Clippers can wrap up No. 2 seed vs. Nuggets

NBA

Kawhi Leonard doesn’t believe it matters if the Los Angeles Clippers are the No. 2 or No. 3 seed heading into the NBA playoffs.

“There’s really no homecourt advantage, no fans out there, no travel,” said Leonard, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I definitely think the healthiest teams usually win it all. Guys that have the full roster, have a good bench. Hopefully we can get everybody back and if we can get a rhythm going with the guys that are here that usually play, then we’ll see what happens.”

The second-place Clippers face the No. 3 Denver Nuggets in a Western Conference matchup Wednesday near Orlando. The Clippers (47-23) hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Nuggets with two games remaining and would clinch the second spot with a win. Denver is 1 1/2 games ahead of the Houston Rockets, who lost to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Nuggets (46-25) dropped a 124-121 decision to the Los Angeles Lakers when Kyle Kuzma nailed a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left. The Nuggets used their reserves in the fourth quarter and led until they missed free throws and LeBron James and the Lakers converted late buckets.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our group,” Denver coach Michael Malone told the media after the game. “I thought we played extremely hard. That’s the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The fourth time we’ve played them. Every game has been a battle, it’s gone down to the wire. For us to sit our starters that whole fourth quarter and to have the guys on the bench out there giving them all they could handle and lose a heartbreaker is always tough but (I’m) just so proud.”

Eight Denver players scored in double figures, led by reserve guard PJ Dozier with 18 points and forward Michael Porter Jr., who finished with 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 on 3-pointers.

Jamal Murray, in his second game back after being sidelined by a hamstring injury, added 14 points. Monte Morris also had 14 off the bench for Denver, while Paul Millsap added 13 points and Nikola Jokic scored 12.

The Clippers lost 129-120 to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. Leonard had 39 points, six assists and four steals as the Clippers overcame a 21-point first-half deficit but faded down the stretch. Lou Williams scored 18 points in his 1,000th career game.

Los Angeles rested All-Star forward Paul George since the game was the second of back-to-back contests. Guard Patrick Beverley (calf) missed his third straight game, and it was unknown if he would return for Wednesday’s game.

The Clippers received some encouraging news when backup big man Montrezl Harrell returned to the bubble. Although he won’t play against the Nuggets because he is being quarantined, Harrell could return for Friday’s regular-season finale against the Oklahoma City Thunder, coach Doc Rivers said.

Harrell left the facilities on July 17 for a family emergency, and his grandmother died shortly afterward.

Denver caps its regular season Friday against the Toronto Raptors.

–Field Level Media

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