Welp, there it is—my streak of bounce back wins continues, as the Clippers came from behind in game 3 to beat the Nuggets!  In a game that had 12 lead changes, way too many Michael Porter Jr. putbacks, and even a Kawhi Leonard middle finger block for all the haters, the Clippers pulled out a gritty 113-107 win against the Denver Nuggets to secure a 2-1 series lead.

Game Recap:

For a team that needed to come out strong after a loss, the Clippers absolutely did that… only the Nuggets had the same plan.  Both teams came out on fire offensively shooting ~70% for the first 6 minutes of the game. Paul George led the way for the Clippers (which was a recurring theme for the game), and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Jokic looked phenomenal for the Nuggets (again, another recurring theme for the game).  As pretty much everyone has mentioned at this point, Jokic is just a monster and a difficult person to stop.  He baited Zubac into 2 (rather soft) fouls, which led to an early call for JaMychal Green.  Green has generally been great for the team, but again, trying to stop someone who can score and assist from everywhere on the court is a tough task.  Green picked up 2 quick fouls as well which forced Doc to bring out Trez, who we will talk about soon.

The first quarter was quite the back and forth between two strong offensive teams, with the Clippers gaining the slight edge with a 1 point lead going into the 2nd quarter.  When asked about the game plan, Doc conceded that it was really just a firefight and that “neither team was really listening to their coaches.” 

The 2nd quarter started out with some questionable effort to say the least.  The Clippers bench was simply getting outplayed, out hustled, and outscored.  I have had a lot of strong criticisms on Montrezl Harrell, and unfortunately, he did nothing to change my opinion here.  I want to call out a very specific play that occurred.  Murray gets himself free when Plumlee gives a solid screen against Lou, Trez drops instead of contesting, and he gives Murray a wide open mid range jumper.  Murray proceeds to miss the jumper, but Trez, who is the Clippers center and in the position to rebound (given that he didn’t contest the shot) watches as Murray attempts to put back his own miss, with MPJ then following it up with one of his 8 points off of put backs.  The reason I pick out this play is because it leads to a very simple question I find myself asking: what is Trez doing well?  We know he isn’t good defensively.  We know he can’t score outside the key.  We know he can’t make free throws at an efficient rate.  If he’s not bringing any energy, then it is really difficult to justify his minutes.  At this point, it’s not Trez getting back into game shape or a lack of looks (the Clippers constantly feed him in the post), he’s just not really versatile enough in the playoffs.  

Anyways, the quarter continued to be ugly for the most part.  The Clippers struggled with effort and attentiveness, leading to the Nuggets getting easy points off of 2nd chance opportunities and defenders missing rotations.  Luckily for the Clippers (and the eyes of their fans), the Clippers picked it up and finished the quarter strong.  A string of defensive stops, big rebounds, and big buckets from Paul George propelled them to a 12-2 run to cut down the Nuggets’ lead to only 2.  The Clippers were truly carried by Paul George and Kawhi, who combined for 31 points at the half.

The third quarter appeared to be better as the Clippers started out strong, but the same issues that plagued them in the 2nd quarter continued in the 3rd.  The Clippers were missing covers, falling asleep on defense, and leaving the Nuggets far too open from 3.  Jokic had a string of 3 quick 3 pointers and the Nuggets raised their lead to double digits again.  Before people crucify Zubac’s defense he, we should instead acknowledge that it’s a problem with the strategy rather than the player.  Zubac is dropping on screens and nobody is helping on Jokic when he pops.  It’s a losing strategy that luckily changed in the 4th, where the Clippers had much more inspired play.

