After their Game 7 heroics against the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets will now face the well-rested LA Clippers in the second round.
The Clippers have been off since Sunday following their series win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Will Denver carry their momentum into Game 1, or will the Clippers strike first?
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All times ET
- Game 1 - Thursday, Sept. 3, 9:00 p.m.
- Game 2 - Saturday, Sept. 5, 9:00 p.m.
- Game 3 - Monday, Sept. 7, 9:00 p.m.
- Game 4 - Wednesday, Sept. 9, 9:00 p.m.
- Game 5 (if necessary) - Friday, Sept. 11 (TBD)
- Game 6 (if necessary) - Sunday, Sept. 13 (TBD)
- Game 7 (if necessary) - Tuesday, Sept. 15 (TBD)
Result: Clippers won 2-1
Best game: Jan 13., 2020 - Nuggets 114, Clippers 104
Best performance: Nikola Jokic (Jan. 13, 2020) - 20 points (6-of-14 FG, 3-of-4 3PT), 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal
The first meeting of the season between these two teams came in January in Denver, with Nikola Jokic's 20 points and 15 rebounds, leading seven Nuggets in double figures in a 114-104 win.
With Paul George sidelined, Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 30 points, while the bench duo of Lou Williams (26) and Montrezl Harrell (25) combined for 51 points off the bench.
George was back for the second matchup of the season, scoring a game-high 24 points as the Clippers cruised to a blowout 132-103 win at STAPLES Center.
"We were soft tonight from beginning to end," Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said after the loss. "They didn't feel us on either end. They got whatever they wanted. We couldn't run offense because they took us out of our stuff, and we just allowed them to do it for 48 minutes. They're a good team, but I'm just very disappointed in our competitive spirit and our effort."
Their third and final meeting of the season came in the seeding games, with the Clippers winning 124-111, thanks to big games from Paul George (27 points), Kawhi Leonard (26 points), and Lou Williams (23 points, 7 assists).
An eight-point Nuggets lead at half-time evaporated as the Clippers went on a 20-5 run to take a 73-65 lead, going on to seal the win, with Denver's starters resting in the fourth.
Jerami Grant provided a punch off the bench with 25 points and acquitted himself well on the defensive end against Leonard and George, putting his length and athleticism to good use.
Key Storyline: Can the Nuggets' defence hold firm?
The Nuggets' reward for winning Game 7? A matchup against perhaps the most in-form player in the league - Kawhi Leonard.
Through six games against the Mavericks, Leonard was a one-man wrecking crew, averaging 32.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.3 steals per game, on 53.8% shooting!
.@kawhileonard's First Round:- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 1, 2020
▪️32.8 PPG | 10.2 RPG | 5.2 APG | 2.3 SPG
▪️ Five straight games with 30+ points, the longest streak of his playoff career.
📼 @budweiserusa Legendary Moment pic.twitter.com/ycLNxYktO1
Do they have an answer for Kawhi?
The Nuggets have been one of the worst defensive teams in the playoffs, giving up 120.3 points per 100 possessions, however, they showed plenty of fight in Game 7 against the Jazz, grinding out an 80-78 win, with some inspired defence.
Playing just his second game in the bubble after being sidelined with a hip strain, Gary Harris gave the Nuggets' defence a huge boost in Game 7, coming up with multiple big plays down the stretch.
"We don't win this game without Gary," coach Michael Malone said post-game.
"The reason I have such an affinity for Gary Harris is because I feel he's one of the better two-way players in the NBA," he added.
Harris along with Jerami Grant, and Torrey Craig will likely be tasked with slowing down Leonard, but they'll have their hands full given the Clippers' depth of offensive talent on the perimeter.
Three Players to Watch
The Clippers advanced in six games with Kawhi Leonard leading the way on offence, averaging. 32.8 points, while George averaged just 18.5 points.
George did, however, find his shooting touch in Game 5, scoring 35 points. If the Clippers' star tandem are both firing on offence, they will be tough to beat.
Paul George is the first player to score 35+ points in 25 minutes or fewer in NBA playoff history since 1975. pic.twitter.com/5fk6RmQE7i- StatMuse (@statmuse) August 26, 2020
The Nuggets centre presents a huge threat for the Clippers, presenting a mismatch in the paint. His combination of size, playmaking, and shooting has the potential to cause some headaches for the likes of Ivica Zubac, especially coming off a 30-point, 14-rebound performance in Game 7.
Joker lifts Denver in Game 7! 🃏- NBA (@NBA) September 2, 2020
Nikola Jokic's 30 PTS, 14 REB propels the @nuggets past Utah in Game 7 and into the West semis! #NBAPlayoffs
DEN/LAC Game 1: Thurs. (9/3) - 9pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/bqZUrhTTRm
Murray has been one of the breakout stars of the playoffs so far, averaging 31.6 points per game against the Jazz. He's proven he can score at an elite level, but can he carry his scoring momentum into the second round?
Patrick Beverley (calf) is nearing his return to the court in what will be a must-watch matchup at point guard.
Picks and Predictions
Benyam Kidane: Clippers in six
Gilbert McGregor: Clippers in six
Scott Rafferty: Clippers in five
Carlan Gay: Clippers in five
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