The Nuggets have done it! After being down 3-1 once more, the Nuggets have come back again. The Nuggets took advantage of the Clippers lack of consistency, as they won three straight games and rolled past LA. Let's take a look at this series and see what happened as the Nuggets beat the Clippers to head to the Western Conference Finals.
The Clippers Switch/ Lack Of Any Consistency
The Clippers clearly had no consistency in the playoffs. Against the Mavericks, they lost two games in which star player Paul George scored only 23 points combined. Then, the Clippers played the Nuggets and lost any sort of consistency they had before. The Clippers won the first game easily, lost the second, and won games 3 and 4. Game 5 in hindsight became a very important game. If the Clippers win, they avoid any chances of the Nuggets coming back and winning the series. Why did they lose this game? I put the blame on Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Harrell, who had just won Sixth Man of the Year, and the man who has won it three times before can only score 10 points combined. Then, the Nuggets win two more games and close out the series. So when Kawhi and Paul George put up good numbers, there was nobody one to back them up. When the bench shot well, the two stars struggled. There was no consistency and clearly that proved to be a fatal blow to the Clippers.
The Nuggets offensive maturity.
The Nuggets offense has improved in so many ways. When we looked at the Nuggets going into this year, it was clear they had a chance to go far. The question would be if certain players could step up and improve. This year many things went the way they needed to. For example, we never really thought of Jamal Murray as someone who could score 50 a night and lead a team in tough times. However, that was proven wrong in the playoffs when he was called upon to lead this team. Jokic played even better this year and continued to show his growth as a player. Paul Millsap, who is in one of the last years of his career, showed his value to the team in crunch time throughout the series. Lastly, Michael Porter Jr, who didn't play at all in 2018, has come up big this year, despite only playing 16 minutes a game. This team and offense has matured a great deal since their dreadful performance in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals last year.
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Game by game look at this series, just in case you missed a game or two.
Game 1: The Clippers won 120 to 97 in what would be the biggest margin of victory for either team in this series. The Clippers offense performed well in a victory in which 5 players scored in double figures. For the Nuggets, no one seemed to know what to do and no one scored more than 15 points.
Game 2: This game was a bounce back game for the Nuggets as Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic lead the way in a 110 to 101 win. The Clippers consistency problems showed up here as they lost by nine in a disappointing effort from Kawhi.
Game 3: Game 3 was a back and forth game that came down to a clutch fourth quarter from the Clippers to take a 2-1 series lead. Paul George led the way with 32. Kawhi had a down night, but was able to contribute 23 points and he grabbed 14 boards. The Nuggets played hard, but came up short late when it mattered the most.
Game 4: This was just a well played game from the Clippers in a 96 to 85 win. The Clippers held the Nuggets to 85 points as they cruised to a game 4 victory to take a commanding series lead.
Game 5: Like I said, this was a must win game that the Clippers just barely lost. The Nuggets were holding on for dear life as Jamal Murray played like the leader he has wanted to be. The Clippers bench was definitely to blame for this one as they couldn't seem to find a rhythm.
Game 6: The Clippers came out firing but went out with their heads down. The Nuggets were down by 16 at the half, but still found a way to battle back. Jokic came up huge down the stretch for the Nuggets, scoring 34 points in a well-deserved comeback win.
Game 7: It all comes down to this, Game 7. Could the Clippers finally win and close out the series? Or was it all mounting up to this comeback for the Nuggets? The first half was tight with the Clips up by 2 in a very tense game. However, the Nuggets came out into the second half with a strong desire to win. Jamal Murray scored 40 and the Nuggets prevailed in a huge win to close their second straight 3-1 comeback in the playoffs.
I have one piece of advice for the Denver Nuggets going into the Conference Finals: don't go down 3-1 again. It's much easier to just win the first couple games and close out the series.