Playoffs 2020

NBA Playoffs 2020: Nikola Jokic laments Nuggets' poor defence vs. Clippers: 'We need to make them work for every basket'

Coming off a hard-fought Game 7 win over the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets were back on the court just two days later in Game 1 of the Western Conference semis against the LA Clippers.

Through the first quarter of the game, they looked to have kept the momentum going, locked up at 31-31 after 12 minutes, before a combination of the Clippers' offensive force and the Nuggets' tired legs, saw them go into the half trailing by 18 points.

Over the final 8:30 minutes of the second quarter, the Clippers blew the game open behind a 33-15 run, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George accounting for 16 of those points.

The Clippers got whatever they wanted in the second, connecting on 12-of-17 from the field in that crucial run, while the Nuggets shot just 3-of-12. LA outscored the Nuggets 38-20 in the period on their way to a 120-97 win.

Nikola Jokic, who had his struggles on the defensive end as the Clippers outscored the Nuggets in the paint, 66-46, called for a much-improved showing on that end of the floor in Game 2.

"I mean they're a talented team, we need to fly around, we need to make them work for every basket," he said post-game.

"I think we didn't help our main defenders on Kawhi and Paul George. They had a lot of offensive rebounds, Marcus Morris had a lot of threes. I think in that second quarter, they built up a lead in like four possessions. In my mind, it's like that, but probably it's not like that."

The Nuggets have been one of the worst defensive teams in the post-season, allowing 120.6 points per 100 possessions through eight games. - the worst among the remaining playoff teams and 14th out of the 16 teams who qualified for the playoffs.

In Game 1, the Clippers shot 48-of-84 (57.1%) from the field and 10-of-24 (41.7%) from the 3-point line, scoring 69 points in the first half alone. While Jokic ended up on the end of a lot of those plays as the Clippers marched towards the rim with ease, the Nuggets as a whole will need to lift on the defensive end.

Between Jerami Grant, Gary Harris, and Torrey Craig, the Nuggets have long-athletic defenders to patrol the perimeter, but against the high-powered Clippers wings, it's going to take a total team effort, especially in transition where the Clippers picked up plenty of easy buckets.

Sure, the Nuggets are coming off a grueling seven-game series, however, Jokic said that heavy legs weren't an excuse for their Game 1 performance.

"To be honest, I was not tired at all," he said.

After the first quarter, the Nuggets scored just 66 points the rest of the way, with Jokic scoring a team-high 15 on 6-of-14 shooting, while Jamal Murray recorded just 12 points on 5-of-15 from the field.

It's another short turnaround for the Nuggets, who will look to level the series in Game 2, scheduled for Sunday, September 6 at 6:30 a.m. IST.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are undefeated in 2021-22
Giannis leads Bucks' Big 3 to undefeated mark
Kane Pitman
Joel Embiid
Dominant Embiid wills 76ers past Hornets in OT
Yash Matange
Nikola Jokic moves past Larry Bird for 8th all-time in triple-doubles
Jokic climbs up all-time triple-double ranks
Benyam Kidane
Basketball
BFI's INBL: Format, schedule and all you need to know
Yash Matange
#KiddNash
On This Date: Nash-Kidd duel headlines 2OT thriller
Yash Matange
DeMar DeRozan
Bulls' DeRozan enters Health and Safety Protocols
Benyam Kidane
More News