Los Angeles is now one game away from their first Western Conference Finals appearance.

The Los Angeles Clippers never trailed in their Game 4 victory over the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night, and are now 48 minutes from their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals.

Game Summary

First Half

The Clippers came out with uncharacteristic energy in the first half of their much anticipated Game 4 match-up with the Nuggets. The Clips defense allowed the Nuggets just 12 points in the first quarter – the second-fewest amount of points allowed in a quarter in a postseason game in franchise history.  

Behind their defensive effort, Los Angeles jumped out to a 14-point lead after one quarter (26-12), with Kawhi Leonard leading the way with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Ivica Zubac added 6 points and 3 rebounds. Zubac had a noticeably different energy about him this outing, and matched Nikola Jokić’s minutes effectively, avoiding the fouls that plagued him in game 3.  He had just one foul in the half.

Denver’s Jamal Murray continued the struggles he exhibited in Game 3. He appeared disengaged on offense, and was obviously bothered by the Clippers’ s half-court defense and the bevy of perimeter defenders being thrown at him.  Jokić also struggled. He was considerably more muted than usual, and had difficulty with the Clippers’ double-teams, faster close-outs and better handling of the pick and roll. Murray and Jokić combined for only 16 points in the half.  

Michael Porter Jr. was actually the best player (offensively) on the court for Denver in the half, contributing 15 points in 16 minutes. If Porter Jr. stays healthy and improves defensively, he is going to be a star in this league. He is very talented and has a beautiful stroke.

At the half, the Clippers led the Nuggets by 8, with Leonard leading all scorers with 17 points.

Second Half

The second half started off bumpy, but was successfully weathered by Los Angeles. Denver came out with heightened aggression, and it took a few minutes for the Clippers to adjust. Within those few minutes however, Paul George – who only played 14 minutes in the first half -quickly picked up a fourth foul, and the Clippers as a team raked up six fouls, placing Denver in the bonus early.  

Denver’s early third quarter push was successful in cutting the Clippers’ lead to two. But Kawhi was not having it. The Klaw put the team on his back, sinking a 3-pointer then, on a subsequent possession, snatching a steal and dishing it to Lou Williams for a two-hand dunk.  

That was enough to stop the Nuggets’ mini-run. 

The Clippers proceeded to turn up the heat, with excellent back to back defensive sequences.  The lead was pushed back out to 15. Denver was successful in trimming the lead to 10 as the game entered the final frame, but it never felt like they had a chance in this one. The Nuggets two stars were befuddled and Porter Jr.’s first half success did not extend into the final two frames (the Clippers held him to 0 points in the second half).

The fourth quarter had some flow issues with a number of foul calls and official reviews that stopped play (and yes, in case you are wondering, Patrick Beverley was in the middle of some of these stoppages).  The Nuggets seemed more irritated and bothered by the stop-and-go than the Clippers, who continued with their clamp down defense and quick paced offense.  By mid-quarter, the Clippers had extended the lead to 19 and never looked back.

Final Score: 96-84

Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 30 points on 10 for 22 shooting. He was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line, and also had 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. Five other Clippers scored double figures: Montrezl Harrell (15), Lou Williams (12), Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac (11 each) and Paul George (10 – including some key buckets down the stretch).

Jokić was best for the Nuggets, finishing the game with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 block.

Notes

Did you really think Kawhi Would Have Two Off Games in a Row?

No?  Neither did I.  Kawhi was simply spectacular in this outing, completely unshaken by his mediocre performance in Game 3.  He was aggressive getting to his sweet spots, effective at getting to the rim, found open corner shooters and was engaged on defense.

With his 30-point showing, Kawhi logged his sixth game this postseason with at least 30 points scored which is the second-most such games in a single postseason in franchise history. Leonard also tied his postseason career-high with 9 assists and became the first player in franchise history to have at least 30 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists in a postseason game. 

Game 4 was a defensive masterpiece. 

This was definitely a defensive-focused game. The Clippers made adjustments and played with an intensity for nearly all 48 minutes, with little let up.  Los Angeles held the Nuggets to 39.7 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 from long.  Everyone was locked in, even players not known for being great defenders.  A total team effort.

Points in the Paint – The Return of Montrezl

In Game 3, the Clippers controlled the transition game, and had an advantage on the foul line. In Game 4, they dominated the paint, outscoring the Nuggets 38-22.  Credit the improved energy of Zubac and – dare I say it – a “comeback game” from Montrezl Harrell?  Zu was solid, but Harrell brought the infectious energy for which he is notorious.  Harrell was very active in the paint, and had no issue going chest to chest with the larger Jokić. He was a problem for Denver.  

NEXT UP:

Game 5 is Friday, September 11, 2020 at 3:30 p.m.

28 Comments

  • Avatar Niels Pineda says:

    I definitely wouldn’t say Kawhi was mediocre in Game 3. He had 23/14/6 with some huge defensive stops.

  • Avatar Oodypkt says:

    Good recap. 🙂
    Watching Kawhi almost feels like…calmness?
    He always deliver when we need him to.
    This is just refreshingly different.

  • Avatar John Maclean says:

    The only thing psychologically worse than getting routed is the double rout. You get down by nearly 20 in the 1st half and climb back into it and then get beat up again in the second half. The Nuggets along with The Mavs probably represent the near future of the Western Conference but not this year. I expect them to fight like hell in game 5 but I don’t think Kawhi will let them survive. It’s so freaking weird to be a Clippers fan and feel a sense of control during the playoffs. PG picks up his fourth foul and I’m like “okay here we go again…” And then the implosion just didn’t happen. Great stuff.

