The LA Clippers outlasted the Denver Nuggets in Game 3.
After a total rout in Game 1, the LA Clippers felt like heavy favorites to quickly advance past the Denver Nuggets in their second-round playoff series. The Nuggets evened the score with a surprising Game 2 victory and proved again in Game 3 this won’t be a straightforward series.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to get them another win on Monday night.
Despite 32 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists from Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets couldn’t quite maintain their 4-point lead heading into the fourth quarter as their offense faltered late. Denver had its opportunities in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t knock down enough critical shots to steal a 2-1 series lead, shooting 7-for-22 from the field and 1-for-9 from 3-point range in the final frame.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard combined for 55 points and 18 rebounds for the Clippers, and their superstar duo made key plays on both ends of the floor to seal the deal late in the game.
Los Angeles Clippers
What else did you miss in Game 3 between the Clippers and Nuggets?
MVP: Paul George
For the second game in a row, Paul George was the Clippers’ best player. While he’s taken a ton of heat for a few dismal playoff performances that didn’t exactly live up to his self-branded “Playoff P” nickname, George was great again in Game 3, finishing with a team-high 32 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
PG shot 12-for-18 from the floor, 5-for-7 from 3-point range and a perfect 3-for-3 from the foul line. Only 5 of his points came in the final period, but his performance was exactly what the Clippers need from him: two-way contributions throughout the game until it’s time for Kawhi Leonard to take over.
That formula wasn’t even executed to perfection on Monday, since Leonard only had 5 fourth-quarter points himself, but between the charges PG was drawing and the dimes and blocks Kawhi accounted for in the clutch, the Clippers made the crunch-time plays that the Nuggets could not.
Meme-able moment: Kawhi Leonard’s middle finger block
George was the Clippers’ best player in Game 3, but when it was time to take over late, Kawhi did his thing. When Jamal Murray made the ambitious decision to try and dunk over the Klaw at the rim, Leonard responded with a middle finger — literally.
LVP: Jerami Grant/Jamal Murray
Jokic did his part with a near triple-double, even with 7 turnovers thrown in. Unfortunately, the Nuggets’ go-to scorer had a tough night against the Clippers’ defense, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting. Murray also chipped in 9 assists, but Denver needs more out of him from an efficiency standpoint.
As for Jerami Grant, who finished with 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting, his late fourth-quarter sequence where he missed three straight good looks in the game’s final 3:15 killed Denver’s offense when it needed a basket.
The Nuggets had their chances, and Grant got the ball in good position to score from Jokic on a few double-teams, including a wide-open corner 3, but those looks just wouldn’t fall. Murray and Grant will have to be better on this front in Game 4 if Denver wants to make this a series again.