Los Angeles Clippers vs Denver Nuggets: Round 2, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Los Angeles Clippers vs Denver Nuggets Western Conference
Los Angeles Clippers vs Denver Nuggets, Western Conference Semifinals

For the second straight round, the Denver Nuggets successfully overcame a 3-1 series deficit to advance in the NBA playoffs. It was a defensive clinic for Denver against the Los Angeles Clippers in holding them to 37.8 percent shooting and 9 of 35 from behind the arc. Los Angeles’ best players wilted in their first Game 7 together as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard combined for just 24 points on 10-of-38 shooting in the loss. Meanwhile, Jamal Murray dropped 40 points for the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic had a triple-double to cap off the dominant effort from the Nuggets

Denver Nuggets win 4-3

The Nuggets deserve all the credit for overcoming double-digit second-half deficits in Games 5 and 6, but the Clippers choked this series away. Los Angeles had three golden chances to advance to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history and they respond with two second-half collapses and a pitiful Game 7 performance. Denver is a resilient bunch and it will be interesting to see how that matches up with the Lakers, who have some defensive holes Denver can exploit. Jokic can also contend with Anthony Davis in the post and make life harder for the Lakers on the interior. It will come down to how well the Nuggets can shoot the ball and limit Los Angeles’ dynamic duo.

Game 1

September 3rd, 9:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

It’s remarkable how much of a difference two extra days of rest can mean in this version of the NBA playoffs. Both the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets had difficult first-round matchups, but only the Nuggets had to survive facing elimination three times. Those three games were far more mentally taxing on Denver and the No. 3 seed only has one full day to rest and decompress before facing off with the second-seeded Clippers on Thursday. Fatigue is always going to be a factor in these compressed playoffs, but this series will be defined by which team can be mentally tougher and survive the bubble life which is draining on the players.

This series will come down to how well Paul George plays for Los Angeles. We know what to expect out of Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers will get a complementary performance from someone else whether that’s Montrezl Harrell, Reggie Jackson or Lou Williams. The question is whether George will be the dominant force he was in Game 5 against Dallas or if he’ll be the offensive liability he was in the rest of the series when he couldn’t make any shots. If George is himself and he is a difference-maker on offense again, the Clippers will have an easier time in this series than if he isn’t all there and struggles to find a groove.

Where Denver has the advantage is Jamal Murray, who was sensational in the first round against Utah. Murray is obviously a different player than Luka Doncic, but Murray can learn a lot from what Doncic did to this Clippers defense in the previous round. If Murray can continue his strong postseason and have a Doncic-level performance, the Nuggets might have a fighting chance in this series. The one thing Los Angeles does possess is an athletic big man who can guard Nikola Jokic all over the court, and that will make for just as intriguing of a matchup as whoever is tasked with slowing down Murray. If Jokic can get rolling as well alongside Murray, that might be Denver’s only chance at actually winning the series.

The New Jersey online sports betting sites have already listed the Los Angeles Clippers as heavy favorites to advance, and I can’t disagree. The Nuggets still aren’t great defensively and they are coming off that draining series with Utah, so it’s hard to imagine them beating the Clippers four times in two weeks. The odds suggest the money is coming in on Los Angeles to win the series in four or five games, but this is where I disagree. The duo of Murray and Jokic is talented enough to win two games by itself, but that’s probably it. The Clippers had trouble with just Doncic at times in the first round, so imagine a big man who could also create matchup problems alongside a high-scoring guard. Los Angeles is never in doubt of losing the series at any point, but I’d still pick the Clippers to win in six at +350 odds.

The Clippers are already eight-point favorites for Game 1 and that might not be enough against a tired Nuggets team. Los Angeles is healthy and refreshed after three days off while Denver had to utilize a lot of energy to claw back into its series with Utah. Denver won’t have enough time to recover both physically and mentally from that series, and the Clippers will take full advantage. Not only will Leonard dominate for Los Angeles, but George has had time to re-focus and he will return to what we saw from him in Game 5 against Dallas to power the Clippers to a win. The odds aren’t great for the Clippers on the moneyline at -360, so I’ll take Los Angeles laying the eight points at -110 odds instead.

