Led by Kawhi Leonard as well as the return of Patrick Beverley, the Los Angeles Clippers welcomed Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets to the second round with a 120-97 drubbing. The Clippers took the 1-0 series lead and are clicking on all cylinders heading into Game 2.
Leonard finished with yet another efficient scoring night, finishing with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field. Marcus Morris poured in 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and the Clippers as a whole shot 57.1 percent from the field on the night.
Game 1 marked just the 13th game of 79 that the Clippers have played at full strength all season, and they’ve won all but one of those games.
“It’s great to have everybody together,” said Paul George, who put in 19 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the blowout win. “We’ve been saying it all year. It’s good for us to continue to build this chemistry. I thought we looked great tonight. I thought we did everything. Everybody helped. We had great energy. We were vocal and, you know, we just wanted it. We wanted to play for one another, and it was just fun basketball playing with everybody.”
Patrick Beverley returned from a five-game absence due to a calf strain. Although he played in short bursts throughout the night and totaled just 12 minutes in the game, Beverley’s impact was certainly felt.
“Pat, he’s the general, man. He’s the head of the snake,” Marcus Morris said. “It’s very vocal, he has a lot of respect, obviously his defense is top notch too. Anytime you can have your general back out there and he’s always talking through things and taking some of the pressure off me also so I don’t have to talk to the refs as much, so, I enjoy him being out there.”
Beverley gives the Clippers back what they’d been missing in 10 of their last 11 games: their defensive captain.
“He gives us energy,” Doc Rivers said of Patrick Beverley after the game. “We’re not a particularly loud team on the floor defensively. Pat is, in a lot of ways, with that starting lineup, he’s a defensive captain with his voice. He calls out coverages. He holds everybody responsible. And to have that voice to start games, is just invaluable.
“Then what it does, it just leaks over to the rest of the team. So when you see him playing like that, and talking like that on defense, it helps the entire team.”
The Clippers made life difficult for the Nuggets’ star duo, holding Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic to a combined 27 points and nine assists on 11-of-29 shooting from the field. Outside of a Jokic double-team early in the first quarter that resulted in a beautiful pass to a Murray 3-pointer, the Clippers were content with forcing Jokic to be a scorer and attacking
Beverley had his usual “unstatable” line of eight points and six rebounds in those 12 minutes of action, and keeping him healthy will be key to the Clippers’ title run.
“Everyone has a different role on the team you might say. And I take my role very seriously,” Patrick Beverley said. “Obviously, I’m the point guard. Getting guys put in places offensively and make sure I’m doing my job defensively. It’s a hard job but I’m fortunate to be the one to be able to do it. Like I said, sitting out with this injury has definitely humbled me, man. I appreciate the game a lot more, for sure.”
In their first seven games of the postseason, the Clippers have scored 880 points, which marks the fourth-most points scored through seven games in NBA history. In their last two games, they’ve also held their opponents to 97 points, an unheard-of feat in the scoring-infested bubble. Lastly, the Clippers also have the best net rating in the postseason, outscoring their opponents by 11.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com.
The Nuggets will surely make adjustments in Game 2 to avoid a second blowout loss. While it might not even matter to a team that has been rolling the last few days, the Clippers better not get comfortable like they did with the Dallas Mavericks and take unnecessary losses.