The LA Clippers are just one win away from their first-ever Western Conference Finals after a comfortable 96-85 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4.
Kawhi Leonard continued his scorching post-season, recording a game-high 30 points, while Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Can Denver fight back from another 3-1 series deficit? Here are the key takeaways from Game 4:
Kawhi stuffs the stat sheet
Kawhi Leonard filled it up in Game 4, falling one assist shy of a triple-double, with 30 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocks.
Game 4 marked his sixth 30-point game of the playoffs and while his scoring is almost guaranteed, his playmaking has quietly become one of the deadliest parts of his game.
As defenders zeroed in on the Clippers forward, Leonard continually used his gravity to draw defenders in and find open teammates - none better than this one-handed layoff to Lou Williams for a dunk.
.@kawhileonard with the steal, and @TeamLou23 seals the deal.- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 10, 2020
📺 @espn pic.twitter.com/B4ghTWPNNT
Williams added 12 points off the bench, while Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell chipped in 15. Paul George, who struggled with foul trouble all night finished with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
Clippers put the clamps on
The Clippers flexed their defensive muscles in Game 4, holding the Nuggets to just 85 points on 39.7% shooting from the field and 9-of-27 (33.3%) from the 3-point line, while forcing 17 turnovers.
They brought the energy from the jump, limiting the Nuggets to just 12 points in the opening quarter on 5-of-17 shooting after scoring just five points in the first six minutes of the game.
Kawhi got five on it. 🖐🏾 pic.twitter.com/lCzMBomvsT- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 10, 2020
Despite trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half, Denver fought back to tie the score at 48-48 early in the third quarter, before the Clippers found an extra gear to take a double-digit lead into the final frame.
Jamal Murray goes cold
After torching the Utah Jazz for 31.6 points per game on 55% shooting and 53.3% from the 3-point line, Jamal Murray has struggled to find that same magic against the shrewd Clippers defence.
Through four games, Murray is averaging 17.8 points and managed just 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field in Game 4. After piling up 50-point games the previous series, Murray has surpassed 20 points just once in this series - the Nuggets' Game 2 win where he scored 27 points.
The wall of perimeter defenders led by Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Paul George have limited Murray's ability to get open looks both at the basket and the 3-point line.
"We have to be a hell of a lot better on offence," Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said post-game. "I have to help out guys more, they're just dogging and hounding Jamal Murray everywhere and it's been really hard to get him open for quality looks.
"...I have to get him easier looks."
If the Nuggets are going to find a way back into the series, Murray will have to find a way to put the Clippers' defence under pressure.
The Nuggets will look to keep their season alive, with Game 5 set to tip-off Saturday, September 12 at 4:00 a.m. IST.
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