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Game 2 (Los Angeles Clippers lead 1-0)

September 5th, 9:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

It took a quarter for the Los Angeles Clippers to seize control of Game 1, but once they did, they were not going to relinquish it back to the Denver Nuggets. The Clippers shot 57 percent from the floor and held Denver’s big scorers in check to pull away for the easy victory. The Nuggets looked to have the adrenaline wear off a little bit after the first quarter and it felt like the effects of seven games against Utah took effect as Denver made just 25 percent of its 3-pointers. Denver also couldn’t slow down Kawhi Leonard, who finished with a game-high 29 points to lead the way for the Clippers.

Leonard was his normal self in making 12 of his 16 attempts from the floor as the Clippers looked really crisp on offense in picking apart the Nuggets. Paul George struggled with his perimeter shooting, but he stayed aggressive and finishing with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting. However, Los Angeles was especially good defensively in keeping Denver’s big scorers off kilter the entire night. They limited Nikola Jokic to just two 3-point attempts and Murray scored only 12 points in a major coup for the Clippers at that end of the court. If the Clippers can be half as good defensively the rest of the series as they were in Game 1, then Los Angeles should make quick work of the Nuggets.

I’m willing to chalk up Denver’s performance to the physical and mental fatigue that comes from playing a seven-game series in the previous round and not having time to regroup. However, the Nuggets are now fully immersed in this series with the Clippers and they need to find some offensive rhythm if they want to keep up with Los Angeles. Denver made just 9 of 36 from behind the arc in Game 1, which isn’t good enough to beat most teams in the playoffs, but especially not when your opponent shoots 57 percent from the floor. The Nuggets need Jokic and Murray to be better on offense and score more than 27 combined points if they have any chance to win a game in this series.

The Clippers are again heavy favorites in Game 2, and I don’t blame the New Jersey online sports betting sites for putting short odds on Los Angeles to win. Until Denver – and particularly Murray – shows that it can make shots again and wasn’t just on a hot streak to survive the first round then the Nuggets are going to struggle to compete with the Clippers. The sportsbooks actually added a point to the spread, so it’s now at nine points, but I’m going to add an extra half-point on top of that to better my odds. I’ll bet on the Clippers to win by double digits again and take Los Angeles laying the 9.5 points for -103 odds.

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Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)

September 7th, 9:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

The Denver Nuggets started off strong and never let up in evening their NBA playoffs series with the Los Angeles Clippers. Nikola Jokic scored 26 points and Jamal Murray topped him with 27 to pace the Nuggets, who shot 45 percent from the floor in the victory. Denver jumped out to a 19-point lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 23 during the game, but Los Angeles continued to chip away at it through the final three quarters. The Clippers’ issue was their two best players never got rolling and the comeback fell short despite seven players in double figures.

It was vital for Denver that Jokic and Murray find a rhythm early in this series and both of them did well to establish one in Game 2. Murray cooled off significantly after a great start, but still finished 10 of 21 from the field, and Jokic was 10 of 17, but more important he made four of his five 3-point attempts. The supporting offense from Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Monte Morris in addition to Michael Porter Jr. is going to be important for the Nuggets moving forward in this series. This is not a series that Denver can win with just Jokic and Murray playing well, the Nuggets need more team efforts like the one they had in Game 2 to survive the Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard had arguably his worst game of the 2019-20 season with just 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting, the type of oddity you just didn’t expect from him in the postseason. Leonard only scored fewer than 13 points twice in his previous 64 games this season, but he didn’t take more than 15 shots in either of those contests. Paul George compensated with 22 points to lead the Clippers, but he also struggled offensively and made seven of his 19 shots. Los Angeles was able to keep it close thanks to seven players finishing in double figures, but it made only nine of its 32 3-point attempts, including Lou Williams missing all six of his attempts from behind the arc. It was a disappointing offensive outing that allowed the game to slip away from the Clippers.

If Leonard had just an average night in Game 2, Los Angeles likely would have won the game, and that’s what you need to bet on happening in Game 3. The New Jersey online sports betting sites don’t make it easy to bet on the Clippers given their short odds on the board, so we will need to get creative again to find value in this wager. I’m not a fan of the 7.5-point spread from the sportsbooks, so we will need to stick to the moneyline and total points wager. I’d bet the Clippers to win and take the over 221.5 points at +163 odds because I expect both teams will attack with their best offense yet in this tied series.

