National Basketball Association

What To Expect: Nuggets-Clippers

September 2

After narrowly avoiding a Game 7 upset against the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets face a quick turnaround and a date with the Western Conference's No. 2 seed, the Los Angeles Clippers, on Thursday.

Denver won't have time to bask in Tuesday's thrilling finish, with the games coming at a rapid rate. In fact, having just one day off between playoff series came as a surprise to breakout Nuggets star Jamal Murray.

While there's no rest for the weary Nuggets, Kawhi Leonard's Clippers should be refreshed after seeing off the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday in Game 6 of their first round series.

Neither opening-round series was a walk in the park, though.

The Nuggets had to claw back from a 3-1 series deficit behind Murray reaching a new level and outdueling the relentless Donovan Mitchell.

For the Clippers, Luka Doncic emptied the tank in his playoff debut and gave the Clippers more than a few headaches before bowing out on Sunday. Leonard had a standout series, pouring in 32 points per game, but help from his supporting cast ebbed and flowed.

Both teams enter the Western Conference semifinal matchup with questions.

For the Nuggets, the question is can Murray keep up this pace?

Murray put on a series of show-stopping performances against Utah, including two 50-point efforts, but comes into the semis nursing a sore quad.

Meanwhile, the Clippers will be wondering which version of 'Playoff P' will show up.

Paul George struggled through a dismal 3-game stretch against the Mavs, where he averaged just 11.3 points on 21.3 percent shooting.

What's more, George said those poor performances were due to mental issues rather than anything physical.  

If this season's regular season matchups are any indication, George will be licking his chops to square off against the Nuggets.

The Clippers hold a 2-1 regular-season series advantage over Denver, but George was absent in LA's lone loss.

In the two games in which George did play against Denver, he was the game's leading scorer on both occasions, as the Clippers outscored Denver by a total of 42 points.

Beyond Murray, the Nuggets will lean on a well-rounded offense that's anchored by All-Star center Nikola Jokic, who hit the series-winning bucket against the Jazz.

Jokic had his hands full with 2-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert harrowing him, and yet he still managed to average 26.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists while showing some range by connecting on 3.1 three-pointers per game.

The Clippers will likely counter with Ivica Zubac, a more traditional rim-protector at center, with Montrezl Harrell coming off the bench for long stretches when the Clippers go to a smaller lineup.

Game 1 of this Western Conference semifinal is set to tip off on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.


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