter. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George each tried playing hero ball as they tried taking on Denver’s lengthy defenders, which resulted in Denver stealing it or blocking the shot attempt.
Looking back at the film, expect the guys to come out fired up, Kawhi looking like Kawhi and the ball moving around flawlessly.
If all those things happen, the Clippers can easily win and maybe even cover the spread that is a whopping 8.5 point favorite.