Are the Los Angeles Clippers starting to round into contending shape after their initial struggles in integrating James Harden into their roster? That's certainly what it looks like after the Clippers finally exorcised their Denver Nuggets-sized demons by defeating them, 111-102, on Wednesday night, and that's with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray healthy.
After learning how to shuffle the rotation in ways that make basketball sense, the Clippers are now winners of seven of their past 10 games, including huge wins against the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Mavericks, in addition to their all-important victory over the Nuggets.
Moving forward, this is how the Clippers must play if they were to make good on their promise as a contender in the Western Conference. And as someone who knows what it takes to win a championship, Nuggets star Jamal Murray implored James Harden to play with more confidence, taking more control of the offense and just letting it fly when he's got a quality shot.
“I would like him to shoot more, honestly. He can shoot it!” Murray told reporters with a laugh after the game, per ClutchPoints Clippers beat reporter Tomer Azarly.
“I would like him to shoot more, honestly. He can shoot it! … He does a good job playing at his own pace and getting other guys involved.”
Jamal Murray on what he's seen from James Harden with the Clippers.
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) December 7, 2023
If James Harden is a more willing shooter and a more lethal scoring threat off the bounce, it opens up a lot of the floor for the Clippers, especially when he is flanked by All-Star-caliber players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
“He does a great job of finding the roller. He does a good job playing at his own pace and getting other guys involved. I don't think he took many shots tonight, but they're timely shots,” the Nuggets star added.
James Harden took just 10 shots, making six of them, but they were, indeed, timely as Jamal Murray said. One was a three-pointer in crunch time that extended the Clippers' lead to four, 95-91, giving them some separation with the Nuggets hot on their tail.
Harden is fitting in nicely now as the third scoring option, instead doing most of his damage as the Clippers' primary playmaker. He had 11 dimes in their win over the Nuggets, and he was active on the defensive end too, tallying four total stocks. The reports of the Beard's demise may have been greatly exaggerated.