Three Takeaways after Paul George, Kawhi Leonard lift Clippers past Nuggets

Clippers Nuggets
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Denver had control — the Nuggets were up 97-90 with 8:29 left in the game — but with everything on the line the Clippers cranked up their defense, Kawhi Leonard was blocking shots, Paul George was getting buckets, and Los Angeles went on a 14-4 run that extended to a 23-10 finish to the game.

Los Angeles pulled away for a 113-107 win in Game 2 that puts the Clippers ahead 2-1 in the series. Game 4 is Wednesday night.

Here are three takeaways from the Clippers’ win

1) Kawhi Leonard, Paul George too much in the clutch for Denver

This is exactly why the Clippers went and got Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — they are both elite, clutch, and they can overcome the mistakes and muck around them, make big plays, and drag a team a win.

Leonard made the most dramatic of those plays. Late in the fourth quarter and with the Clippers starting to pull away, Jamal Murray blew by Montrezl Harrell out top and went hard for a dunk looking to change the game’s momentum — and Leonard was there to shut him down. With one finger.

Paul George had 32 points to lead the Clippers and was the go-to guy when the Clippers needed a bucket most of the night (Leonard had 23 points and 14 rebounds).

It wasn’t just the Clippers two stars — Ivica Zubac had a solid game on both ends, Marcus Morris scored a dozen, Lou Williams and Harrell combined for 21 points — but it was Leonard and George who led the Clippers in the clutch.

“We were not gonna be the team that lost tonight,” George said.

2) Nikola Jokic best player in this series

With all due respect to the Clippers’ stars, Jokic has been the single best player the last two games.

He finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists for Denver and kept the Nuggets in the game (although his seven turnovers hurt). All that after he had been questionable due to a sprained wrist, but he didn’t show any signs of slowing, especially in the third quarter when Zubac looked helpless trying to guard him.

Jokic went missing for too long during the Clippers fourth-quarter run, and the turnovers hurt, but he has still put together a couple of masterpieces in a row.

Jokic needs more help.

Murray had a rough outing, shooting 5-of-17 for the night and having a long stretch through of not impacting the game at all. Nobody should have expected Murray to go off like he did against Denver when facing the Clippers gauntlet of perimeter defenders, but still he has to be better for Denver to have a chance. To his credit, Murray owned it.

“I missed so many shots…” Murray said after the game. “I just gotta be better.”

The one guy who did pitch in was Michael Porter Jr., who finished with 18 points and the dunk of the night.

3) The Clippers bench has hurt team against Nuggets

The Clippers bench was supposed to be one of their strengths this postseason, but they have been a liability this series.

The Clippers bench defense (with Lou Williams out there) has never been great, but an efficient scoring punch has made up for it. Not this series. Williams was 4-of-11 shooting, speaking to the inefficient shooting, and the Clippers also got crushed on the offensive glass when the bench was in.

The Clippers will need more out of their bench against Denver, which certainly will play with more desperation in Game 4, and in future rounds (should L.A. advance).