For the first time in franchise history, the Clippers will enter the postseason as the no. 2 seed in the Western Conference. With any luck, the team will be notching several more franchise firsts in the upcoming weeks.
The LA Clippers defeated the Denver Nuggets 124-111, a surprisingly entertaining game that both teams publicly proclaimed they had little interest in winning. It was a defense-optional affair, which led to some great highlights throughout, but when the Clippers dialed in, they looked markedly better than the Nuggets. The result also locks Denver into the no. 3 seed, so these teams could be on a collision course for the conference semifinals. LA will play Dallas in the first round, no matter the outcomes of the final seeding games.
Kawhi Leonard continued his strong play from the Brooklyn game. He looked spry, and his activity level was high on both ends of the floor. He scored 26 points on 16 shot attempts, added five rebounds and two steals, and the Clippers outscored the Nuggets by 12 points in his minutes.
It’s easy to forget since Leonard started the year by defeating the Lakers on national television without Paul George, but he took a little while to ramp up to MVP form during the regular season. He has used the seeding games similarly, and his athleticism was much more noticeable against Denver than in the opener of the restart. Even if he sits out of the final game, Leonard deserves a place on the All-Seeding Games team.
The Clippers as a whole had little difficulty scoring against the Nuggets defense. They played the first half at something less than full speed, but once they turned up the pressure, they dropped 74 points in the second half, including 40 in the third quarter. The team shot 64.3% from the field after halftime, including 10-of-21 from 3-point range, and only turned the ball over four times. It was a clinic in offensive execution.
Another player who appeared to be getting his mojo back is Lou Williams, who had his third-straight double-figure scoring performance, and was at his most efficient in the bubble. Williams scored 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and led the Clippers with seven assists. It was the first time he has looked completely comfortable running the offense in Orlando, and he gets his pick-and-roll partner Montrezl Harrell back for the next game.
It’s probably unwise to look too far ahead, but the playoff bracket lined up about as well as it could have for the Clippers, and they look sharp heading into the postseason. The players have to be feeling good about where they stand. Long live the salmon polos.