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Clippers run out of gas in second half, eliminated by Nuggets in 104-89 loss

The Nuggets simply outplayed the Clippers over the final three games.

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Seven Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

JaMychal Green spiked a dunk attempt off the rim. Lou Williams missed point-blank lay-ups. Paul George shot a corner three off the side of the backboard.

Quality shots taken by good offensive players, but the Clippers just couldn’t get anything going.

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is how a season ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

The Clippers, title favorites at the start of the season, led by the reigning Finals MVP, have been eliminated from the 2020 postseason in a 104-89 loss to the Denver Nuggets. For the second time in five years, they blew a 3-1 lead in the second round and have still never advanced to the conference finals in franchise history.

The script felt very similar to Games 5 and 6, except the Nuggets got their comeback in a bit earlier. The Clippers were clobbered in the second half, getting outscored by 17 points in the final 24 minutes. After building up a 12-point lead in the first half, they surrendered the lead 62-61 with 8:55 left to play in the third quarter and trailed the rest of the way.

Nikola Jokic was masterful with 16 points, 22 rebounds, and 13 assists. No matter what the Clippers threw at him on defense, the Denver center was able to figure a way around it. He found teammates out of doubles, got Ivica Zubac in foul trouble, and dominated this game on both ends of the floor, outplaying Kawhi Leonard in a statement that would have seemed apocryphal just one week ago.

The Clippers needed their two stars to come up big to match the effort of the Nuggets dynamic duo. But Kawhi Leonard had only 14 points on 6-of-22 shooting, seemingly worn down by the tall task of having to lead the team in scoring while also guarding one of Jokic or Jamal Murray for several possessions at a time. George was even worse, limited to 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. His foul trouble was disastrous for the Clippers, as he sat the final five minutes of the first half with his three fouls, and LA’s lead withered down to two.

Meanwhile, Jamal Murray was unstoppable, putting up 40 points on 26 shots. For context, the entire Clippers starting lineup had 48 points.

This wasn’t the way anyone thought this season would end, but the Clippers just couldn’t get the job done. On to next year.