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Game 4 (Los Angeles Clippers lead 2-1)

September 9th, 9:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

Paul George’s resurgence continued Monday in Game 3 as he led the Los Angeles Clippers to an important win over the Denver Nuggets. Kawhi Leonard struggled early, but he was a big factor at both ends in the fourth quarter as the Clippers overcame a seven-point deficit to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA playoffs series. Denver led for most of the game, but it could not overcome the increased pressure Los Angeles applied over the final five minutes as the Clippers flipped the deficit into an advantage.

Los Angeles really intensified its defensive efforts late in the game, marked by the one-finger block Leonard had on Jamal Murray at the rim. The Clippers never faced much resistance from the Nuggets defense as they shot 54.7 percent from the field as George was able to do what he wanted inside the arc. Leonard had more offensive struggles early, but he came on strong at the end to finish with 23 points, complementing the 32 points George put up in the win. Where Los Angeles struggled defensively was containing Nikola Jokic, who had 32 points to lead the Nuggets, but it limited Murray to just 2 of 7 from 3-point range, a major victory for the Clippers’ perimeter defense. Los Angeles also turned up the energy in crunch time like great teams tend to do to put away weaker foes.

Denver needed players to step up around Jokic, and Michael Porter Jr. answered the call with 18 points off the bench. Murray struggled to find his rhythm and made just five of his 17 shots to finish with 14 points, and Jerami Grant was 5 of 14 for 11 points in 42 minutes. Denver’s 32.4 percent shooting from behind the arc is a concern because that seems to open up more offense when those deep shots are falling, but the Nuggets still led for most of the game. Despite the odds being stacked against it, Denver continues to find ways to be competitive in these games, and the longer the Clippers let the Nuggets hang around, the more likely it is that Denver can win this series.

There’s something about the way Denver played in Game 3 that makes me believe in the Nuggets to even the series in Game 4. Two of the reasons the Clippers were able to win were the extraordinary performance from George and some struggles from Murray. If George settles in and scores 24 points and Murray gets one or two more shots to fall then the Nuggets would have won the game. The long odds on Denver at the New Jersey online sports betting sites only attracts me to the wager further. So I’m going bold and picking the Nuggets at +275 odds on the moneyline to tie the series with a win in Game 4.

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Game 5 (Los Angeles Clippers lead 3-1)

September 11th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

The Los Angeles Clippers played excellent defense to support Kawhi Leonard’s 30-point performance as they moved to within a victory of their first trip to the conference finals with a win over the Denver Nuggets. Shots were at a premium for both sides in this game as Los Angeles led the entire way, except for a brief period in the third quarter when Denver rallied to tie the game. The Clippers had six players finish in double figures while Denver had just three as the Nuggets face a 3-1 series deficit for the second time in this postseason.

Los Angeles received almost a third of its points from Leonard, but it was a pretty even effort behind him with five players scoring between 10 and 15 points. That teamwork is going to be vital as the postseason goes on, though I’m sure the Clippers would prefer to have a more consistent secondary scorer behind Leonard. However, the star of the show was the Clippers’ defense in holding Denver to 39.7 percent shooting and just 68 shots in the game. Los Angeles kept Michael Porter Jr. off the board after halftime and created stop after stop to help go on a 21-5 run in the third quarter that effectively ended the game.

Denver never led in the game and it could never get its role players going against the stout Los Angeles defense. Nikola Jokic scored 26 points, Jamal Murray chipped in 18 and Porter Jr. scored 15, but everyone else had trouble making shots. The other players who appeared in Game 4 for the Nuggets made just five shots combined and were just 2 of 12 from long distance in the game. Denver needs to get more out of Jerami Grant in 34 minutes than seven points and Monte Morris needs to be more efficient than 1 for 6 if he’s going to take that many shots in just 16 minutes.

This is one of those weird wagers where I’m going against conventional wisdom and picking the Nuggets. The New Jersey online sports betting sites list the Clippers as eight-point favorites, and that makes complete sense given what we’ve seen in this series. However, Denver was in this position in the last round and that was when Jamal Murray took over the series with Utah. I don’t expect he’ll do that against the Clippers, but he’s due to have a monster game in this series to extend Denver’s season another game. Therefore, I’m picking Denver at +285 odds on the moneyline to force a Game 6.

