Three Takeaways As The Clippers’ Locked Down The Nuggets To Win Game 4

After the Clippers cruised to a win in Game 3, the Nuggets were looking to even the series on Wednesday night, but suffocating defense on the part of L.A. made it nearly impossible for Denver to get it going offensively, and now they find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to climb back from a 3-1 series deficit for the second time this postseason.

Neither team could get it going early, as they combined for the lowest-scoring quarter of the series, although L.A. was able to convert that to an early 17-point lead. The Nuggets went on a couple of runs in the second half to make it interesting, which coincided with some untimely foul trouble for Paul George and the Clippers, but the Clippers were ultimately able to hang on for 96-85 win and put Denver on the brink of elimination.

Here’s what else we learned from Game 4:

The Clippers’ Defense Is Dominant When Locked In

The Nuggets shot just 41 percent from the field overall and were 8-of-28 from behind the arc as the Clippers’ defense badgered them into their worst shooting outing of the series. Of course, this always starts with Kawhi Leonard, who was phenomenal on both ends of the court on Wednesday night, leading L.A. with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists, while also making a case for why he maybe should’ve made First Team All-Defense as he came up with four steals and a pair of blocks on the night.

Jokic was just about the only Nugget who was able to find something of a rhythm in this one, leading his team with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. But overall, the Clippers’ defensive prowess on Wednesday night was a reminder of just how dominant they can be on that end and should serve as a wakeup call to any other would-be championship contenders.

Paul George noted after the game that the Clippers themselves seem to be coming to a realization of the importance of consistent defensive effort to making them a dominant team.

Jamal Murray Has To Be Better

Murray had just three field goal attempts by midway through the second quarter and had just four points in the first half. Murray left the bench after checking out midway through the third quarter and went back into the tunnel, presumably to gather himself, but he was never able to find his rhythm in Game 4, finishing with 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Murray got it going a bit late in the fourth to make things interesting for a minute, but it was too little too late.

Much of the credit goes to the Clippers’ aforementioned defense, which targeted Murray early and took him out of his comfort zone. Still, Murray has to find a way to make an impact. He’s been spectacular this postseason, putting up some of the best performances we’ve seen in Orlando, and Denver will need him back to playing at the top of his game if they want any chance of overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Clippers.

The Whirlwind Experience That Is Michael Porter Jr.

Despite the loss, Michael Porter Jr. showed more flashes of why he was once considered the top player in the 2018 Draft class before a back injury caused him to nearly drop out of the lottery entirely. The stakes were low when the Nuggets took a chance on him, and its paying dividends now and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

However, he was mostly neutralized in the second half, as were most of the Nuggets as the Clippers clamped down on defense. Porter also showed that he still has plenty of work to do defensively. The Clippers caught him sleeping on several occasions and took full advantage of his lagging response time in the pick-and-roll.

But inexplicably, that didn’t stop him from voicing his opinion on Mike Malone’s play-calling in the second half. Porter Jr. finished with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three, and after the game, he was openly unhappy that he didn’t get more opportunities as the Nuggets struggled to manufacture points.

It’s not a good look for a young player who is still trying to find his place on his team, but then again, Porter Jr. has never been shy about expressing unpopular (or unrealistic) opinions. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as the series continues.

The Clippers will try to close out the Nuggets in a potentially series-deciding Game 5 on Friday night at 6:30 ET on TNT.