When we talk about inspired play, I think many of us could guess exactly who brought it: Patrick Beverly.  He started the quarter with 2 big steals which led to a 4 quick points.  Unfortunately, the Clippers the started to slump a bit on offense and Denver regained control with a 7 point lead.  Doc called a timeout, and the Clippers simply changed to another gear.  Outside of Zubac picking up a silly 6th foul, the Clippers looked incredible to close the game.  Defensively, they were suffocating and extremely active. George and Leonard’s defensive prowess really started to show as they were relentlessly hounding Jamal Murray, who couldn’t come up with his late game heroics that killed the Jazz.  Leonard also came up with big boards to ensure that second chance points couldn’t undercut their defensive efforts.  Offensively, they began to attack the basket, which resulted in free throws and easy Kawhi buckets.  Ultimately, the Clippers sealed the game off the backs of their superstars on both ends, and the Nuggets simply couldn’t find any answers.

Additional Notes:

  • Denvers non star players are good, but can be stopped: Porter Jr, Milsap, Grant, and Harris combined for 50 points.  Harris getting hot from 3 can be a real problem, and while he did all of his damage in the 1st quarter, it’s important that the Clippers don’t leave him wide open.  Michael Porter Jr. can heat up, but he also has a terrible shot selection.  He did most of his damage strictly by outworking the Clippers on the board.  The Clippers need to make a more conscious effort when the Nuggets put up a shot, because they gave up 8 offensive rebounds (4 of them coming from MPJ alone). More importantly, Porter Jr. is awful on defense.  He can be played off the court, but the Clippers need to hunt that matchup much more than they have.  
  • Jokic is a real problem: The Serbian Superstar is every bit as talented and scary as Clipper fans thought when starting this series.  He has been shooting phenomenally from down town, but more importantly, he just always makes the right read and decision.  He makes incredible passes, including full court lobs that are right on the money, as well as tricky hooks that are absolutely unguardable.  That being said, the Clippers need to be better about how they approach him.  As mentioned, they can’t expect Zubac to drop on the screen and close out on him.  Zubac also has to accept the fact that Jokic gets superstar calls.  His 6th foul was a soft whistle, but given how they were give him that call all game, he has to be smarter.
  • Paul George looking like Paul George: Simply put, his phenomenal shooting is the reason the Clippers won.  Paul George finished with 32 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals on 12-18 shooting (5-7 from 3).  He looked confident out there with his stroke, and he was attacking the basket extremely well.  While Kawhi was also great tonight, having Paul George on fire opened up the floor and gave the Clippers more options to close out the game.
  • JaMychal Green: Quick note—he subbed out in the 4th looking like he was in a bit of pain.  Although it was reported that he was available for return, when Zubac fouled out, Trez was the one who got the call.  No way to know if that was based off of his injury or Doc’s faith in Trez, but it will be worth keeping an eye out.
  • Podcast: Check out The Lob, The Jam, The Podcast to hear Dr. Shap and Lucas Hann break down the Clippers’ game 3 win. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else podcasts are available.

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38 Comments

  • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

    Popped back in here to say great recap and great win tonight. Feels like every champion needs to win one of these grinder games to get their footing but then again we’re the Clips so nothing comes easy.

    Lou Will was solid on D tonight. The Nugz don’t have the personnel to punish him on mismatches. Trez just needs to sit. I don’t mind seeing some PatPat minutes at this point. Glad to see PG finally get his offensive outburst on and can we finally get Bev off his minutes restriction?! I hope Zu keeps his head up and keeps grinding. Despite that crappy 6th foul call, it looks like we’ve worked the refs to start noticing Jokic’s arm hook.

    • Avatar Niels Pineda says:

      I agree that championship caliber teams need to win some of these grinds, but it would be nice for the Clips to have more game 1 level wins lol.

      I think purely in isolation defense, you are right–Monte Morris isn’t talented enough to iso Lou and take him off the dribble like Seth/Burke were able to do. That being said, Lou (and the rest of the team) are often just watching and it leads to some pretty tough missed rotations that the Nuggets can capitalize on.

      • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

        For sure the ball-watching is maddening. You should never give up an easy run-out off an inbounds let alone multiple. Simply laziness and lack of focus.

    • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

      Agree about PatPat. Not sure why Doc has so far shortened the rotation so severely when the team’s much-ballyhooed strength is its depth.

