Just a couple of days after their thrilling Game 7 win over the Utah Jazz, it looked like the Denver Nuggets had carried over that energy to Game 1 of their Conference Semifinals series with the LA Clippers.
Meeting for just the second time in = postseason history, the Nuggets and Clippers were all tied up at 36 after the first 15 minutes of this game. After that, the second-seeded LA franchise began to flex their muscles and Denver had no answer.
Kawhi Leonard dominated, the supporting cast played their roles, and despite three days off, the Clippers showed no rust in this Game 1 victory.
That said, here are the biggest takeaways from this game:
Kawhi's ridiculous efficiency
The Klaw was, by far, the best player on the court in this game. In just 32 minutes through three quarters, he put up 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field. Here's a look at shot chart:
While a majority of his points came off easy-looking jump shots, Leonard almost always has one play each game that makes you go 'how did he?'.
Hard 2️⃣ guard@NBAonTNT | @kawhileonard pic.twitter.com/H0dYyRUw22- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 4, 2020
He also recorded three assists, two rebounds, two steals, and a block. It's his 15th straight playoff game of scoring 20 or more.
Clippers' 2nd quarter run
Over the final 8:30 minutes of the second quarter, the Clippers opened the game up with a 33-15 run. They went from being tied up at 36 to carrying an 18-point lead to the locker room at halftime.
Leonard and Paul George had combined for 16 of the 33 points, and moreover during this run, LA shot 12-of-17 from the field while holding Denver to just 3-of-12.
Go up and get it, big fella.@TeamLou23 | @ivicazubac pic.twitter.com/cfpPmcg6kw- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 4, 2020
They never let go of this advantage, instead built on it in the third quarter, during which they led by as many as 29 points.
Plenty of other positives for Clippers
For the Nuggets, this was a game to forget. Plenty to learn from this one but fatigue could have played a major role.
They had five players finish in double figures - Jermai Grant (12), Paul Millsap (13), Nikola Jokic (15), Jamal Murray (12), and Monte Morris (12) - but they never really had an answer to the Clippers' second-quarter run.
On the other hand, for LA, the big win brought plenty of positives.
Patrick Beverley returned, after missing five straight and ten of the team's last 11 games, to finish with eight points, six rebounds, and two assists in just 12 minutes. Montrezl Harrell was able to continue working on his rhythm with minutes on the floor, having only re-joined the team at the start of the postseason. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds, and two assists in 19 minutes.
.@MONSTATREZZ met 'em at the peak of his leap. pic.twitter.com/bSI7LjbxzB- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 4, 2020
Marcus Morris Sr. continued to have the hot hand for the Clippers. He is now averaging 13.6 points per game with shooting splits of 56.3/58.1/100. Paul George did a little bit of everything with 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
The Clippers will look to extend their series advantage to 2-0 while the Nuggets will look to regroup and even things up. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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