After a blowout victory in Game 1, the Clippers take on the Nuggets in Game 2 in what will probably be a somewhat more competitive contest.
Where: Happiest Place on Earth, Orlando, FL
When: 6:00 PM PT
How to Watch: TNT
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverly — Paul George — Kawhi Leonard — Marcus Morris Sr. — Ivica Zubac
Nuggets: Gary Harris — Jamal Murray — Jerami Grant — Paul Millsap — Nikola Jokic
Nuggets: OUT — Will Barton (knee), OUT — Vlatko Cancar (foot)
The Big Picture
Clippers Nuggets Game 1 went just about as well as the Clippers could have asked. The Nuggets, with only one day off after a tough series, did not put up much of a fight, especially on the defensive end. But although the Clippers’ offense was insanely efficient (57% from the floor, including 42% from three), we don’t (yet) have reason to believe that the Nuggets can consistently slow down Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, or the Clippers’ bench. They earned a 110.4 defensive rating (16th in the league) over the regular season, and we saw what Donovan Mitchell was able to do against them. Even with rest and a chance to review Game 1’s tape, the Clippers should be able to press on the gas on Saturday.
My biggest source of confidence comes from the fact that the Clippers scored from all over in Game 1. They outscored the Nuggets 66-40 in the paint, put up 30 points from three, and were 14/17 from the free throw line. This, of course, is made possible by having a full and healthy roster, which happened for only the 13th time all season on Thursday. The Clippers will enjoy the same luxury today, as they have again reported no injuries. Given the lack of rest between games, it’s possible that the Nuggets will remain at a rest deficit, and will fall to another blowout to the Clippers in Game 2.
There is a credible chance, of course, that the Clippers won’t be able to replicate their scoring from Game 1: Marcus Morris Sr. was 7/10 from the field (4/5 from three); Kawhi was 12/16, and Patrick Beverly — perhaps riding an adrenaline from his return — scored eight points in just 12 minutes. This could easily prove to the a house of cards. If the Clippers shot even 50% from the field, instead of nearly sixty, the game could have easily been competitive throughout the night instead of a blow out.
The Nuggets’ fatigue should also not be waved off as insignificant too quickly. The Clippers had four days off before they met Denver, which was huge for guys like Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverly, who are still not completely ready to compete at a high level. All of the Nuggets starters (except for Murray, for some reason) played fewer than 30 minutes, so they likely will be more physically prepared for Saturday. There’s no reason that a renewed Denver couldn’t punch the Clippers in the mouth, especially given that the Clippers have a tendency to “play down” to their opponents. Therefore, it’s quite possible that Game 2 is a close affair, or even that the Clippers play from behind for much of the game against a renewed Nuggets’ attack.
Those are my two perspectives for how I think Clippers vs. Nuggets Game 2 could play out. It’s hard to have more notes when the first game was such a walkover, but we should have a better idea of how the series will take shape after this one. Let us know how you think it will play out in the comments!