Not even the staff that made NBA historical past might dig themselves out of a gap like this one.
It wasn’t till the second half that the Nuggets awoke from their Christmas Day slumber, and by that time, it was far too late. Regardless of an encouraging fourth-quarter burst, led by beforehand dormant Jamal Murray, the Clippers exacted some small measure of revenge with Friday night time’s 121-108 win.
It received’t erase the sting from Denver’s historic 3-1 comeback within the Western Convention semifinals, but it surely was one thing. The Nuggets fell to 0-2 on the early season.
Down by 19 getting into the fourth quarter, the Nuggets mounted a number of runs threatening to chop the margin to single digits. Every time, the Clippers responded with a deflating 3-pointer. Los Angeles related on 19-of-38 3-pointers, all however destroying Denver’s comeback hopes.
“It was good to lastly discover a group that competed and gave ourselves an opportunity,” mentioned Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “I assumed there have been stretches there, particularly in that first half, the place we didn’t compete.”
Murray poured in 19 of his 23 factors within the second half following six mediocre quarters to begin the season. On a number of of the 3-pointers, it was as if the arrogance attained within the “Bubble” by no means left.
“It’s not all the time about X’s and O’s,” mentioned Murray, who knocked down 4 threes. “While you’re down 25, it’s about pleasure and about effort.
“All of our errors, we are able to make up for with effort,” he mentioned.
Nikola Jokic had 24 factors, 10 assists and 9 rebounds, falling only one board shy of his second consecutive triple-double.
Kawhi Leonard completed with 21 factors and 7 assists, although his night time ended early after taking a scary elbow to the face from teammate Serge Ibaka. Leonard laid on the bottom, bloodied, for a number of minutes earlier than being helped off.
His teammate, Paul George, completed with 23 factors together with 5 3-pointers.
It took till the third quarter Friday, however Murray lastly performed with the dogged dedication he turned identified for within the “Bubble.” There have been impassioned defensive stops and some of his patented hard-fought buckets.
Nonetheless, the Clippers’ lead hovered close to 20 many of the quarter. If it wasn’t George hitting a tough jumper then it was vets Lou Williams or Nic Batum sustaining a wholesome buffer on the offensive finish. The Nuggets ended the quarter with some vitality, even down 98-79.
“You may’t play three quarters on this league and anticipate to win,” Malone mentioned. “Taking part in laborious isn’t one thing that ought to be rewarded. That ought to be a given. Once more, rebounding is effort, it’s struggle, it’s competing.”
Malone challenged his staff following Wednesday’s heartbreak loss to Sacramento.
“We’re 0-1, we’re enjoying on our homecourt, and I challenged our guys yesterday, one in all our small-sided objectives ought to be by no means to lose two video games in a row,” Malone mentioned. “We ought to be actually down, disillusioned, pissed off and energized as a result of we misplaced to Sacramento the opposite night time, no matter who we play.”
No matter final season’s postseason drama, Malone wasn’t eager about narratives after the obtrusive holes he noticed in opposition to the Kings.
“To me, that is extra about us,” he mentioned. “It all the time can’t be about who we’re enjoying, what’s the story. I believe nice groups discover a method to carry it each single night time whatever the opponent.”
He needed extra related transition protection, higher on-ball containment and extra effort on the glass.
“Get again, guard one-on-one, shot goes up, hit any person and rebound the rattling the ball,” he mentioned earlier than the sport.
It would’ve helped had the Nuggets had injured ahead JaMychal Inexperienced, who’s missed the final two video games with a calf harm. A part of the rationale the Nuggets coveted Inexperienced was for his toughness and physicality.
“The truth that he determined to affix us was an indication of respect, and he needed to be part of the staff he noticed within the Western Convention semifinals,” Malone famous.
His problem fell flat amid an underwhelming first half Friday night time. The Clippers, on the premise of a blistering 12 for 23 from the 3-point line, held a 72-55 lead heading into halftime. In addition they held a 25-11 edge on the glass.
Leonard and George mixed for 25 factors, whereas 9 completely different Clippers sunk not less than one 3-pointer over the primary two quarters.
Offensively, Jokic was, once more, the first point of interest. His 16-point, six-assist half paced the Nuggets and stored them inside a decent margin. Backup guard Monte Morris salvaged some minutes for Denver’s second unit with 11 factors in 14 minutes.
Murray obtained himself in foul bother and failed to seek out any rhythm early.