Denver Nuggets 85, Los Angeles Clippers 96: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

A poor first and third quarter showing was too much for the Nuggets to overcome as they would drop their second-straight contest to the Clippers with a 96-85 Game 4 loss. 
Nikola Jokic led Denver with 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Kawhi Leonard helped bring the Clippers within one win of the Western Conference finals with a game-high 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. 

"Nobody likes to lose the game, [but] we are competing at a really high level against one of the best teams in the NBA," Jokić said after the game. "I think we need to relax and just enjoy the moment...Hopefully, the next game will be better because it's win or go home." 

Denver now faces another potential elimination situation Friday in Game 5 against the Clippers (4:30 p.m. MT, TBD). 

"We'll get some rest tomorrow. We'll watch some film and try to be better in Game No. 5," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. 
Here are the takeaways

Brutal first quarter 
The opening 12 minutes of Game 4 might be among one of the worst displays the Nuggets have shown all season. The group looked out of synch on both ends and the numbers behind it are even more worrying. 
Denver as a team shot 5 of 17 in the first quarter and didn’t hit any of its eight attempts from downtown. Part of the offensive struggles came from the team’s inability to move the ball. The Nuggets had four assists to six turnovers, which the Clippers converted into seven points. Although the Clippers shot just 37.5 percent, they were still able to finish the first quarter with a 26-12 lead due to simply outmuscling their opponents. The team outrebounded the Nuggets 14-8 and as a result had more offensive opportunities. 

"In the first quarter, we had some kind of flow, the ball was moving a little bit. We kind of need[ed] to make shots," Jokić said. 
Although the Nuggets would fight back in the second quarter and opening six minutes of the third quarter, tying the game, the beginning of the contest proved to be crippling for Malone’s team. 

"The defense at least gave ourselves a chance to be in the game...We have to be a hell of a lot better on offense," Malone said. 
 Nikola continues strong West semis

Heading into Game 4, Jokić was averaging 24.3 points, 11.0 and five assists while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and an impressive 46.7 percent from downtown. His dominance would continue Wednesday. 
Despite the final result, Jokić was one of the bright spots against the Clippers.  When the Nuggets found themselves in a 18-point hole, it was the team’s All-Star center who helped rally them back. Jokić would finish the first half with 14 points, four boards and four dimes on 50 percent shooting and Denver would find itself trailing by just eight. 
MPJ shines 
The Nuggets might be in another 3-1 situation, but if there is something they can build upon heading into Game 5, it’s Michael Porter Jr.’s upward trajectory. 
Denver’s rookie came alive once again, putting 15 points, six boards and a block on 62.5 percent shooting. It was Porter Jr.’s 13-point outburst in the second quarter that sparked the Nuggets rally. 
With the Nuggets now facing a potential elimination game Friday, Porter Jr. could be a game-changer in Game 5 if he carries his recent momentum into the contest.


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