The Denver Nuggets have played well with their backs against the wall this postseason, and today’s game was one of those situations. Down 3-2 in the conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers, they had no choice but to go for broke.
They opened up with a 6-0 lead, but the Clippers were the ones to take a 34-26 lead into the second quarter.
The Nuggets fought to keep it close for most of the second quarter, but the Clippers were able to use defense and unselfish execution helped them extend the lead to double digits. They led 63-47 going into halftime – the same margin they were up before losing to the Nuggets in Game 5.
Paul George led the Clippers in scoring during the first half with 17 points, and Kawhi Leonard had his fingerprints all over the game with 14 points, five reboundsm four assists, and two steals.
Nikola Jokic had a good first half as well, with 15 points, seven rebound, and three assists. Jamal Murray had 10 at the break.
A collision between George and Murray with 10:08 left in the third was a big cause for worry for Denver, as Murray was left writhing in pain on the floor unable to get up, forcing a timeout from Denver coach Mike Malone.
Murray made it back on the court after the timeout but looked pained. He gathered himself in the later stages of the third quarter, though, and helped cut the huge Clippers lead down to 73-68. He led a 15-0 run that forced Doc Rivers to call a timeout.
The Nuggets got it even closer to 73-72, but couldn’t take the lead after multiple chances. The scores was 79-77 for the Clippers heading into the fourth.
Denver opened up with the first five points of the fourth quarter to take a 82-79 lead, their first since an 8-7 advantage in the first quarter.
The Nuggets made it 99-89 with 4:47 left in the game. They pushed the lead further to 106-93 with 2:26 left in the game.
It’s all or nothing next. Now the Clippers will be the ones feeling pressure heading into the deciding contest. After who big comebacks, the Nuggets will have absolutely no fear.
Nikola Jokic was the star on the floor with 34 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Jamal Murray shook off his third quarter injury and contributed mightily too with 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
The Clippers will be shellshocked, especially after getting a combined 58 points from Leonard and George.