      • Avatar Niels Pineda says:

        I think they need to condense the rotation to be honest. Should be the Clippers starters + Lou/Shamet/JMG. Realistically, situations will come up like today where JMG gets into foul trouble along with Zu, which means sparing Trez minutes, but an 8 man rotation is about as deep as the Clippers should be going at this point. Just no room for Trez’s poor defense, weak effort on the boards, and one dimensional offense.

        • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

          Listen, I’m not gonna defend Trez (I think you’re well aware of how critical I’ve been of him), but I don’t think Doc is gonna go away from him entirely. It’s just not something Doc Rivers is going to do.

          But I hope that as these trends continue (team-worst -6.3 net rating, team-worst 116.0 defensive rating, ORTG only better than Green and Landry, who he plays w/ on the second unit, the team gets just 69.9% of available defensive rebounds when he’s on the floor, etc), Doc starts going further and further away from him.

          It’s also worth remembering that as far as we know, the Clippers are going to go at least 2 games without Marcus Morris when he leaves for his wife to give birth. That probably means maxing Green’s PF minutes, as well as sliding Kawhi over for more PF and increasing available 2nd unit guard minutes for Landry and Reggie (since Lou is already playing a lot). Trez will have to play backup C in those games.

          I fully support the idea that the 8-man rotation you mentioned is the Clippers’ best final form, but with Morris leaving at some point I don’t know that Doc can afford to have totally alienated Trez.

          • Avatar Niels Pineda says:

            Oh I fully agree. Doc won’t do what Vogel did to Dwight, but I like to believe he’s also not going to give him the Dantoni/Westbrook treatment either. But if the reason is because Morris is leaving… well, we have to make it further into September for that to happen.

        • Avatar jbugs says:

          I agree with this. Hopefully, we closer to that point as the post season progresses. Doc definitely appears to be improving in this regard.

        • Avatar ksihoo says:

          Seems like Reggie Jackson is virtually out of the rotation. I still hope that Trez is going to be better while he gets his energy back. We know that he is a sort of a player who can be a game changer every single night with a couple of great hussle plays. So far we haven’t seen anything of that. He is mostly destructive as pointed here on many occasions.

          I am bit worried about Landry as well. He was really good after being inserted to the starting lineup in Beverley’s absence, but has disappeared in the second round. He is averaging 3.0 points, 1 assist and 1 rebound with 17% 3-point shooting for the series so far. I am not sure if he can make it going with the second unit. I think his game is much better suited to match with other starters. I was even thinking that maybe it would be better to keep him in the starting unit and make Beverley coming of the bench (also to ensure better offense/defense balance for the units as we know that Lou/Sham/Trez is a really poor defensive combination) but I am afraid that is not even in consideration. Would that make any sense to you Lucas?

          • Avatar Jonathan Eng says:

            I love Sham a ton and wish he could play more. The thing with him, I think is that he is such a rhythm player. If he is getting consistent minutes, he is able to perform and do well. The other issue with him, I think, is the system itself. When we got PG and Kawhi, the offense moved from a ball-moving motion offense we had last year to a more iso-heavy offense. I think it’s no secret that when Sham gets moving, he is able to hit shots. He’s better than a spot-up shooter and I think running more plays for Shamet (even if it doesn’t end in him getting the ball for a shot) would be better for the team because the offense gets stalled out a lot and the other 4 guys just stand there while Kawhi goes to work. Sham’s off-ball movement is great because and helps bend the opposing defense. Also, the volume of shots just aren’t there for him now that Pat Bev is back. In the second unit, Sham isn’t going to get many shots when Lou, Trez, and PG/Kawhi are on the floor with him.

          • Avatar Niels Pineda says:

            I actually think that Shamet should start as well, though I recognize it is a pretty hot take. I think you get better production out of him, and he is much more aggressive when he’s playing with the starters. His defense doesn’t look as exploitable, he is more in rhythm shooting wise, and he is actually pretty strong at attacking. Also means you get a bit more energy off the bench, and you have fewer defensive liabilities. That being said, I totally understand (and probably really think deep down inside) against the Nuggets, you have to play Bev just so Murray has to hard no matter who is defending him.

          • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

            Patrick Beverley is much better at basketball than Landry Shamet. Landry will keep getting minutes as the 8th man but that’s a 12mpg role at this stage in the game. Bev needs to play 30+ (or as much as he can with his minutes restriction). Landry will get 12 minutes and a couple of shots, some nights he’ll make them and some nights he’ll miss them. But he’s out there to do the bare minimum so you can survive the few minutes that PG and Kawhi are resting.

          • Avatar ksihoo says:

            Thanks, I actually agree with all of your’s (Jonathan, Niels, Lucas) descriptions of the player’s profile that Landry is (and I totally agree that Bev is so much more crucial to the team’s success). My only worry is that what was supposed be our huge advantage (depth and bench play) seems not valid anymore. Most of the fans see Reggie and Trez unplayable at the moment. With Landry being a non-factor for most of the nights, it leaves Lou and J.Green as the only impactfull subs. That means the rotation should be cut to 7 (8 if you count 12 min of Landry). That is what most of the teams have as well, so the strenght of our bench might be not, what we had hoped them to be. Btw, Doc still believes in Trez, so do I.

    • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

      I was on the anti trez side for awhile but think he kinda woke up last nite. Whoever plays Joker has to realize that you can’t leave him on D. No helping the other guy’s man–stay home on Joke. If you leave him, you get scalded and made to look like an idiot.

      I think Trez is getting that message and seems to be able to bother Joke just a bit. Trez seemed to be a bit less frustrated with mistakes and a bit more focused on doing his job. Last nite gave me some hope for him.

      • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

        It was good to see him lock in last night if only for a few minutes but his overall play is still lackadaisical.

  • Avatar John Maclean says:

    Lou gets game ball a DPOY. It’s so crazy to process that Lou turned the game around with his D. If this is found money then we may just end up winning it all. Denver is not done yet though that’s for sure. Good lord are they loaded. Have fun next year once MPJ dusts off the reindeer legs. Jokic is obscenely talented. They will win a title in the next three years.

    • Avatar Niels Pineda says:

      Lou is able to come up with big steals because he goes for some risky defensive plays. He’s pretty dang good at stealing passes into the post from unsuspecting bigs, but we 100% need him (and everyone else) to put a body on their man when the Nuggets put up a shot. Similarly, they all need to be a bit more attentive and not just watch Jokic, because he will absolutely punish them.

      • Avatar sjake says:

        Amen to that. I get it that sometimes that round ball takes funny bounces that aren’t in your favor, but boxing out is something that everyone can do. I may be hyper critical, but this seems to be a Doc thing? He preaches that defense doesn’t end until you grab rebound, but lack of getting defensive rebounds absolutely killed the Lob City clips and I can see it a bit with this team as well. Thank god we have Kawhi. That guy covers up for a lot of imperfections.

    • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

      Two huge 4th qtr turning points:

      1. Lou’s blindsiding Joker for the magnificent steal (and then converting unselfishly)
      2. Bev’s muy bueno offensive rebound for a crucial clock running possession

      Bravo to both those guys.

  • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

    Great summary, Niels. The board man’s fierce rebounding at the end was critical. His one-finger block only adds to his growing legend. And PG’s performance under pressure throughout the game, including his defense, was equally noteworthy.

    • Avatar Niels Pineda says:

      Thanks! Kawhi and PG came out with the heroics today, and while I wish the role players showed out a bit more, that’s why we got them both.

  • Avatar osamu6238 says:

    I don’t know why, but this was just such a frustrating game to watch for me. Maybe Game 1 spoiled me, but felt like way too many mistakes, turnovers, bad shots, bad defense from the Clips. Nuggets were killing the Clips in the paint, I felt like I was watching Marcin Gortat out there again. My dog definitely noticed my frustration and wouldn’t leave me alone. The Clips are definitely lucky PG came to play in this game.

