LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Preview capsule for the Denver-Los Angeles Clippers Western Conference semifinal series that starts Thursday:
No. 2 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (49-23, 4-2) vs. No. 3 DENVER NUGGETS (46-27, 4-3)
Season series: Clippers, 2-1
Schedule: Game 1 is Thursday; series will continue every other day until someone wins four game.
Story line: The Clippers are in the second round for the first time since 2015 and are seeking their first-ever trip to the Western Conference finals. Denver needed seven games — and all 48 minutes of Game 7 — to oust Utah in the first round and seeks its first West finals trip since 2009.
Key matchup: Clippers G Patrick Beverley vs. Nuggets G Jamal Murray. All Murray did in the first round was become one of four players in NBA history with a pair of 50-point games in the same series. Beverley has been slowed by injury, but the Clippers expect him to be ready for Game 1 — and one of the league's premier defensive pests will surely waste no time introducing himself to Murray.
Injury watch: Denver is still without Will Barton (right knee), who would have been a key defender in this series as the Nuggets try to slow Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Numbers of note: It's only the second matchup all-time between the franchises in the post-season , with the Clippers winning an opening-round series 4-1 in 2006. ... Leonard (27.1 ppg) and George (21.5 ppg) both averaged more points this season than Denver's top scorer, Nikola Jokic (19.9 ppg). ... Murray's first round was brilliant; 221 points in 266 minutes, on 55% shooting from the field, 53% from 3-point range and 92% from the line — with only 14 turnovers.
Prediction: Clippers in 6.
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Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press