The Clippers and Nuggets both come off of tightly contested series, but circumstances conspired to give the latter much less time to recover before Game 1. How will that factor into Game 1?
Where: The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL
When: 6:00 PM PT
How to Watch: TNT
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: TBD — Paul George — Kawhi Leonard — Marcus Morris Sr. — Ivica Zubac
Nuggets: Monte Morris — Jamal Murray — Jerami Grant — Paul Millsap — Nikola Jokic
Clippers: QUESTIONABLE — Patrick Beverley (calf)
Nuggets: OUT — Will Barton (knee), OUT — Vlatko Cancar (foot)
The Big Picture and the Antagonist
So after all the drama — the ejections, the buzzer-beaters, the hand-wringing, six games, and seven games — we ended up right where we expected to be, with the No. 2 Clippers and No. 3 Nuggets in the second round.
We have excellent series previews here on the site: Lucas Hann has 72,000 words for the readers among you, while Shap joins him on The Lob, The Jam, The Podcast for those stuck on the treadmill.
I haven’t much else to add yet specifically for the Clippers or Nuggets, but for Game one, look for two factors to have an acute impact. First, will Patrick Beverley be available and relatively unhindered? Doc Rivers said his starting point guard will play for sure in the series and for “pretty sure” tonight. Beverley is the fuel that ignites this team. Blaming his absence for the Clippers’ inconsistent focus and intensity against the Mavericks would be unfair, but having him on the court raises the team’s floor for both. Defense at the point of attack is critical, and if you hadn’t noticed, the Nuggets’ Jamal Murray is an explosive triggerman. (He dropped 50 on the Jazz. Twice.) A healthy Beverley can plug a defensive hole — cough, Reggie Jackson, cough cough — and save the legs of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for their scoring burden and late-game possessions.
Second, is it more important to have rest or rhythm? The Nuggets will take the floor tonight fewer than 48 hours after their Game 7 rock fight against Utah. The Clippers haven’t played since their Sunday matinee, and because of the players’ strike hadn’t played since the Tuesday before that. Denver may have sharper muscle memory, if they can get their muscles to work at all. Three full days without competition isn’t extraordinary, so the Clippers should have gathered little dust, but they’ve had just the one game in an eight-day span overall. The first quarter may be telling.
A Reminder to Forget: The Clippers and Nuggets have met just once so far in the bubble, with the Clippers clinching the second seed in their penultimate regular season tilt. And from that game we can take . . . very little. Neither team appeared to push very hard until the third quarter, and the Nuggets also decided not to do so after. Beverley, Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell, and Gary Harris all missed that game. Jerami Grant looked like Pascal Siakam (regular season version). The lone relevant takeaway may be that when Kawhi decides to get going, there’s nobody in a Denver uniform that can really slow him.
Morris Pays but Stays: Marcus Morris Sr. appears to have escaped suspension, but was left $35,000 lighter after the NBA fined him for the Flagrant Foul 2 on Luka Doncic that earned him an ejection. Doc has said he thought Morris wasn’t ejected for the act but for his reputation. Either way, you can bet the officials will have their eyes on him.
MPJ’s Revenge: Michael Porter Jr. told reporters yesterday that the Clippers passed on him because team doctors thought he “would never play basketball again”. (The story makes sure you know that the Clippers passed on Porter twice. Let’s all go ahead and agree they were taking Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and reduce that to once.) Doc confirmed that the team had obvious injury concerns. After lighting up the pre-postseason segment of the bubble, Porter cooled some, even losing his starting spot to Jerami Grant. The Clippers appear to be on the young 6’10” forward’s mind. With their eyes justifiably on Jokic and Murray, will Porter be able to return the favor?
That’s it for Clippers-Nuggets Game one. Comment on the game below!