Denver Nuggets 107-113 Los Angeles Clippers: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets held an eight-point lead against the Clippers in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to see them secure a Game 3 win as they suffered a heartbreaking 113-107 defeat Monday. 
 
Nikola Jokić continued his dominance in the Western Conference semifinals, putting up 32 points, 12 boards and eight dimes against Los Angeles. Paul George rebounded from a poor outing in Game 2 to finish the night with 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting while adding four rebounds and as many assists. 

"There are no moral victories, this is the playoffs. We lost tonight. We should have won the game," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. 


The Nuggets will now look to even up the series on Wednesday (7 p.m. MT, TNT).  

Here are the takeaways: 

Poor decision making and Clippers' defense derail Nuggets
 
The Nuggets didn’t have their first turnover until the 5:22 mark of the second quarter. At that stage, they led Los Angeles by eight points. Once they surrendered their first giveaway, things started to unravel for Malone’s team. They would give up three more turnovers before the break and the momentum shifted in the contest. 

In the second half, the Clippers turned up the pressure on the Nuggets and got running to the tune of 19 fast-break points in the final 24 minutes. The team utilized multiple defensive looks with Jamal Murray, ranging from Pat Beverley to Kawhi Leonard, which played a role in him shooting 5 of 17 on the night. 

"I just have to be better and I feel like if I made a couple of those and the percentage went up, it changes the game," Murray said. 
 
The Clippers would close out the contest having a 21-6 run in the fourth quarter. Although Denver moved the ball well, dropping 32 assists to 12 turnovers, the team will want to look at free-throw shooting as an area of improvement, heading into Game 4. The Nuggets only took 10 attempts on the night. 

"We could not make a shot, we were 1 of 9 from three in the fourth quarter and 7 of 22 from the field," Malone explained. "We had some really wide-open looks that just didn't go down."

 
Vintage Nikola
 
For a player who has only been to the playoffs twice, Nikola Jokić has had his share of memorable playoff performances. Game 3 against the Clippers will certainly rank among his best.  

Jokić nearly logged his fifth playoff triple-double against Los Angeles and his mesmerizing third quarter especially stands out. The center went off for 14 points in 12 minutes and had an eye-opening sequence where he hit three consecutive shots from downtown. 
 
Although Jokić won’t be happy with his seven turnovers, it was his efforts throughout the contest that helped the Nuggets have a 12-point lead in the first half and an eight-point advantage in the fourth quarter. After the game, the center spoke about the importance of the Nuggets remaining relentless for 48 minutes. 

"They're talented, but [that doesn't mean] we need to quit," Jokić said. "The effort needs to be there, just to be able to give ourselves a chance to win the game."  
 
MPJ trending upward
 
Heading into the Western Conference semifinals, Michael Porter Jr. had plenty of reasons to be motivated against the Clippers. 
 
Los Angeles had two opportunities to select the forward earlier in the lottery but decided to trade for and select two players who are no longer on the roster. Furthermore, it was Los Angeles’ medical report on Porter Jr., which had several red flags, that played a role in his slip to 14th in the draft.
 
Porter Jr. has dramatically raised his level of play after underwhelming Game 1, where he had five points and six boards on 2-of-9 shooting. His biggest improvement might have come on the defensive end, an area he struggled in earlier in the postseason. In Game 3, Porter Jr. was a factor on both sides of the court – finishing with 18 points, 10 boards and three steals. Despite the final outcome, the first-year player is getting invaluable experience in his first trip to the postseason and is growing with each game. 

"My job coming off the bench right now just to be aggressive. So that's what I'm trying to do," Porter Jr. said. "We're getting the shots we want. I'm getting the shots I want, it's just a matter of knocking them down next game."

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