    Of course, probably 50-60% of my frustration was with Reggie Miller. Can we get some better announcers for the playoffs? I feel like it’s been all CWebb and Reggie so far. TNT might have the better halftime/postgame show, but man they need some better color commentators.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      I was frustrated tonight too, but I also think it’s useful to take a step back and realize that the Nuggets are very good and the Clippers aren’t going to be able to play perfectly and do whatever they want against them.

    • Avatar sjake says:

      I watched yesterday’s game with the sound off. Not a fan of Reggie Miller’s announcing style.

    • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

      you must not have a mute button on your remote
      go online and find a better remote

      • Avatar osamu6238 says:

        I’ve been recording the games, so I can really focus on the game late at night after the kid is asleep. Usually if I watch live, I might not be paying 100% attention or be just scrolling twitter or something where I don’t need the broadcast.

        Watching the replay late, it’s listening to the broadcast or just sitting in the dark in complete silence….. I guess it’s a toss up what would be preferable, haha.

    • Avatar Thretch says:

      Early on the game Beverley wanted a review on an out of bounds play. Doc said no. TNT showed the replay and it was clearly off Denver. Reggie said nothing about it. Thought it was odd: do they not want to disparage the refs? Not give Bev and credit? Or are they just not watching the game.

      • Avatar Jonathan Eng says:

        In Doc’s defense there, you mention the context of “Early on the game,” you don’t want to blow your challenge until later in the game when calls become more crucial if for the case of the close win. The coaches should be strategic with their challenges.

        If anything, I think the challenge rule should be expanded upon. I think that if a challenge is successful, the coach should get the right to challenge back. Essentially, challenge until it is unsuccessful. There should be some reward such as keeping a time-out/being able to keep challenging if there are successful challenges.

        • Avatar Thretch says:

          Jonathan, I had no problem with Doc’s decision. I was just commenting on the lackadaisical reporting by TNT.

      • Avatar osamu6238 says:

        I was annoyed when JMG couldn’t put any weight on his ankle, and absolutely no word about it from the broadcast. Clips were playing basically 4-on-5 for an offensive and defensive possession and they act like nothing is wrong. I think Lou landed on his wrist like the next play, and they freak out about that one.

    • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

      Agree Osamu, frustrating as hell. Had to pause the action a lot to catch my breath and say it’s just a game, don’t get so worked up.

      I think it’s due to Denver’s skill level. They’re a really good team that could compete with the lake show. I’m just glad we don’t have to play any games in their mile high city.

  • Avatar Peter Goul says:

    I know Noah cannot provide the the defense he use to, but wasn’t yesterday’s game a good example of why he was signed? When Zu and Green got into early foul trouble, wouldn’t Noah have been a good option for a few minutes? If he were horrendous, pull him after a couple of minutes and then go with Trez. Was Noah simply signed for leadership and locker room presence and does he have no game value?

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      I believe he was inactive. Noah and Coffey have been the inactive guys most games. I think with Morris, Green, Patterson, Zu, and Trez, Doc is comfortable with emergency options at 4/5

      • Avatar Peter Goul says:

        Thanks Lucas. Going forward, do you envision Noah having any roll other than as a locker room guy?

        • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

          I mean, there could be some contingencies where he’s activated. Maybe if Green misses time, or when Morris leaves the bubble for his wife to give birth, he gets activated as the 5th big. I guess you could make the case that a backup 7-footer could be useful against a team like the Lakers, who play AD, JaVale, and Dwight… but we also know Doc likes Patterson vs the Lakers, and if you can have 13 guys dressed on a given night it’s hard to go 6 bigs and 7 perimeter guys.

          • Avatar Peter Goul says:

            That makes sense. Thanks Lucas. I guess I was somewhat optimistic when he was signed and he looked OK in scrimmages. Just thought he would have a role.

  • Avatar hadouken says:

    I came away from this game impressed with the Clips ability to turn up the pressure on D when they needed to. Great example being the 4th quarter, when they pretty much put a stranglehold on the Denver offense.

    However, it’s maddening and puzzling that they have rarely strung together consecutive quarters of the same type of intensity on D (or even close to it).