Jamal Murray 1, Kawhi Leonard 1. And that Denver defense was a thing of beauty.
1. Nothing’s sweeter than watching Jamal Murray take the wheel. When Murray’s in a mood to take over a game, it’s a beautiful thing. Remember Utah Jamal? The guy who made the rim look about 3 feet wide? Peak Murray was back on Saturday night, in a major way. The Blue Arrow scored 11 of Denver’s first 33 points, attacking the paint without fear of reprisal and setting the tone for a 44-25 Nuggets lead after the first quarter.
2. Jerami Grant and Gary Harris > Claw. To paraphrase one of coach Michael Malone’s pet phrases, Kawhi Leonard felt Grant and Harris, right from the get-go. The Clips’ star forward had as many turnovers (four) as baskets through the first three quarters, and went without a 3-pointer through the opening 36 minutes. Grant had a +16 plus/minus rating through three periods despite 1-for-8 shooting, thanks to his efforts against the reigning Finals MVP. Harris helped bail Denver out after a Clippers fourth-quarter run, knocking down two treys midway through the period.
3. Welcome to the party, Paul Millsap! The grizzled vet brought the juice in the first quarter underneath the rim, extending the series with boards and tips, and gave Denver a spark again early in the third quarter via a pair of treys coming out of halftime — the second giving the Nuggs a 79-59 cushion. The 35-year-old’s double-digit scoring night was just his second this postseason, and only his fourth tilt of netting 13 points or more since the team turned up at the bubble.