LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (AP) – Kawhi Leonard blocked a dunk on the edge with one finger. It was part of a defensive move that deserved a big hand in driving the Los Angeles Clippers down the track.
Paul George scored 32 points, Leonard added 23, along with a big late block, and the dynamic duo helped the Clippers Rally to a 113-107 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Monday night.
Leonard did a little of everything as he grabbed 14 rebounds and dealt six assists. He also had two blocks, including one late on a Jamal Murray dunk attempt on the edge. Leonard & # 39; s middle finger seemed to get just enough of the ball to keep it out of the basket.
"I didn't know it was a finger. It was a hell of a piece. It was impressive," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "I didn't even know where it came from. It was a hell of a lot. "
Los Angeles takes a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Wednesday.
With his team ranged from 97 to 90 at the start of the fourth quarter, Rivers called for a break to calm the Clippers down. Los Angeles took the lead with a 14: 4 run and took a 104: 101 lead. The Clippers wouldn't run after again.
"The game depended on one of the two teams playing some defense," said Rivers. “For 3 1/2 quarters, both teams basically scored goals. It was our defense for the last six minutes.
“We had our mistakes. There is no doubt about that. But overall we were really good when we locked ourselves in. "
Lou Williams nearly sealed the win with a driving layup that extended the lead to six by 2:04 minutes. George turned on a hot night of shooting. He finished 12 of 18 off the floor, including five 3-pointers.
“He did a great job. He came out with energy and led us on both ends of the floor, ”Leonard said of George. "We just followed his example."
Nikola Jokic ended up with 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for Denver despite injuring his right wrist before the game.
"You are talented," said Jokic. "They're popular on paper and in everything, maybe have a better starting unit, more players, whatever. Coach, whatever.… We didn't close well today.
"The effort has to be there to give us the chance to win a game."
The All-Star Center had the pass of the night in the third quarter when he grabbed a ricochet, spun quickly, and sent Jerami Grant a perfect full-seat punch for a dip.
Jokic turned out to be a handful for the Clippers as JaMychal Green, Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell caught early fouls to cover him. Zubac polluted with 4:07 remaining.
When asked what makes Jokic so difficult to protect, guard Patrick Beverley said he was almost like the outstanding Luka Doncic from Dallas: “A lot of threshing. Put a lot of pressure on the referees to make the right call. "
Jokic shrugged (after being told what threshing means).
“You had 26 free throws. We had 10, ”said Jokic. "I mean, I'm just showing the referee it's a foul."
Clippers: Q Marcus Morris had 12 points. … The Clippers beat the Nuggets 30-12 in fast break points.
Nuggets: Denver outperformed the Clippers by a point 58-42 in color. … Rookie Reserve Michael Porter Jr. finished the race with 18 points for the Nuggets while Murray was held at 14 with 5 of 17 shots. … Grant and Paul Millsap each had 11 points.
Nuggets trainer Michael Malone plays the motivation card “Us vs. The World ”. He felt like his team was written off against Utah after falling 3-1 on the series. He believed that many believed the nuggets would be swept after unilaterally losing Game 1 before bouncing back to win Game 2.
"Nobody gives this team the ability to do many things," said Malone. "We don't care what anyone thinks of us, especially outside of Colorado. It's the belief we have in the locker room. It's been there since day one."
For now, Beverley remains on a minute limit as he heals from a strained left calf. He played just over 12 minutes in Game 1 and 15 minutes in Game 2. He was on the court for more than 20 minutes in Game 3.
"I think every game will hopefully see an upward trend," said Rivers. "It's better than not having him."
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