  • Avatar Alan Ng says:

    Had PG not been in foul trouble, tye game would be more lopsided. Must be the Scott Foster effect. A win is a win and I’ll take it.

    Look for Denver to throw everything next game with the kitchen sink. Hope the clips come with even more fire.

    • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

      Big noise at Denver Stiffs about getting Porter more touches in both halves. Look out for MPjr.

      • Avatar michelle uzeta says:

        He can be dangerous offensively; with his length he can shoot over most with ease. He’s a little sloppy, over-confident (so sometimes uses bad judgment) and a liability on defense. So with his benefits to the Nuggs come some benefits to us.

        What did you think of his media comments post game?

        • Avatar chogokin says:

          He wasn’t wrong necessarily in that more guys need to touch the ball for them, but there’s such a thing as the proper forum (re: should’ve been the locker room) and the proper speaker (re: the message shouldn’t have been delivered by a rookie who makes as many boneheaded decisions as he does brilliant plays).

          Damian Lillard (lightly) called him out on Twitter over his comments too.

        • Avatar Jonathan Eng says:

          I think with Lillard replying to MPJ, it was more to scold him for not keeping that in the locker room and not staying in his swim lane.

        • Avatar dhpat says:

          Happy to see MPJ healthy and playing well, but if this is how he acts, I can see why the Clippers did not give him the benefit of the doubt and passing up on taking him the draft two years ago. Lou Williams was praising the Clippers rookies for actually listening to the veteran players. Good to have a mix of veterans and young players, who all share the common goal of improving the team — in a positive manner.

  • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

    I’m glad Doc made Noah active for this game. I’m OK with him getting no playing time if Zu/JaMychal didn’t get into foul trouble. But I’m glad Doc at least recognizes Noah’s presence could be helpful if needed.

    When they’re up by 20-30, playing Trez doesn’t hurt them. No problem.

    • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

      JMike had a bad game. I’d like to see 2Pat put up a few shots.

      • Avatar chogokin says:

        I’d be fine with PatPat getting some minutes when Trez is struggling, but putting him in there for JMG would be disastrous defensively.

        • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

          Disagree. 2Pat has some size, bulk and energy. He’s bound to be fresh as a daisy out there now. I’d give him a shot on D in the right situation since his shooting is worth a try.

  • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

    Doc did a great job with rotations today:
    -subbed Sham, JaMyke and Lou for Bev, Mook and PG, and then brought them back to play with Lou and Trez. Also good to see Zu getting continuous run even when Trez has a “good” game. And great observation on the ref fest getting to the Nuggets more so than us.

    • Avatar Thretch says:

      Regarding the “ref fest” not getting to the Clips: that’s on-court leadership. Another reason why we got Kawhi & Paul. Lou is a professional too. And those three calm the rest of the team.

    • Avatar michelle uzeta says:

      Yes – great comment. Doc should get a lot of credit for rotations AND for defensive adjustments. He gets all the criticizms in the losses, but if often overlooked in the wins. I’m team Doc 100% and those calling for his firing earlier in the playoffs should be embarrassed.

      • Avatar Jonathan Eng says:

        Well, in fairness to us, we were calling for Doc to get fired if we lost to the Mavs. There’s no mistaking that Carlisle thoroughly outcoached Doc. The only thing that won it for the Clippers was the talent discrepancy. We all saw Trez and Reggie Jackson being net negatives in the first round especially with Boban destroying Trez. I’m glad Doc learned from some of his rotation mistakes in the first round.

        The only other thing I notice, and credit to Doc, is that the team is playing faster (probably a byproduct of the defense improving causing more transition opportunities). Kawhi isn’t just simply isolating and bullying to his spots like he did against the Mavs. They’re doing what I hoped they would do in terms of running more sets to have Kawhi move without the ball to receive it via hand-offs and also for him to get into his spots via pick and roll. When the Clips play faster, I think that is where Trez excels. Trez was much better on defense last night than he had been all playoffs. When the game bogs down into a half-court slug fest, Trez just does not know what to do.

        Reggie Jackson got a DNP last night and it took him a few games later than ideal for him to freeze him out of the rotation.

        • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

          “When the Clips play faster, I think that is where Trez excels”

          Sure seems that way. Seems to free him up and let’s him get into rhythm.

    • Avatar jbugs says:

      Rotations have been solid. That’s always been my biggest problem with Doc, so I’m really excited that he’s potentially improved in this regard.

    • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

      PG foul problems. Made me yell at the TV: “Stop fouling.”

    • Avatar chogokin says:

      Credit where credit is due. Doc’s rotations were great yesterday, his timeouts were timely (the TO called by Doc and subbing Zu back in at the end were good adjustments), and the Clips came out with defensive intensity right from the get go.

      I’m glad to see that he’s adjusting as the playoffs go on.

  • Avatar Thretch says:

    Kawhi breaking Clipper records for 30 pt games. Most playoff 3 pointers for the team. Lots of records can fall. But these are mostly based on … we’re almost at a record for MOST GAMES played in the playoffs. That’s the record I am waiting for. Then a hundred other records will fall.