Jamal Murray defended by Kawhi Leonard

The Denver Nuggets led wire-to-wire to beat the Clippers in Game 2 of their Round 2 series in the NBA Playoffs. Photo from @ESPNStatsInfo (Twitter).

  • Denver led LA led wire-to-wire to win Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series
  • Jamal Murray scored a game-high 27 points and Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 18 rebounds in the win
  • See the odds, our analysis and best bets for Game 3 below

Everyone is allowed to have an off night. Even the player that has arguably become the most reliable performer in the postseason over the last seven years not named LeBron James.

Kawhi Leonard failed to score at least 20 points for only the second time in his last 28 playoff games in their 110-101 Game 2 defeat to the Nuggets.

Now, the series is a best-of-five heading into Game 3 Monday. Which team wins Game 3? The rejuvenated Nuggets? Or the humbled Clippers?

Nuggets vs Clippers Game 3 Odds

Team Spread at FanDuel Moneyline Total
Denver Nuggets +7.5 (-110) +265 O 221 (-110)
Los Angeles Clippers -7.5 (-110) -330 U 221 (-110)

Odds taken Sept. 5

Jamal Murray — who had a marvelous first-round series overall against the Jazz but experienced back-to-back rough outings — put up offensive numbers we had become accustomed to seeing earlier in the bubble. And, more importantly, he got help. Nikola Jokic had a monster game Saturday, putting up 26 points and 18 rebounds in the Denver victory.

You figured the Clippers might be susceptible to a performance like the one they had in Game 2 for no other reason than the type of offensive efficiency they showed in Game 1  just was not sustainable. Every starter except for Paul George shot at least 50% from the field in a 120-97 victory.

Conversely, there’s a reason why Denver was the No. 3 seed in a stacked Western Conference. Several, actually. And while Murray stole the spotlight in the first round, the Nuggets have a very capable roster beyond the budding superstar. They played well below expectations in Game 1. Game 2 was a much better representation of Mike Malone’s squad.

So, what’s next? We preview the next matchup in this series and offer betting advice.

Throw It Away

Part of me thinks this is one of those games that coaches simply throw away the game tape on because it was so bad. Of course, Doc Rivers won’t do that. But when his team allowed 44 points in the first quarter, you have to wonder what Rivers was thinking.

That kind of opening quarter is unacceptable for any team. And it’s certainly unacceptable for a team that is the favorite to win the NBA title. Jokic scored 15 of his 26 points in the opening frame and L.A. was essentially out of the game after the first 12 minutes.

I fully expect a much more focused Clipper team to come out of the gate Monday.

X-Factor Exposed

I talked about how important Patrick Beverley is to the Clippers’ success in our Game 2 preview. Well, Beverley had a very forgettable outing Saturday. The defensive catalyst only managed two attempts from the field in 15 minutes (he was 1-for-2 with 2 points), but more importantly, Beverley lost his cool at a critical juncture in the fourth quarter.

Yes, the Clippers were down eight points with 1:04 remaining. But that’s not an impossible deficit to overcome. But when you’re supposed motor gets himself ejected after a pair of technicals, that’s all she wrote.

Beverley needs to keep his head and emotions in check in Game 3.

Clawing His Way Back

Leonard had scored at least 29 points in the seven playoff games in the bubble before Saturday. In Game 2, the two-time Finals MVP scored just 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field. Yes, he had 10 rebounds and eight assists for a near triple-double. But if The Claw isn’t scoring, it’s hard for the Clippers to be winning.

The shots were there. They simply weren’t falling. As Leonard said after the game, “A few easy ones didn’t fall early, and that was it from there,” he said.

That was it, indeed. But much like Murray continuing his shooting slump being unlikely, Leonard having a repeat performance in Game 3 doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Remember when everyone was on Leonard’s teammate Paul George for a rough stretch in the first round against the Mavericks? The six-time All-Star responded —  like elite players do — with a big outing and has been consistently solid since.

Game 3 Betting Advice

Leonard will bounce back Monday and the shots will fall once again.

There was bound to be some kind of regression for L.A. after Game 1. And there is no way Denver leads wire-to-wire again — while putting up a 44-point quarter in the process. I like the Clippers to right the ship in Game 3.

The pick: Clippers -7.5 (-110) and Over 221 (-110)

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