After a Game 1 blowout, the Denver Nuggets clearly had a lot to work on. A full-strength Los Angeles Clippers team had worked them over and Kawhi Leonard looked unstoppable, and it was unclear how much the loss was attributable to fatigue from their seven-game first round.
It’s safe to say Game 2 was a good start.
Behind resurgent performances from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the Nuggets ambushed the Clippers first quarter and never trailed, eventually winning 110-101 in a game they entered as a 9.5-point underdog.
Nuggets looked like a new team
It didn’t take long for the Nuggets to get started. The team jumped out to a 14-2 lead to open the game, and finished the first quarter up 44-25.
By the end of the first half, Jokic had a 24-point double-double and Murray had 20 points. Jokic ended up with 26 points, 18 rebounds and four assists, including the best of the game.
NBD just gonna one hand this rebound then launch it down court 😱pic.twitter.com/lJsDiRillD— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 6, 2020
On the defensive end, the Nuggets did everything they could get to force Leonard off his spots. Frequently swarmed as he approached the paint, Leonard posted only 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting, the first time he failed to post more than 28 points this playoffs. The Nuggets’ defensive efforts in the paint were impressive across the board, holding the Clippers to 24-of-50 shooting in the paint.
The whole thing was night and day from Game 1, and Murray admitted after the game the team was simply exhausted that night.
“Yeah, we were tired. We came out sloppy, fatigued,” Murray said after the game. “Tonight, we just upped the energy and that’s all it took for us to win.”
Exacerbating the Clippers’ problems was a cold shooting night for pretty much ever Clipper not named Paul George (4-of-10 from deep), with the rest of the Clippers shooting 5-of-22 on 3-pointers.
Despite all those problems, the Clippers managed to make a little noise in the fourth quarter, cutting the Nuggets’ lead to just five with several minutes to play. Another Nuggets run nullified that threat though, and the series was soon evened hours after whispers of a potential sweep.
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