Jamal Murray scored 27 points, Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 18 rebounds and the Denver Nuggets never trailed on the way to beating the Los Angeles Clippers 110-101 in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal series Saturday night.
Gary Harris and Paul Millsap each added 13 points to help Denver knot the series at a game apiece.
Paul George scored 22 points for the Clippers, who got 15 from Ivica Zubac and endured a rare off night offensively from Kawhi Leonard. The two-time NBA Finals MVP had 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but shot only 4 for 17.
Leonard had scored at least 20 points in 27 of his last 28 playoff games — and had at least 29 in all seven playoff games this season.
The Clippers trailed by 23 and got as close as five in the fourth quarter, but no closer. Murray and Harris made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions down the stretch to help keep the Nuggets on top, and Patrick Beverley getting ejected with a pair of technicals with 1:04 left helped seal matters.
Murray made two free throws for the technicals, Grant added another for a personal that was called and the lead was 11. George dribbled the ball off his knee on the next Clippers’ possession and the outcome was academic from there.
Nuggets set the tone early
Denver set the tone from the outset, starting off on a 14-2 run and eventually going up 44-23 before the first quarter was even complete. Jokic and Murray outscored the Clippers by themselves in the opening 12 minutes, 26-25.
It was 72-56 at the half, the Clippers’ third-largest intermission deficit of the season.
The Clippers just couldn’t string enough points together at enough key times.
A big stretch came in the third quarter when Leonard got fouled and went to the line with a chance to get the Clippers within 11. He missed both free throws, Murray made a jumper on the next Denver possession, Millsap scored about a minute later and just like that Denver’s lead was up to 83-66.
The Clippers’ best run eventually came in the fourth, with George going on a personal 7-0 spurt to get the Clippers within 91-86 — the smallest lead for the Nuggets since it was 7-2.
Denver immediately responded with the 10-0 run, pushing the lead back out to 15 on a pair of free throws by Jerami Grant with 5:22 left.