Denver Nuggets got a reality check as they lost to Los Angeles Clippers in the first game of their Western Conference Semifinals series. The Clippers handed the Nuggets a humiliating 120-97 loss in a one-sided encounter with Kawhi Leonard grabbing the headlines once again with a game-high 29 points. Despite their remarkable 4-3 comeback win in the first round against Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets failed to impress in another tough test against a robust Los Angeles team that boasts of a red-hot Kawhi Leonard on their roster. In the game, Denver Nuggets’ entire starting lineup combined to score just 57 points on 20-for-48 shooting.
Before the Nuggets met the Clippers, there were signs that the Denver Nuggets would struggle because they had to play seven games in the first round of the playoffs to get to where they are now.
For Denver Nuggets, the Game 1 loss might is just one bad day at the office, especially with more games remaining. However, the nature of the defeat in Game 1 should be a massive concern for the Nuggets if they want to advance to the next round and mount a serious NBA title challenge. It might be early days yet to make a fuss about the loss, but the Denver Nuggets’ chances of upsetting the Clippers are diminishing.
Ahead of the Game 2 clash with Los Angeles Clippers, we take a look at some of the talking points from the Denver Nuggets’ loss in Game 1.
Denver Nuggets’ defense struggles to keep Kawhi Leonard quiet
One of the significant reasons why Denver Nuggets suffered a humiliating loss in Game 1 against the Clippers was their defense’s inability to restrict Clippers’ star man Kawhi Leonard from impacting the game. Against the likes Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig, and Gary Harris, who is known for their solidity in the defensive department, Kawhi Leonard had an easy game. Kawhi finished the game with 29 points on 12-for-16 shooting from the field. He also recorded two rebounds and three assists against Denver Nuggets.
Kawhi also managed to shoot 75 percent from the field. Kawhi’s numbers from Game 1 means he has now averaged 32.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in seven playoff games with an encouraging 65.7 true shooting percentage.
Kawhi’s impressive stats from the game is also an indication of how terrible the Nuggets’ defense was on the day. It was clear that the Nuggets’ defense had no plan of restricting Kawhi on the court.
The Nuggets’ defense will have to show massive improvement against Kawhi in the next game to get back into the series and prove their doubters wrong or risk leaving the playoffs with more humiliating defeats.
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic fail to impress in the big game
Ahead of the encounter, all eyes were on Denver Nuggets pair Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic following their excellent performances in the first round triumph over Utah Jazz. However, it was a different case as both men struggled to replicate their perfect form from the first round, thanks to the vital defensive work of both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Jamal Murray was in red-hot form in the first round as he recorded at least 50 points in two games and averaged 31.6 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game against Utah Jazz. He also registered 53.3% for shooting from behind the arc.
Against the Clippers, Murray managed to score just 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting, three rebounds, and six assists while shooting 2-of-8 from 3-point range. He also missed 10 of his 15 field-goal attempts. Murray also finished the game with two turnovers on 5/15 from the field and 2/8 from three.
Jokic also had a night to forget as he scored just 15 points with a 42% shooting percentage, three rebounds, and three assists. He was completely anonymous for the first two-quarters of the game as the Clippers’ defense exploited his weaknesses.
There is no denying that the Nuggets wouldn’t be here without both Murray and Jokic. If the Nuggets want to go all the way to the end of the playoffs, both men will need to get back to the best.
Denver Nuggets looked tired
After a grueling 7-game series against Utah Jazz, Nuggets had a few days to prepare for the Clippers game. On the court, it was evident that the Nuggets looked tired and worn out. Despite starting the game with high intensity, the energy levels of the Nuggets’ players began to drop by the end of the second quarter. It is understandable for them to get tired in this game. However, fatigue wouldn’t be a viable excuse for the Nuggets if they fail to win Game 2.