It solely took a couple of performs for Denver coach Michael Malone to love what he was seeing Saturday evening. The Nuggets had been bodily on each ends, getting no matter they needed offensively and setting a tone defensively.
“We had been a noticeably totally different workforce,” Malone mentioned.
It led to a noticeably totally different consequence, too.
Blown out in Sport 1, the Nuggets led wire-to-wire in Sport 2 of their Western Convention semifinal sequence with the Los Angeles Clippers. Jamal Murray scored 27 factors, Nikola Jokic had 26 factors and 18 rebounds and the Nuggets prevailed 110-101 to knot the sequence at a recreation apiece.
Gary Harris and Paul Millsap every added 13 factors for Denver, which misplaced by 23 within the sequence opener.
“We had been drained,” Murray mentioned in regards to the Sport 1 efficiency. “We got here out sloppy, we got here out exhausted, we did not make photographs and it confirmed.”
That wasn’t the case Saturday. Murray and Jokic had been a mixed 20 for 38 from the ground, 7 for 13 from 3-point vary.
Paul George scored 22 factors for the Clippers, who acquired 15 from Ivica Zubac and endured a uncommon off evening offensively from Kawhi Leonard. The 2-time NBA Finals MVP had 13 factors, 10 rebounds and eight assists, however shot solely four for 17.
Leonard had scored no less than 20 factors in 27 of his final 28 playoff video games — and had no less than 29 in all seven playoff video games this season.
“We dug ourselves in a 20-point gap early,” Leonard mentioned. “We will not try this … however give the Nuggets credit score. They got here in very aggressive tonight on each ends, they performed effectively they usually received the sport.”
Leonard’s lowest-scoring playoff recreation since 2016
It was Leonard’s lowest-scoring playoff recreation since he had 13 for San Antonio on April 19, 2016. in opposition to Memphis, 52 post-season appearances in the past.
“A number of simple ones did not fall early, and that was it from there,” Leonard mentioned.
The Clippers trailed by 23 and acquired as shut as 5 within the fourth quarter, however no nearer. Murray and Harris made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions down the stretch to assist maintain the Nuggets on high, and Patrick Beverley getting ejected with a pair of technicals with 1:04 left helped seal issues.
Murray made two free throws for the technicals, Grant added one other for a private that was known as and the lead was 11. George dribbled the ball off his knee on the subsequent Clippers’ possession and the end result was tutorial from there.
“Truthfully, I assumed they only performed extra aggressive,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers mentioned. “They acquired into us the complete recreation.”
Nuggets set the tone early
Denver set the tone from the outset, beginning off on a 14-2 run and ultimately going up 44-23 earlier than the primary quarter was even full. Jokic and Murray outscored the Clippers by themselves within the opening 12 minutes, 26-25.
“They did an excellent job of simply swarming us,” George mentioned. “And we have got to be higher.”
It was 72-56 on the half, the Clippers’ third-largest intermission deficit of the season.
The Clippers’ finest run ultimately got here within the fourth, with George occurring a private 7-Zero spurt to get the Clippers inside 91-86 — the smallest lead for the Nuggets because it was 7-2.
Denver instantly responded with the 10-Zero run, pushing the lead again out to 15 on a pair of free throws by Jerami Grant with 5:22 left.
“Our group believes in themselves,” Malone mentioned. “We have proven that we’re a really resilient group that may execute and discover methods to win in shut video games down the stretch. It is nice to have the ability to tie this sequence up and have that life and perception going into the subsequent recreation.”