Good afternoon, folks. Denver finally came to play. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Welcome to the Western Conference Semis, Denver
It took a serious ass whipping in Game 1 to wake them up, but the Denver Nuggets roared back in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers to tie the series at 1-1 with a 110-101 win.
After a quick turnaround from an exhausting (from a player and fan perspective) seven-game series against the Utah Jazz, Denver couldn’t muster up anywhere near the same amount of energy in Game 1 against the Clips that helped them crawl back from a 3-1 series hole, something that had only been done 11 times in league history before the Nuggets became the 12th. They must’ve been riding that high for a bit too long, though, as the Clips knocked them in the teeth by 23 points in Game 1. But this is the beauty of the NBA playoffs; you can play your worst basketball of the season in one game, so long as you make up for it the very next time out. And that’s exactly what Denver did.
”We were tired,” Jamal Murray said about his team’s effort in Game 1. ”We came out sloppy, we came out exhausted, we didn’t make shots and it showed.”
Following a pitiful display in the series opener–where he contributed 12 points on a 5-15 shooting clip–Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray welcomed himself to the series by dropping a game-high 27 points on 10-21 shooting from the floor to go along with a 3-8 mark from deep. He added three boards, six dimes, and two steals to his stat line, as well. From the jump, this game was a complete 180 from what we saw on Thursday. Denver quickly pounced to a 14-2 lead that they ballooned to 44-23 after the first 12 minutes. The Nuggets continued to push the lead, extending it to 20-plus into the third quarter, but this wouldn’t be the NBA Playoffs without a baby bit of drama.
The Clippers, who were steered by 22 points from Paul George, managed to cut the lead all the way down to five points in the fourth period, but they could never put enough pressure down the stretch to force the Nuggets to slip up. Instead, it was the ejection of Clippers guard Patrick Beverley with roughly one minute left and a pair of clutch triples from Murray and fellow Nuggets guard Gary Harris that destroyed the Clippers’ final shot at a comeback. That, and some impressive defense from Denver, who managed to hold L.A. to just 40 percent shooting overall and a mere 28 percent from deep.
While Murray was excellent in Game 2 and was without a doubt the star of the opening-round series against Utah, it was the big man in the middle, Nikola Jokic, who put a beatdown on L.A. The Joker finished with 26 points (24 of them coming in the first half), 18 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks while shooting 10-17 overall and an impressive 4-5 from beyond the arc. Alongside Murray, the duo thoroughly outperformed the Clippers star couple of Kawhi Leonard and George. Leonard actually put together one of his career-worst playoff outings, adding just 13 points on a horrendous 4-17 shooting clip. It was the first time this postseason that Leonard failed to score at least 29 points.
Toronto knots the series as 2-2 against Boston
It truly is amazing that half of a second has been the deciding factor in this series potential being over, to it now being tied at 2-2. OG Anunoby’s game-winning shot in Game 3 did more than keep the Raptors’ hopes of repeating alive: it put them in an advantageous position. To steal a quote from the ever-eloquent Fred VanVleet, to say that the Boston Celtics “f****d up” would be an understatement. The Raps locked down on defense in Game 4 to knot the series at 2-2 with a 100-93 victory.
It took significant effort from the Toronto stars in order for them to succeed, culminating in big nights on offense from Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and VanVleet. Those four combined for 80 of the Raptors 100 points. But the defensive end of the floor is where Toronto made life hell for the Celtics, particularly Jaylen Brown, who shot 4-18 from the field and just 2-11 from 3. Boston never once topped 30 points in a quarter, while Toronto did so in the first and third. The Celtics actually shot it more efficiently overall than the Raps (44 percent compared to 39.5 percent), but it was the outside scoring that proved to be the deciding factor. Toronto shot 17-44 from behind the perimeter while Boston was just 7-35. While the Celts were always within arms reach of the Raptors, the latter made sure that arm was too long to climb up.
Toronto was 0.5 seconds away from being down 0-3, a deficit that no NBA team has ever been able to overcome. But thanks to a perfect pass and a miraculous shot, the momentum has completely shifted sides. I will happily take three more games of this series.
Series standings from Saturday
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(2) Raptors tied with (3) Celtics 2-2
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(2) Clippers tied with (3) Nuggets 1-1
Other Bubble notes
If you’re someone who’s been hoping to see some playoff action from a pair of former Kentucky Wildcats, Enes Kanter (BOS) and Patrick Patterson (LAC), you might be out of luck, at least for the rest of their current series. Kanter received a decent amount of clock during the opening-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, but he’s not an ideal matchup against the quicker Toronto Raptors bigs. Through four games this series, Kanter has seen the floor only once–a four-minute outing in Game 3.
As for Patterson, the Clippers stretch forward has yet to eclipse 10 total minutes played in the postseason, making just two appearances in blowout wins. Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers already has one of the deepest rosters in basketball and has been going with a 10-man rotation, but Patterson has been one of the few odd men out. That could change throughout the Clippers postseason run depending on future matchups, but for now, he’s playing the role of a seasoned veteran helping lead from the sidelines.
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||110-101 W @ LAC||27||10-21 (3-8)||3||6||2||1||3||0||39|
|Enes Kanter (BOS)||93-100 L vs. TOR||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Patrick Patterson (LAC)||101-110 L vs. DEN||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE BUBBLE
3:30 (ABC): Bucks (Bledsoe) @ Heat (Adebayo, Herro) [MIA leads 3-0]
8:30 (ABC): Rockets @ Lakers (Davis, Rondo) [HOU leads 1-0]