Clippers vs. Nuggets score, takeaway: Kavi Leonard has one win away from first conference final

The Los Angeles Clippers have taken full control of their second-round series with the Denver Nuggets, making a great start, and taking a 3–1 series lead with a 96–85 win in Game 5. The Clippers are now just one win away from their first conference final trip in franchise history.

It took the Clippers just eight minutes to take a double-digit lead, and they held that advantage for most of the game. Qui Leonard dominated, finishing with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine close for a triple-double, while Montreal Hurrell came off the bench to chip in 15.

Nikola Jokic did his thing, recording his own triple-double with nearly 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but he was no help. Jamal Murray, in particular, had a tough night, going 6-of-15 from the field for 18 points. As a team, the Nuggets shot 39.7 percent and rolled the ball 14 times.

Here are some major takeaways from the game:

Somewhere dominates

This was not an objectionable work by the Clippers. He shot 41.8 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from 3-point land and had to grind out 30 free-throw attempts to keep his offense afloat. On nights like this, you need your best player, and Kavi Leonard delivered.

He provided a smooth 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists to put the Clippers on his back, stealing four and going with two blocks. This reign was just another steady performance from the Finals MVP, who always seems to be in complete control. There is nothing, neither that moment nor the opposing team.

This was his sixth 30-point game out of 10 at this postmarton and Leonard now shoots 29.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 51.2 percent. Game 2’s loss to the Nuggets was his only poor game so far, and he is proving once again that he is the league’s best player at playoff time.

With Leonard playing this way, it would be difficult to defeat the Clippers four times in a series.

Shear makes life difficult for Murray

The Clippers had a mediocre offensive game, but they still won by double digits due to their efforts at the defensive end. He limited the Nuggets to 39.7 percent shooting and forced 14 turnovers. In particular, he made life very difficult for young Nuggets star Jamal Murray.

Murray was tremendous against the Jazz in the first round, making some historic appearances as well. In this series, however, he is managing only 17.8 points per game and 38.2 percent shooting. That trend continued in Game 4, as he finished with 18 points on 6 of 15 points from the field.

While the Clippers are not always the most consistent team at the defensive end, they have some elite perimeter defenders in Patrick Beverley and Leonard, and they combined to make sure Murray never got a break. For example, take these sequences in the third order.

Beverly chases Murray around the screen, harassing him on the drive and forcing a hard layup that Murray misses.

After a few minutes, Leonard is in his face, and is so infuriated that he overturns him.

Murray and Jock account for Denver’s half-points in the postseason, and when one of them is implied that way, they simply have no chance.

Clipper on the brink of history

A Game 4 victory gave the Clippers a 3–1 lead in this series, which not only puts them in complete control, but is on the verge of history. Another win, and they would make it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

After his debut as the Buffalo Braves in 1970, the Clippers have never been in the second round of the playoffs. In fact, they have only managed to win six playoff series in that entire time, and that includes their first round win over the Mavericks. His 50-year conference final is the longest drought in the NBA.

Believing that the Clippers would get the job done over the next few games, the Atlanta Hawks (44 years) inexplicably captured the title, with the Washington Wizards (41 years) not far behind.