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Game 6 (Los Angeles Clippers lead 3-2)

September 13th, 1:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

The Los Angeles Clippers led by as many as 16 points in the game and 15 points in the second half, but they could not close out their series with the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points and Paul George added 26 for the Clippers, but they could not slow down the Nuggets’ second-half comeback. That was especially true from behind the arc as Denver made 44 percent of its 3-point shots, including Michael Porter Jr.’s clincher in the final minute of the game. The Nuggets had five players finish in double figures, led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, who combined for 48 points in the victory.

Denver certainly looked like it had run out of magic in the first half, but Paul Millsap sparked something with 14 of his 17 points coming in the third quarter as the Nuggets chipped away at the deficit. The Nuggets also needed Murray to settle into a rhythm and he did just that in scoring 26 points in the Game 5 victory. Murray made five of his seven attempts from behind the arc to offset an otherwise rough shooting night for the point guard as he made just four of his 18 2-point shots. Denver will need Murray to stay in form from distance for Denver to complete a second consecutive comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

Simply put, the Clippers needed to find a way to close out a game in which he led by 15 points in the second half and had dominated through the opening three quarters. George and Leonard did their part in the game with 62 combined points, but Lou Williams and Ivica Zubac both struggled with their shooting in the loss. The defensive issues, though, are what should stand out as Murray found his groove from behind the arc and the Nuggets shot 48 percent from the field. The last thing Los Angeles wants to do is give Denver confidence, which is exactly what might have happened in Game 5.

This series likely would have ended had the Clippers found a little more scoring from their bench, but that has been the exception instead of the rule for Los Angeles. The New Jersey online sports betting sites have the Clippers listed as too big of favorites at 8.5 points, but I do think Los Angeles will get the job done in Game 6. The Clippers understand the urgency with which they will need to play in order to fend off the Nuggets, and Leonard will make sure everyone has that energy and focus Sunday afternoon. The odds aren’t great, but I will take the Clippers at -375 odds to win on the moneyline.

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Game 7 (Series tied 3-3)

September 15th, 9:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

The Los Angeles Clippers squandered a 19-point second-half lead and now they face a Game 7 with the resilient Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic led the way with 34 points for Denver and Jamal Murray added 21 for the Nuggets, who outscored the Clippers 62-27 after Los Angeles took that 19-point lead. Paul George scored 33 points and Kawhi Leonard added 25 to lead the Clippers, who have now lost all seven of their games with a chance to advance to the conference finals in franchise history. It is the second straight game Los Angeles has let a double-digit lead escape in the second half against Denver, and now the two teams will face each other Tuesday with a spot in the Western Conference Finals on the line.

Denver continues to prove itself as the masters of escape as the Nuggets have now won their fifth elimination game of these NBA playoffs. It’s almost as if they are a cockroach because the Nuggets never seem to die even when it seems like they’re out of the game or the series. It felt like Denver’s magical season would end when it fell behind by 19 early in the third quarter, but instead they more than doubled Los Angeles’ points the rest of the way to win by 11. It was nothing more than heart, grit and a commitment to defense that seemed to take the Nuggets over the top. It’s more than the five players who finished in double figures as much as when those players made the shots and how it seemed to fuel the Nuggets

I wish I could explain the Clippers’ collapse the past two games, but those are issues they must address heading into a winner-takes-all Game 7. Jokic was always going to be a potential problem for the Clippers, but Los Angeles hasn’t been able to run anyone else off the 3-point line enough. The Nuggets continue to bury big shots and Denver continues to get a team effort behind Jokic, which is exactly what the Clippers needed to avoid. It also didn’t help that Patrick Beverly only played 17 minutes due to foul trouble and the bench did little to help slow Denver’s momentum in the third and fourth quarter. Los Angeles is going to need more than just George and Leonard to win Game 7, it needs a full-team effort on both ends of the floor, which hasn’t happened the past two games.

My head and logic are telling me that the Clippers should win Game 7, and that the New Jersey online sports betting sites are correct. However, my heart has seen how these last two games have played out and wondered if the Clippers can slow down the Nuggets when they are facing elimination. Denver is now 5-0 in elimination games this postseason and most of its success in the playoffs has come when the Nuggets are shooting well from 3-point range. The exception was Game 7 against Utah when the Nuggets locked down on defense to win that series. I’m leaning toward trusting Denver’s defense more, so I’m picking the upset with the Nuggets at +230 odds on the moneyline.

 

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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